Manchester United will go head to head with Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday in the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final which will end club football for a two-week period because of the first international break of 2021. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will head to Leicester in good spirits after knocking AC Milan out of the UEFA Europa League after a 2-1 aggregate win on Thursday evening, which sees them face Granada in the quarter-final of the competition. Solskjaer will be seeking to send his team to the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the second year running, after reaching the quarter-final stage in his first season at the club. Brendan Rodgers’ side will also be seeking a victory.
United have faced Leicester twice in the FA Cup in the history of the competition, beating them twice; once in the final in 1963 and the other time in the fifth round in 1976. Of course, the two clubs meet twice a season in the Premier League and are rivals in the top four at this moment in time with just a point between them. Both Solskjaer and Rodgers will relish the break from club football over the next fortnight and this match is a must-win for both manager’s who are looking to guide their teams to a trophy this season. United have a good record of late, undefeated in their last 14 matches, which is good form. Leicester have been beaten twice in their last six matches, but this does not mean it will be an easy match for United.
How United have faired against Leicester City in the Emirates FA Cup.
United and Leicester have met twice in the history of both clubs in the Emirates FA Cup. United have won both matches; the first being the FA Cup final on the 25 May 1963 with United winning 3-1. Denis Law opened the scoring in the 30th minute with David Herd scoring a brace in the 57th and 85th minutes. Ken Keyworth scored an 80th minute consolation for the Foxes. United then met Leicester in the fifth round of the FA Cup on the 14 February 1976 with United winning 2-1 with Gerry Daly and Lou Macari scoring the goals with Bob Lee getting a consolation for the Foxes. This will be the third time United have met the Foxes in the FA Cup and United will be looking for a third victory in a row.
In their last match at the King Power Stadium, which was played in the Premier League on Boxing Day, it was a 2-2 draw between the two clubs with Marcus Rashford opening the scoring, Harvey Barnes equalising, Bruno Fernandes restoring United’s lead then an Axel Tuanzebe own goal levelled the scoreline again. Last season, on the final day, United beat Leicester 2-0 at the King Power Stadium with Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard scoring the goals which saw United finish in third place in the Premier League, earning UEFA Champions League football with Chelsea finishing in fourth place and Leicester slipping to fifth. The Foxes could get their revenge by knocking United out of the FA Cup this season.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Leicester City in the Emirates FA Cup at the King Power Stadium on Sunday evening…
Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Having started the last five matches in all competitions, there is no reason why he should not keep his place against Leicester. Dean Henderson has kept four clean sheets in those five matches with United beating Manchester City, West Ham United and AC Milan, drawing the other two matches; AC Milan and Crystal Palace – conceding his only goal in the five matches against Milan in the first leg at Old Trafford. David De Gea may not be fully match fit for this match, having sat out the matches due to the birth of his daughter some weeks ago. United should stick with the 24-year-old, who has done some great things for United and that clean sheet on Thursday night in Milan is a great feat for him.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence has done well recently, keeping five clean sheets in their last six matches. Eric Bailly is a doubt for this match so Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire will probably partner each other in the centre of defence once again with Solskjaer having Axel Tuanzebe to factor into the squad, if he needs to. In the fullback places, for me, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw should keep their places. Shaw is having a great season at United and it is great to see, following his injury hit start to his career at the club. It is imperative that he keeps his form, which is consistent to United’s results at this time.
Midfield: Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay
I would like to see Paul Pogba start for United this weekend but Solskjaer suggested that he might not be ready for 90 minutes of action. That said, Donny van de Beek should be starting as he will have 90 minutes in him based on sparingly starting for United so far in his debut season at the club. Scott McTominay should feature alongside him, which could create an attacking midfield with McTominay needing to be on top of his defensive work. If Pogba could start, or came on in the match, playing in the advanced role that is occupied by Bruno Fernandes would be a wise decision with the Portuguese magnifico clearly suffering from fatigue. United need to keep their best players fit at this stage of the season or it could all fall apart.
Attacking Midfield: Amad Diallo, Bruno Fernandes, Daniel James
It may not be ideal to start Amad Diallo in such an important match but I believe that he has it inn him to shine ons this stage. He changed the game after just five minutes on the pitch against Milan at Old Trafford and has not been used since – so his fitness is not an issue. Daniel James should play on the left flank in place of Marcus Rashford, if he is not fit enough to feature for United. He played on Thursday evening, but a mixture of injury and fatigue has led to him being in poor form right now. Bruno Fernandes will probably start, although if Paul Pogba can, perhaps he should be utilised instead, keeping Fernandes fresh for after the international break as you can see he is fatigued and should not be burned out.
Forwards: Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood might be the only attacking player with experience of leading the line on Sunday. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani are all doubts for this match, which will lead United with a big task on their hands. Greenwood is a talented player but it has not worked for his this season with just four goals and five assists to his name, which is a big drop from what he achieved last season. If Cavani or Martial is fit, they will probably start ahead of him, or at least be on the bench to add something later in the match if that is what United need. It is not ideal at this time, but it is something that United and Solskjaer will need to get through and persevere.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic; Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
Solskjaer will be able to name nine substitutes on the bench against Leicester, utilising five of them in the Emirates FA Cup, using a sixth of the tie goes to extra time. The strength of the bench will bank on whether key players are ready to return from injury. In case they are, they have been added to the bench – but this is the best case scenario. David De Gea will be on the bench again, giving Henderson another chance to shine. In defence, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe will be available. In midfield, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic could be called upon with the injured trio of Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford on the bench in the attacking positions, should all of them be fit to take part in this match, which is needed.
Written by John Walker