Manchester United beat Leicester City 4-1 at Old Trafford in a perfect performance with all four goals coming in a resurgent period in twenty minutes. Chris Smalling broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute of the match, scoring from a Daley Blind corner, with the Dutchman grabbing the assist, his first of the day. United then doubled their lead in the 37th minute through Juan Mata with a great team goal which saw Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard combine with the latter earning the assist. The third goal came three minutes later courtesy of Marcus Rashford, from a Blind corner, straight into the path of the unmarked Mata, who then tee’d up the 18-year-old for his second goal this week. Pogba had a shot earlier in the match, which rocked the crossbar and I tweeted that his first goal was coming, maybe not today, but it was coming. It came two minutes later again from a Blind corner, with the Dutchman racking up a second assist of the afternoon in a great display of football at the Theatre of Dreams. United had decimated the champions in the first half of the match, a match the champions will be wanting to forget, even when they were still playing. Here is what I feel we learned in the 4-1 victory over the reigning Premier League champions.
Wayne Rooney was finally dropped after a string of poor performances which had seen the captain hold the club back, rather than lead them forward. Rooney has been a great player for United, but there is a time whereby a player cannot continue at the heights he once played, and this is starting to look like that time for Rooney. The captain can still play a role at the club, but it is time to move on. He is no longer the player that does everything for the club, the one that can pull a victory from a defeat and the one that can do all the tricks on the pitch. Rooney is destined to be a player who could start matches, but most of the time come off the bench to lead United towards the end of matches, which may be a position he does not want to play, but the bottom line is that United need to move forward, not be held back and there are more exciting players that can do what United need right now. Rooney may still be able to give something, but his time in the limelight seems to be over and he is no longer the star player of the club. Many seem to think he will reach his best again, but that is something that has been said for longer than a few weeks, from memory, going back two years at least. I feel Rooney was holding back Paul Pogba and United recently, something which we all saw today. Those that still rate Rooney highly will find excuses for it not being down to him not playing, but we all saw what Manchester United without Wayne Rooney on the pitch could do. That is what everyone will want to see moving forward.
The £89 million signing had a great match for his club today, scoring his first senior goal in the Premier League for his club. It looks like the Frenchman had been allowed to inspire the team, show that he should be the player the team is built around, a player that is going to be the main man in the side, replacing Rooney from that position, with his time being up and all. Pogba could have scored before he did against Leicester City, hitting the crossbar with such a thud. You could see his time was coming, in fact, I tweeted about it saying his first goal was coming, maybe not today, but it was coming. Minutes later, he had scored from a corner with a header. United were 4-0 up at the time and running riot against the reigning Premier League champions. Pogba is a talent, an unfinished talent and is a player that is needed at the club. I feel Jose Mourinho will need to switch the formation to 4-3-3 to get the best out of the Frenchman, which could see Rooney axed completely, or like today, playing on either the left or right of the attacking three, which is not his best position, or one that will get the best out of the captain. United do need to move on though, stop getting stuck in the past and hoping that a players form will change. Some of the time it doesn’t. The coming weeks will be interesting, seeing Pogba thrive without Rooney on the pitch, is something that we all need to see a lot more. United looked good today, improving on this victory against Zorya Luhansk on Thursday will be necessary, followed by the same, and more against Stoke City next Sunday.
Marcus Rashford is a player who is doing all the right things at this moment in time. The player himself had an interview with Sky Sports prior to the Leicester City match, which is something we will be covering on the site this evening. Rashford is a definite contender to start matches for the club this season, even with Zlatan Ibrahimovic occupying the striker’s role, which is inevitable. Rashford wants to become the ‘ultimate striker’ which has seen him play on the left and right flanks in recent weeks, which will benefit him a lot more in the future as he will learn a lot playing wide, as well as through the middle and behind a striker. In the future, it will mean that Rashford can occupy any of the four main attacking roles, which will see United and possible England much strong in his presence. The fact Rashford is only 18 years old makes the whole situation a lot better. Rashford broke through into the first team last season, which was down to injury more than anything, but he took his chances, paid the manager at the time back for giving him the chance and seems to have gone from strength to strength in his game. This season, Rashford has had a slow start, not playing much football, but that goal he scored against Northampton Town on Wednesday shows Mourinho just what he could do, showing it again against the reigning Premier League champions in the rout at Old Trafford. Rashford is a player for now, but in the future, providing he maintains his development, imagine the quality of player Manchester United will have.
Manchester United have struggled at times this season, showing up in the second half of matches, often after a poor first half, which could be said about the defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford a fortnight ago. Complacency is something United have been guilty of, and at times today too. In the first half, it took United 22 minutes to get the better of Leicester City, then a dominant twenty-minute period saw United win the match. 4-0 at half time and United were ready to show Leicester just who Manchester United were, but in the second half, the same team did not come out of the tunnel, a team that knew they had already won were playing it safe and were complacent at times. United should not have taken their foot off the gas, sending Leicester back home with wounds to lick, which will still be the case after United’s best match of the season so far. Teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City will have seen what United did to the champions, and should take note as in the coming weeks and months, it could well be them on the receiving end of this footballing masterclass. United end September at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League against Zorya Luhansk before a busy October starts with the visit of Stoke City, a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool, the visit of Fenerbahce, a trip to Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, the Manchester derby in the EFL Cup, ending with the visit of Burnley. Another fixture packed month and a month where United do not need to take their foot off the gas.
Manchester United are a team in transition, but a team getting closer to the end of transition rather than still debating which way they will take their transition. Aside from the three-match losing streak, Jose Mourinho has guided his side in the right direction, starting the season well, then getting through the tough period and steering United into two back to back victories, which the players, staff, and supporters needed to get through the poor period, which around a week. United have the players to make themselves a great team once again, but it won’t be easy, or something that will happen quickly. United have propelled themselves back into contention this season, turning around their poor form for the better, sending a message to their rivals that Manchester United were not done yet. In the coming weeks, when United should really be pushing on, it will be a more telling time for Mourinho’s side. Whether they have pushed on, or whether they are still stuttering in their performances. United were clinical for twenty minutes in the first half against Leicester City, scoring four goals, three of them s=from set-pieces, something United have struggled to take advantage of recently. Something seems to be working at this moment in time. We need to take each match at a time, earning the victory and moving onto the next one. Should United find their feet properly, this season will be a good one. A challenge could be on the cards if Mourinho and his players do their jobs on and off the pitch, which will be something we will all welcome after three years out of contention.