Manchester United return to Premier League action on Boxing Day, once again on the road as they travel to face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. Last season, United won this fixture 2-0 with a Bruno Fernandes penalty and a late Jesse Lingard goal to confirm United’s third-place finish in the league and therefore a place in the UEFA Champions League, which they have now exited. United have started to turn their season around with a 6-2 victory over Leeds United in the league last weekend, followed by a 2-0 victory over Everton in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup, setting up a semi-final against Manchester City.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking for another victory on the road this season as he looks to keep chase on Premier League leaders, Liverpool with Leicester in second-place with 27 points after 14 matches so far. United will have a game in hand over Leicester, playing just 13 times in the league this season but having just one point fewer in third place in the league at this stage of the season. Solskjaer will have confidence inn getting the upper hand over Brendan Rodgers, especially after the clubs current form and the fact United are unbeaten in their last 12 matches against the Foxes, winning nine and drawing three times.
How United have faired against Leicester in the Premier League.
United and Leicester have met 28 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 19 times, drawing seven times and losing just twice. United have scored 60 goals against Leicester, winning four penalties and scoring three of them. Leicester have scored 22 goals, winning two penalties and scoring both of them. United have kept 14 clean sheets with Leicester keeping two. In terms of discipline, United have been shown 37 yellow cards with one red card whereas Leicester have been shown 33 yellow cards and three red cards. United will be looking to win their 20th match in the Premier League against Leicester.
Last season at the King Power Stadium, which was played on the 26 July 2020 (the final day of the season) United won 2-0 with a 71st minute penalty by Bruno Fernandes and a Jesse Lingard goal eight minutes into added time. The victory saw United confirm their third place position in the Premier League and therefore a place in the UEFA Champions League. At Old Trafford last season, which was played 14 September 2019, United won the match 1-0 with Marcus Rashford scoring from the penalty spot in the eight minute of the match. United were beaten 5-3 by Leicester on the 21 September 2014, a devastating result for the club.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Leicester City in the Premier League at the King Power Stadium on Boxing Day (Saturday) afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The Spanish goalkeeper has been involved in some good matches for United this season and seems to be settling in terms of form from where he was last season and at the start of this season. Clean sheets are a must if United are to better their goal difference, which could come into play at the end of the season. However, winning matches is just as important for United. At this stage, United are doing well, sitting third in the league ahead of this match all with a game in hand. They sit five points adrift of Liverpool, so there is time to catch them up and possible challenge for the league title – which has been a long time coming.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles
United defence is still very much a work in progress but there seems to be some development over the past few weeks. Only two clean sheets have been kept this month; the 0-0 draw with Manchester City and the 2-0 victory over Everton in the Carabao Cup. United should be looking to end the month and the year on a high with two possible clean sheets in their next couple of matches; Leicester City away and Wolverhampton Wanderers at home. Against Leicester, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof should both return with Harry Maguire and Alex Telles keeping their places from the mid-week victory over Everton.
Midfield: Fred, Paul Pogba
The midfield is an area that United still need to perfect this season. The is ample talent to succeed but it is not working as well as it could right now, but it will get better. With the expected absence of Scott McTominay, I think Fred will be recalled to the starting lineup to feature alongside Paul Pogba in a pivot. The two players can work together but United’s defence will need to be more alert, especially with the threat of Jamie Vardy, who has scored 13 goals this season. Fred and Pogba could thrive together, playing just behind Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, feeding the attack.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford
This is the area that United are the most creative and most of that is because of one man – Bruno Fernandes. He started against Everton when I thought he would have been rested and it would seem that he will be needed once again on Boxing Day to face Leicester. Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford should also start on either flank in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Solskjaer seems to use the majority of the time. Between the trio this season, they are responsible for 28 goals and 15 assists, which is a good sign that with them on the pitch, United will still continue to score goals.
Forwards: Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial has scored four goals and four assists so far this season, which compared to last season, shows that he has more to achieve on the pitch for his club. United still have a lot of time ahead of them and Martial did have a three-match suspension in the Premier League earlier in the season, so there is time for him to play catch up with the likes of Fernandes and Rashford, who have 13 and 12 goals respectively.United needed Martial and Rashford on the pitch to get a result against Everton on Wednesday evening, so the Frenchman should be able to create something against Leicester to help United get another three points.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Axel Tuanzebe; Juan Mata, Daniel James, Facundo Pellistri, Donny van de Beek; Edinson Cavani
In the Premier League, United are now able to name nine players on the bench but still only use three of them. In the Carabao Cup they were only able to name seven, using three of them. This will be the same in the Emirates FA Cup. In the Europa League, 12 players can be named on the bench, five of them used throughout the match. Against Leicester, Dean Henderson will likely be back on the bench. In defence, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw and Axel Tuanzebe could be called upon. In midfield, Juan Mata, Daniel James, Facundo Pellistri and Donny van de Beek should be available with Edinson Cavani the only forward on the bench.
Written by John Walker