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Predicted XI: Manchester United to revert to 4-4-2 formation with Ronaldo and Cavani in attack, Van de Beek and McTominay in midfield?

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League football on Wednesday evening as they welcome Italian side Atalanta to Old Trafford in the third match of the group stage this season. United have three points in the group this season and need another win after losing to Young Boys in the first match and beating Villarreal at the death in the second match. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in poor form after not winning in the Premier League for the past month with their last win coming against Villarreal, which was a poor performance from United but they ended up getting all three points. Something needs to give for United – they must perform.

In their last match, United were beaten 4-2 by Leicester City in the Premier League. It was a poor performance for United, despite scoring the first goal of the game and equalising minutes after Leicester took the lead. But United capitulated and conceded two more goals before the end of the match, which resulted in their biggest defeat of the season and an end to their unbeaten away run, which broke Arsenal’s record which was set in 2004. The defeat meant that the negative fans on social media were rampant in their screaming for the manager to be sacked, which is all they want to happen. It makes you wonder if they are fans at all?

Previous meetings with Atalanta and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Atalanta are yet to meet in a competitive fixture, which is an unknown prospect for United and Solskjaer ahead of Wednesday’s clash at the Theatre of Dreams. United have played many Italian teams in Europe and at this time, where the club are winless in their last three matches, it could be a good time for the Italian side to take on the Red Devils. United will have had an extra day’s rest with no travel ahead of the match, but based on the form of the club, it means nothing at this time. United need to bounce back from their 4-2 defeat to Leicester City and get more points on the board in the Champions League this season.

Amad Diallo is the only player to have played for both Manchester United and Atalanta. The 19-year-old started out as a youth player at Boca Barco before moving to Atalanta in 2015, coming though to the first team in 2019. Amad played five times for Atalanta, scoring one goal before his £37 million transfer to Old Trafford was completed in January 2021, despite being agreed in the summer of 2020. The Ivorian international has represented his country seven times; four times at U23 level and three times at senior level. He was also part of the squad for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021. Fresh from injury, Amad could play a part against Atalanta.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League at the Old Trafford on Wednesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is in great form this season and has been one of the players who deserves to be praised for his performances, especially after what he endured last season. On Saturday, De Gea made a number of saves to keep United in the game but conceded four goals, which most of the time were caused by defensive errors, which is an area that United need to improve on significantly – if they want to achieve something this season. At this stage of the season, with the club on a poor run of results with big matches still to come, the real United much stand up and De Gea can be intrinsic to that. The pressure is on for United to start winning.

The experience of the Spaniard is impressive and it is clear that he wants to continue his career at the club, fighting for the big honours, which United have seemingly sat out of since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, despite an Emirates FA Cup win under Louis van Gaal, an EFL and Europa League Cup double under Jose Mourinho, not to mention the FA Community Shields won by David Moyes and Mourinho. United came close to a trophy last season, losing the Europa League on penalties, which De Gea played a part in, failing to save a single spot kick, or score his own, which signalled the end of the match with Villarreal winning the trophy.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw

The defence is still a problem area for United. Raphael Varane’s injury is going to cost United moving forward and Harry Maguire’s lack of fitness, not to mention his rustiness and error rate against Leicester City, which leaves United with a big problem – who to pick to face Atalanta. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be back in action after having his two-match suspension in the Champions League reduced to one, which makes him available on Wednesday. Luke Shaw should also keep his place, but may need to perform at a much higher level if United are to get three important points at the Theatre of Dreams.

With Varane out of action with a groin injury and Maguire lacking fitness, United have a choice of Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Teden Mengi for the central defence with Mengi likely playing for the U19’s in the UEFA Youth League against the Italian side. With this in mind, I think Lindelof and Bailly will be the central defensive option for Solskjaer, unless Maguire gains some fitness between now and Wednesday evening – which is a distinct possibility. United need to start defending in the same way as the United of old, as that is where the difference in winning and losing trophies come from – which worked for Sir Alex Ferguson.

Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek, Marcus Rashford

The midfield is a major problem this season. It is suggested in the media that Solskjaer wanted another midfielder in the summer, as did the supporters and that did not happen. This is one of the reasons as to why the squad is not achieving. United have no real command of the midfield. Scott McTominay and Fred are the most likely midfield partnership, which is why United struggle as it does not tend to work all that well all of the time, if at all. United need a midfielder who can defend, keep the ball, win the ball and become that deep-lying playmaker. I don’t think many players at the club are capable of this.

I think United should revert to a traditional 4-4-2 formation, if only to test it out to see if it can change United’s fortunes. United need to find that way to play swashbuckling, entertaining football which is what these players are capable of. Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford could play in the wide positions, when Mason Greenwood could play here too. In the middle, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek should be given a chance as you never know, it might work out. Bruno Fernandes has struggled when United have been behind, so a change could do some good. It is worth trying, but I don’t think it will be tried. I’m not sure the coaching can change.

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani

United have a quality attacking line this season and it has not been used to its strength. Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani are both poachers who have an array of abilities in front of goal. Both can score some great goals with their feet or their heads. Cavani has proven this time and time again last season. Ronaldo have proved this during his career. Granted, Ronaldo does not press as much so this should be provided by other players on the pitch with Ronaldo and Cavani in the box waiting for the right balls to come in and them doing their best to get the goals that United will need to win matches.

The best form of defence is to attack and that is what this United squad should be good at doing. If Solskjaer can breed this mentality and find the right players to provide the pressing, which is something that Rashford, Sancho and Van de Beek should be capable of doing, then this could be crucial for United. The fact that Solskjaer’s side will face Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur before the end of the month and Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the Premier League before the end of November will mean that he needs to get things moving, otherwise the pressure he is under now could become so much more.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot, Alex Telles; Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood

United can name up to twelve substitutes on the bench in the Champions League, using up to five of them in the match. In the knockout stages, if United end up getting there, they can use an extra substitute if matches go to extra time. I fully expect Dean Henderson to be on the bench, as United will need to win this match and he will be quite rusty, even though he has played at U23 level. In defence, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles should all be available, so Solskjaer can make tactical changes, if needed. That also means he will need to change his tactics as the same things are tried against each team all the time.

In midfield, Paul Pogba should be benched after his dismal performance against Leicester, with Jesse Lingard, Fred, Bruno Fernandes and Nemanja Matic also available, should the midfield need more of a different approach at any point of the match, which will probably be the case. In attack, with Ronaldo and Cavani starting, Anthony Martial, if he has managed to recover his fitness after the international break and Mason Greenwood could be available to be called upon. I don’t expect Solskjaer to take these risks though, which is why abject failure seems to be on the horizon. Playing safe is great, when safe. But this is so much different.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Will Manchester United continue with lackadaisical approach in must win Atalanta match?

Manchester United -v- Atalanta

UEFA Champions League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Wednesday 20 October 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: Szymon Marciniak Assistants: Paweł Sokolnicki, Tomasz Listkiewicz

Fourth Official: Tomasz Musiał

VAR: Tomasz Kwiatkowski Assistant VAR: Marco Fritz

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League football on Wednesday evening as they welcome Italian side Atalanta to Old Trafford in the third match of the group stage this season. United have three points in the group this season and need another win after losing to Young Boys in the first match and beating Villarreal at the death in the second match. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in poor form after not winning in the Premier League for the past month with their last win coming against Villarreal, which was a poor performance from United but they ended up getting all three points. Something needs to give for United – they must perform.

In their last match, United were beaten 4-2 by Leicester City in the Premier League. It was a poor performance for United, despite scoring the first goal of the game and equalising minutes after Leicester took the lead. But United capitulated and conceded two more goals before the end of the match, which resulted in their biggest defeat of the season and an end to their unbeaten away run, which broke Arsenal’s record which was set in 2004. The defeat meant that the negative fans on social media were rampant in their screaming for the manager to be sacked, which is all they want to happen. It makes you wonder if they are fans at all?

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: LDWLLW

Leicester City 4-2 L, Everton 1-1 D, Villarreal 2-1 W, Aston Villa 1-0 L, West Ham United 1-0 L, West Ham United 2-1 W

Goals: 5 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 2 – Jesse Lingard, 1 – Fred, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles

Assists: 7 – Paul Pogba, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, 2 – Victor Lindelof, 1 – Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane

Atalanta – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WLWDWW

Empoli 4-1 W, AC Milan 3-2 L, Young Boys 1-0 W, Inter Milan 2-2 D, Sassuolo 2-1 W, Saletnitana 1-0 W

Goals: 4 – Duvan Zapata, 2 – Robin Gosens, Josip Ilicic, 1 – Remo Freuler, Own Goal, Ruslan Malinovsky, Luis Muriel, Mario Pasalic, Matteo Pessina, Roberto Piccoli, Rafael Toloi, Davide Zappacosta

Assists: 4 – Duvan Zapata, 3 – Mario Pasalic, 2 – Josip Ilicic, 1 – Ruslan Malinovsky, Aleksei Miranchuk, Luis Muriel

Previous meetings with Atalanta and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Atalanta are yet to meet in a competitive fixture, which is an unknown prospect for United and Solskjaer ahead of Wednesday’s clash at the Theatre of Dreams. United have played many Italian teams in Europe and at this time, where the club are winless in their last three matches, it could be a good time for the Italian side to take on the Red Devils. United will have had an extra day’s rest with no travel ahead of the match, but based on the form of the club, it means nothing at this time. United need to bounce back from their 4-2 defeat to Leicester City and get more points on the board in the Champions League this season.

Amad Diallo is the only player to have played for both Manchester United and Atalanta. The 19-year-old started out as a youth player at Boca Barco before moving to Atalanta in 2015, coming though to the first team in 2019. Amad played five times for Atalanta, scoring one goal before his £37 million transfer to Old Trafford was completed in January 2021, despite being agreed in the summer of 2020. The Ivorian international has represented his country seven times; four times at U23 level and three times at senior level. He was also part of the squad for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021. Fresh from injury, Amad could play a part against Atalanta.

Team News: Raphael Varane out for United; four or five players out of action for Atalanta, which could cause them some problems ahead of their Old Trafford outing.

Raphael Varane (Groin) is the only actual injury at the club at this time. It is likely that he will be out until at least the end of the month, maybe longer. Amad Diallo (Thigh) is back in training, and has a 25% chance of being available to face his former club. Fred and Edinson Cavani returned late from the international break, playing in the early hours of Friday morning, so both are said to be 75% fit, which looks good for Wednesday’s match, which should give them time to get over the jet lag. Anthony Martial returned from France unfit, so has a 25% chance of being available for this match. Phil Jones could also return to boost United’s defence.

Hans Hateboer (Foot), Robin Gosens (Hamstring), Berat Djimsiti (Arm Fracture) and Matteo Pessina (Calf) look set to me missing because of injury. Rafael Tolói (Thigh) made his return in the 4-1 victory over Empoli at the weekend, but needed to be replaced at half time, so he could be a doubt ahead of this match too. There seems to be some injury problems at the Italian club, which could aid United, who also have their own problems. I am sure Atalanta will be seeking to upset United and cause yet more embarrassment but United will also be looking to limit the damage that has been caused by poor form for much of the last month or so.

Predicted Starting XI: 4-4-2 formation to help United find their feet after a month of lacklustre football and poor results? Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo to spearhead the attack?

Solskjaer will need to find a way to get United firing again. His tactics seem inept. He selection has not worked and his late substitutions rarely cause a reaction that is a positive for United. The pressure the Norwegian is under will be similar to that of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho and it will only be a matter of time before that pressure intensifies with the matches against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur yet to come before the end of the month – not to mention what November has to offer with matches against Atalanta, Manchester City, Watford, Villarreal, Chelsea and Arsenal. Is the end of the road coming?

Against Atalanta, perhaps a switch to the traditional 4-4-2 formation could add something in favour of United? David De Gea will keep his place in goal with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw in the fullback positions. Wan-Bissaka won his appeal against a second match suspension following his red card against Young Boys. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly could partner in the centre of the defence. In midfield, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford could occupy the wide positions with Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay in the centre. This could leave Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani to lead the line – service would need to be provided for them.

Match Prediction: If Solskjaer’s tactics change and he lets players perform to their strengths, it could be something that works well for United. But I think the same old lackadaisical approach will continue.

This is a must-win match for United if they are to have an easier chance of reaching the knockout stages of the competition this season. United already have a loss and a win in the first two matches of the group stage. Atalanta could be seen as the weaker team in the group, which means they will be the dominant side against United – as was the case last season. Solskjaer will need to ensure his tactics are spot on for this match, which is a big wish as this has not been the case much recently. If United lose, despite currently being just a point from the summit in the group, it could be the start of their exit from the competition – which is a problem.

United have talented players, many of which are not really getting a chance with Solskjaer trusting players who don’t seem to offer much and praising their performances. It is a problem which has seem lots of criticism but nothing seems to be changing. United are said to still back the manager and the direction the club are heading, as Solskjaer has got United in better shape, squad wise than Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho but there is so much more that needs to be done right to get United heading into the direction of the trophies. Another season in the UEFA Europa League would be a disaster for United and Solskjaer.

Manchester United 2-1 Atalanta

Written by John Walker

Opinion: Paul Pogba may forever be an odd piece in Manchester United’s puzzled system

Manchester United’s dismal run of form continued against Leicester on Saturday as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team suffered a dejecting 4-2 defeat. It was the chance to usher in a triumphant return to form for United, however Solskjaer’s team looked even worse than before the international break for large patches of the game. 

Naturally questions will be directed towards the manager and his subsequent selection of Harry Maguire, who had an awful individual performance, but it was United’s midfield that once again massively struggled, particularly Paul Pogba. Just days ago, Pogba had put in a top-class performance for France, winning the UEFA Nations League in the process, yet the Pogba on the pitch against Leicester looked a million miles from the Nations League display. 

This then poses the question, what is the reason Pogba can be brilliant for France yet not translate this to club football? In all truth there is likely to be several factors rather than one sole reason, but Pogba’s unstable form for United has been present since the Frenchman arrived, which leads to the natural assumption that somethings not quite right within the United setup if it can’t get the best out of the exceptionally talented midfielder.

Pogba had left United in an unsavoury manner all the way back in 2012, departing Sir Alex Fergusons side for Juventus, and Sir Alex made it very clear he wasn’t happy with how the situation played out. United’s legendary manager has always had a dislike towards Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, who managed to get the Frenchman out of United on a free back then. 

Since then, Pogba returned in grand fashion in 2016, a world record fee of £89 million at the time, this in tandem with an intensive social media announcement raised expectations through the roof. However, despite all the hype and expectation, Pogba has never seemed to fully realise the potential he possesses. 

It started out well enough for Pogba, winning the Europa League and League Cup in his first season for United, the midfielder had a decent season under Jose Mourinho, who he would later famously fall out with. Even then though, Pogba didn’t always look comfortable in the holding number six role, his attacking brilliance caged, and emphasis put on his defensive contributions- which is nowhere near the strongest aspect of his game. 

It felt like Pogba was touted as some sort of midfield saviour for United, an area that has failed to have been properly addressed for years. While there has been midfielders brought in alongside Pogba, such as Ander Herrera or Nemanja Matic, there has rarely been a United side in the last few years where you felt like that the midfield would take charge and be the difference in the game. 

This then must partly go down to poor recruitment and the turnover in managers in the last eight years, United are in uncharted territory and it shows. Four different managers with hugely contrasting ideas and systems, some more evident than others. For example, Mourinho’s defensively minded United side were very good at grinding out results whereas Solskjaer allows more of a free reign approach in search for goals. 

The point being United have been signing players for different systems and ideas and then forcing the next manager to try and integrate them in their own setup- it’s inefficient and unsustainable regarding success.

Consequentially now where United find themselves with one win in five it’s only fitting that the board have reportedly promised to stick by Solskjaer, a clear sign that the manager turnover is not something they want to become a habit. Going back to Pogba, it is Solskjaer who let his attacking instincts run free in a left-wing role. 

Pogba seemed happier playing from the left and having fewer defensive responsibilities, and for a while it seemed like the balance of the team was better like this. However, the void of sheer quality lost in central areas is noticeable when the Frenchman plays on the left, there are far less forward or line breaking passes, and despite being more defensively sound, the manager would ideally want both aspects present in central midfield. 

Subsequently we can look to France to see how it can work out for Pogba to perform to his best while still playing in that central area. In the France setup Pogba is paired with a sitter, a midfielder who is defensively minded and usually high energy and intensity, almost the antithesis of Pogba who is freer spirited and plays with a steady rhythm. 

A player like N’Golo Kante or more recently Aurelien Tchouameni next to Pogba means he can focus on his strongest attributes such as dribbling, passing, and arriving in attacking areas rather than defending. This is ideally what United may need to look to do, but presently the only player who would be able to play a role next to Pogba like this is Matic, however the Serbian lacks the legs and engine needed to do this to provide true defensive cover. 

Therein lies the issue with the Pogba puzzle, currently Pogba is a piece that just doesn’t fit into the crop of United players that Solskjaer has without drawback. Play him on the left-wing and opportunities for the multitude of talented wingers United possess are scuppered, play him in midfield and United are vulnerable defensively. 

It does seem though after five long years and several top performances at the national level United and Solskjaer may have finally worked out the solution to solve the problem, i.e. bringing in a proper number six/defensive midfielder suited to Pogba’s game, but it almost seems too late.

Pogba would have to commit to another long haul at United to ever see the benefits of such a player brought in alongside him, something he may not want to do. This is because of on top of never feeling truly comfortable in any specific role, Pogba has always flirted with a United exit, fuelling the tirade of comments suggesting the Frenchman doesn’t care and isn’t good enough for United anyway. 

All of this alongside the club being poorly managed from the top down for a good while has meant Pogba has always looked like a fish out of water. A player unstable in performances generated from an unstable environment and lack of clarity on his role. Pogba has been a square piece in a round hole for United’s midfield for a while, a midfield that is symptomatic of far greater issues at the club regarding ownership and lack of proper structuring.

On his day Pogba will provide the most outrageous assist and bury a 30 yarder like it’s nothing, but it’s rarely been Pogba’s day at his time during United. In spite of this, Pogba has been a top scorer and top assist provider during his time at the club, further muddying the unclear waters of whether Pogba can be considered a success or even a good player over the last five years. 

When playing for France Pogba is surrounded by winners, a clear system and stability- at United it’s now unfortunately the opposite. This doesn’t excuse the times we’ve seen a lack of effort from the Frenchman, the jogging back or head down attitude that sometimes surfaces in hard times, but it adds to the reasons of why Pogba hasn’t fulfilled a massive potential in his time here. 

In terms of the future, it’s currently unclear for Pogba as it feels almost every year for the 28-year-old. Raiola has frequently opened his mouth regarding potential moves away and Pogba has done nothing to suggest long-term commitment to United. 

The next contract for Pogba will be his last big contract, so there is an added pressure on a player that has professed he is desperate to win, perhaps a reason why a move away from United may be so appealing. Yet despite this there is clearly an affection for the club from Pogba, or in failing that a desire to win here and prove doubters wrong, this may be one reason the Frenchman considers staying. 

The easy way out would be to leave for Real Madrid or Juventus, but the fairy-tale ending would be to stay and potentially help United ascend back to glory. If this is ever to happen United need to make the correct decisions from the board level down in terms of recruitment, the right course of action regarding the manager situation, and most importantly, Pogba has to really want to play for the club.

United now find themselves needing to bounce back if the season is to be considered a success, and Pogba may find himself playing a greater role in not just his own future but the future of the club.

Written by Sam Wilson

Ratings: Toothless United lose 4-2 at Leicester; Greenwood and Rashford both scored for United

Manchester United were beaten 4-2 by Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. It was another big defeat for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side at the stadium, losing last season in the FA Cup. United unbeaten away run was now over. Mason Greenwood opened the scoring in the 19th minute of the match but Youri Tielemans equalised in the 31st minute. Leicester then found a second goal, scored by Çaglar Söyüncü in the 78th minute before Marcus Rashford levelled in the 82nd minute for United. Jamie Vardy put Leicester ahead again a minute later before Patson Daka completed the rout in the first minute of added time.

Leicester started the match in fine fettle, pressing United from the off and having an early shot on target. United seemed to be scared of the Foxes, which did not look good in the opening minutes but they soon got their grasp on the game and worked their possession in their favour. Solskjaer’s side needed to get a good result in this match. Mason Greenwood had a good run with the ball, shooting on goal but finding the clutches of Kasper Schmeichel. United ended up opening the scoring in the match with Greenwood beating Schmeichel from range, assisted by Bruno Fernandes – it was a stunning finish for the 20-year-old.

United’s lead lasted just 12 minutes with Youri Tielemans, assisted by Kelechi Iheanacho, grabbed the equaliser in the 31st minute of the match with Harry Maguire making an earlier mistake which led to the goal. It was another great finish in this match with the goals being scored from distance into the opposite corner of the net from where the shot came from on the pitch. United needed to go back to square one and find a way of making a difference in this match, which is going to be hard for them considering the form and mentality of this Leicester side, which is needed for them if they are to rise up the Premier League table this season.

The first half ended 1-1 with either team able to get the win at this stage. United had eight shots on goal, three of those were on target, one of those was scored. Three shots were off target and two were blocked. Leicester has six shots on goal, three of those on target and one was scored. One shot was off target and two were blocked. Leicester’s press was a problem for United and Maguire being rusty, having one training session before starting today after sitting out with a calf injury sustained in the defeat to Aston Villa, which was not helping United. That said, Solskjaer’s side needed to be more attacking in the second half of the match.

There were no changes for either team at the start of the second half. Both United and the Foxes looked determined to get a better result from this fixture, having chances in the early stages of the second half. Nemanja Matic had a good one, striking towards goal, but the ball going over the crossbar. Greenwood also had another good chance, which involved Schmeichel making the save, but the United forward being flagged for offside. Victor Lindelof became the first player to be booked in the match and Solskjaer brought Marcus Rashford back into the fray in the 65th minute, replacing Jadon Sancho.

United had a good chance between Cristiano Ronaldo and Rashford to find a second goal, but Ronaldo’s finish was saved by Schmeichel, but he was offside anyway. Leicester took the lead for the first time in the match minutes later after Patson Daka’s shot was saved by David De Gea but Çaglar Söyüncü managed to tap in a finish after Ayoze Pérez kept the ball in play. United look unable to gat anything from this match, which is going to delight those so-called fans who just want United to lose time and time again, which is pretty pathetic. They do understand that clubs that continue to switch the manager never really end up solving many problems?

United got back into the game with Marcus Rashford getting an equaliser in the 82nd minute, assisted by Victor Lindelof. But from the kick off, Leicester got ahead again through Jamie Vardy with Maguire just letting him volley the ball into the back of the net. United had found another defeat this season as this team was not going to find much to win matches with toothless displays like this one. There was tine for a comeback but it did not feel like one was on the cards. Patson Daka, in the first of five added minutes, got Leicester’s fourth goal of the match, securing the three points with United having to find a way to get back to winning ways in the league.

United take on Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, another must-win European match, which at this moment in time, does not look too good for United. In a week’s time Solskjaer’s side will face a resurgent Liverpool, which will be a problem for this toothless United side, who seem to have a lot of work ahead of them in order to find a team with some kind of form. At the end of October, United face Tottenham Hotspur away from home, which could work out what happens with the club this season as result are not in favour of the manager, the coaches and the players. Not a good position to be in right now.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Conceded four goals at the King Power. Not a good result. Had no chance to save the efforts of Tielemans, Soyuncu and Vardy - even Daka's looked tough. United's defence let him down today. Made a fair few saves too.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

It was a positive performance for the right-back, just not positive for United. Did what he needed to do, but I would have liked to see more attacking play from the wide spaces.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Clumsy at times, especially for the booking after fouling Vardy. Got an assist for Rashfor's equaliser but it fell apart from there for United.

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5 Harry Maguire

Made a mistake which immediately led to Leicester's equaliser in the first half of the match. He was always going to be rusty after an injury layoff though, especially after having just one training session before the match. Made another leaving Vardy to fire a volley into the back of the net just after United had equalised. Leicester scored two more goals, one of them Maguire could have helped to stop but he let Vardy volley into the back of the net.

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23 Luke Shaw

Provided width, which United were lacking on the attack, despite having both Greenwood and Sancho in the side positions.. An attacking display and defensively, he did what he needed to do.

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6 Paul Pogba

Lacklustre. Ineffective. Void of any presence in the game. Should be better than this. If he's going to offer nothing, he may as well just leave now.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Seems to have turned back the years and putting in a good show of form and fight in the midfield this season. Had a speculative shot on goal, which was not far off putting United ahead for the second time. It was a poor result for United, but Matic did well throughout the match.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Scored his fourth goal of the season, which was a fine finish from outside the box. United deserved their lead and Greenwood deserved his fourth goal of the season. Had a few chances throughout the match but was unable to get the better of Leicester. Replaced by Lingard in the 80th minute of the match.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Got the assist for Greenwood's opening goal of the match, scoring 30 goals and 21 assists in 59 Premier League appearances. Seemed unable to control the game when United needed that, so perhaps Donny van de Beek could have a go now?

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25 Jadon Sancho

Played well against Leicester but the critics will be out in force as he's not yet found the form he displayed in the Bundesliga. It's like people just use computer games to form opinions now, not real life. He will find his feet and perform for United. He was replaced by Rashford in the 65th minute of the match.

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7 Cristiano Ronaldo

Could have got a goal for United after Greenwood opened the scoring, but missed his chance. Seemed to be attacking very little and offering little going forward for large periods of the match. Something needs to give here and it won't be Ronaldo. United are in a pretty difficult predicament.

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Substitutes

10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced Sancho 65'. Glad to see him back. Got an equaliser, which was important but United conceded again from the kick off. Not a good game to come back for, but one to learn from.

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39 Scott McTominay

Replaced Matic 80'. Should have been introduced at least ten minutes prior to his introduction. Had some involvement but was unable to inspire United from the midfield. United scored one and conceded twice with him on the pitch.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced Greenwood 80'. Did not have much involvement in the match, other than a shot on goal. Again, should have been introduced much sooner in the match.

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Goals: Mason Greenwood 19′, Marcus Rashford 82′; Youri Tielemans 31′, Çaglar Söyüncü 78′, Jamie Vardy 83′, Patson Daka 90+1′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 19′, Victor Lindelof 82′; Kelechi Iheanacho 31′, Ayoze Pérez 78′, 83′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Pogba, Matic (McTominay 80′); Greenwood (Lingard 80′), Fernandes, Sancho (Rashford 65′); Ronaldo

Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Bailly, Dalot, Telles; Mata, Van de Beek

Bookings: Victor Lindelof 52′, Aaron Wan-Bissaka 85′, Paul Pogba 86′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Maguire returns from injury; Ronaldo, Greenwood, Fernandes and Sancho start against Leicester

Manchester United return to Premier League action, travelling to face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in a traditional 3pm kick off this afternoon. It has been a positive international break for some United players with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick in his last match, extending his international goals record for Portugal. United need to get back to winning ways in the league this weekend, righting the wrongs from the lacklustre 1-1 draw with Everton a fortnight ago. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to start finding the best of his talented team, which is why he’s got so many critics at this time.

United head into a busy period where they will face Leicester (A), Atalanta (H), Liverpool (H) and Tottenham Hotspur (A) before the end of the month, with Atalanta (A), Manchester City (H), Watford (A), Villarreal (A), Chelsea (A) and Arsenal (H) all coming before the end of November. Solskjaer will need to get the right results otherwise the pressure will intensify and the muppets on social media, who thing they are qualified to make adult decisions, will be calling for his head some more. These so-called supporters seem to proclaim that they have all the answers without actually giving any answers other than Ole out, which is pathetic.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw;

Pogba, Matic;

Greenwood, Fernandes, Sancho;

Ronaldo

Substitutes:

Henderson; Bailly, Dalot, Telles; Mata, Lingard, Van de Beek, McTominay; Rashford

Leicester City:

Schmeichel;

Amartey, Soyuncu, Evans;

Pereira, Soumare, Tielemans, Castagne;

Maddison;

Vardy, Iheanacho

Substitutes:

Ward, Bertrand, Barnes, Albrighton, Perez, Choudhury, Vestergaard, Daka, Lookman

United and Leicester have met 30 times in the Premier League. United have won 19 times, drawn eight times with the Foxes winning the remaining three matches. United have scored a total of 63 goals, winning four penalties and scoring three of them. The Foxes have scored just 26 goals, winning two penalties and scoring both of them. The Red Devils have kept 14 clean sheets with the Foxes keeping just two. Discipline has been an issue in this fixture with United players receiving 38 yellow cards and one red card and Leicester players being shown 35 yellow cards and three red cards. This should be a fiery match.

Over the years, there has been many players who have donned the shirts of both United and Leicester, whether just at academy level, or for the first team also. The likes of John Curtis, Mark Robins, Danny Drinkwater, Matty James, Ron-Robert Zieler, Brian Carey, Colin Gibson, John Doherty, Robbie Savage, Keith Gillespie, Ritchie De Laet, Tom Cleverley, Jonny Evans, Tom Lawrence, Michael Keane, Jesse Lingard, Nick Powell, Danny Simpson, Harry Maguire have all played for both teams. Maguire is perhaps the most expensive player to be involved in a transfer with his £80 million fee paid in the summer of 2019. There were some talented played named here.

Written by John Walker

Injury Curse: Maguire and Varane both likely out but United have enough depth to cope

Manchester United look set to be without both captain Harry Maguire and first choice centre-back partner Raphael Varane for the first game post international break, as United travel to take on Leicester City. Maguire has been battling with a calf issue, and although still has an outside chance of playing, he’s unlikely to start. 

Varane on the other hand picked up a groin injury while on International duty for France, the world cup winner was substituted during the Nations League final against Spain. Despite this undoubtedly being a blow for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the manager still has several defenders to choose from in their absence. 

Earlier this year we wrote about the increased squad depth United now possess in defence, and it looks like that depth will be called into action with both Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf available.

This game will be a significant test for Bailly and Lindelöf if they are recalled into the starting line-up, Bailly’s only start this season has come in United’s disappointing Carabao Cup defeat to West Ham United, while Lindelöf lost his position as a starting centre-back once Raphael Varane arrived. 

The lack of minutes for the pair means they may feel a sense of rust, however, this will need to be shaken off quickly if they are to deal with a strong and fast Leicester side. In some senses it feels like Lindelöf has progressed in the last year, being promoted to Sweden captaincy is a major step up in responsibilities at the national level, and Solskjaer will hope this can have a positive effect on his club football as well. 

Meanwhile, Bailly looks like he’s stagnating at United, despite signing a new deal in April of this year. The Ivorian has represented his country at the Olympic Games this year, even scoring in the quarter final defeat against Spain, but aside from this there has been no real progression for the defender. 

Bailly may feel the most aggrieved out of all United’s defenders in the sense that he is almost certainly fourth choice at centre-back despite signing that new deal this year. Any assurances over game time may have disappeared once the highly rated Varane was available on the market, Solskjaer has seemingly been guilty with not keeping promises over game time, something Donny Van de Beek will attest to

In spite of this, the pair should be ready and raring to go, as is expected of every single United player.

Although the prospect of going into a game against Leicester without two first choice defenders is a scary prospect on paper, there may be a few factors in United’s favour. Firstly the fact that Leicester have been in poor form by their high standards this season is a plus, Brendan Rodgers hasn’t been able to make the Foxes click quite yet, Leicester sit all the way down in 13th going into the game. 

Additionally, both teams go into this game after an international break, meaning most players have had a considerable time away from playing, which may benefit Lindelof and Bailly as they attempt to find match rhythm once more. 

In some regards it may be forgotten that the pair are in fact both good players on their day, but United’s level of depth in defence and lack of opportunities have almost afforded both Lindelof and Bailly a status of substandard. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Lindelof and Bailly have both won trophies for United where Maguire hasn’t, so there should be no real questioning of their experience when they do need to fill in.

For Lindelof and Bailly, a good performance may lead to a run of games, with Varane set to be out for at least two weeks. Maguire is likely to return very soon, so the opportunity to impress may be limited to just this one game for one of the incoming pair, and Solskjaer will know he needs every player at their best to contend with the difficult upcoming run of fixtures. 

Overall United will face a stern test against Leicester, but the game shouldn’t be lost on defensive changes for United, rather the result will be symptomatic of how Solskjaer deploys his team on the day and whether the players as a whole turn up with intensity after the break- something that should be expected at the very least.

Written by Sam Wilson

Predicted XI: Rashford, Ronaldo and Sancho to spearhead United’s attack? Foxes beaten?

Manchester United return to Premier League action, travelling to face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in a traditional 3pm kick off on Saturday afternoon. It has been a positive international break for some United players with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick in his last match, extending his international goals record for Portugal. United need to get back to winning ways in the league this weekend, righting the wrongs from the lacklustre 1-1 draw with Everton a fortnight ago. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to start finding the best of his talented team, which is why he’s got so many critics at this time.

United head into a busy period where they will face Leicester (A), Atalanta (H), Liverpool (H) and Tottenham Hotspur (A) before the end of the month, with Atalanta (A), Manchester City (H), Watford (A), Villarreal (A), Chelsea (A) and Arsenal (H) all coming before the end of November. Solskjaer will need to get the right results otherwise the pressure will intensify and the muppets on social media, who thing they are qualified to make adult decisions, will be calling for his head some more. These so-called supporters seem to proclaim that they have all the answers without actually giving any answers other than Ole out, which is pathetic.

Previous meetings with Leicester City and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Leicester have met 30 times in the Premier League. United have won 19 times, drawn eight times with the Foxes winning the remaining three matches. United have scored a total of 63 goals, winning four penalties and scoring three of them. The Foxes have scored just 26 goals, winning two penalties and scoring both of them. The Red Devils have kept 14 clean sheets with the Foxes keeping just two. Discipline has been an issue in this fixture with United players receiving 38 yellow cards and one red card and Leicester players being shown 35 yellow cards and three red cards. This should be a fiery match.

Over the years, there has been many players who have donned the shirts of both United and Leicester, whether just at academy level, or for the first team also. The likes of John Curtis, Mark Robins, Danny Drinkwater, Matty James, Ron-Robert Zieler, Brian Carey, Colin Gibson, John Doherty, Robbie Savage, Keith Gillespie, Ritchie De Laet, Tom Cleverley, Jonny Evans, Tom Lawrence, Michael Keane, Jesse Lingard, Nick Powell, Danny Simpson, Harry Maguire have all played for both teams. Maguire is perhaps the most expensive player to be involved in a transfer with his £80 million fee paid in the summer of 2019. There were some talented played named here.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Leicester City in the Premier League at the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

United will need to be strong in defence against Leicester as they have the players that could bully the defence and score goals with Jamie Vardy already scoring six times this season and Kelechi Iheanacho scoring three times. However, United’s attack will devastate Leicester if they are not in a position to control the game. Having David De Gea in goal is the best option for United at this time, as he has largely done well in all of the matches he has played so far this season. It is possible that he could be rested in the Champions League on Wednesday evening with Dean Henderson getting a rare start after his fatigue problems after catching coronavirus.

De Gea has turned back the clock on his ability, showing the best of himself in many matches so far this season, and that will need to continue if United are to stand up and be counted as a Premier League title challenger this season. The club finished second last season, and at a point were in the top spot, but Manchester City’s resurgence, mainly their expensive squad of mercenaries led them to the title. United will need to show that kind of determination if they are to achieve anything to be considered success this season – which is evidently possible as they are just two points from the Premier League summit at this time.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw

The defence is going to be much weaker than it can be for the foreseeable future. Harry Maguire has not fully recovered from his calf injury and Raphael Varane suffered a groin injury during the international break, which saw France crowned as the UEFA Nations League winners, beating Spain in the final. Against Leicester, Solskjaer will need to stick with both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw in the fullback positions and test a new partnership in the centre of defence, probably with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly. The duo have played together many times, but both can be liabilities at times, and this could be one of those times.

Solskjaer has both Phil Jones, who has started his comeback from a serious knee injury and Teden Mengi who could also come into contention to start against the Foxes, but I believe that the Norwegian manager will opt for experience and not rush youth or a player coming back from injury. Jones has played 180 minutes for the U23’s since making his return from injury, so has some minutes under his belt, so you never know, he could be opted ahead of either Lindelof or Bailly. I think this duo is the most likely though and hopefully United will have better luck with Maguire ahead of the Atalanta Champions League match next week?

Midfield: Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek

The midfield will be the problem area of the squad until some kind of strengthening can be done. It has been said during the international break that dropping Fred would be a good thing to happen and it would just so happen that he will not be available, along with Edinson Cavani as they could be playing on Friday evening in South America as Brazil take on Uruguay. With Nemanja Matic the only experience defensive minded midfielder, giving Scott McTominay that role could be beneficial in speeding up play, as long as Fred is not playing with him in a midfield two. Changing this formation and tactical approach could see United play much quicker.

Against Leicester, who have not had a good start to the season, United will need to be sure of their ability and push to win this match as another stuttered performance will not be good as the so-called supporters on Twitter will cause an uproar, if you even take notice of them in the first place. Staring Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek in this formation would be a good test to the strength of the team, possibly bringing Paul Pogba into the fray at some point in the game, to see how that works too. Providing it does, United could solve a problem, albeit temporarily a they look to make more permanent changes in the transfer market or beyond.

Forwards: Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford

Solskjaer needs to change up his squad and feed them different tactics as the lacklustre style of play, keeping in mind the attacking players United have, is not good enough this season. United should be playing a quickly style of football and dominating with constant attacking, which should be enough for much of their opposition, at least in the Premier League this season. I think that Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the line as the striker, which is his best position these days, but he could operate in any of the three positions seeking to find space for other players. Fresh from scoring a hat-trick for Portugal, he will be up for scoring more Premier League goals.

I think Marcus Rashford will make his return from injury, which is at the right time but he will be a bit rusty, which means it will be better to get him started sooner rather than later. He has been in first team training for a number of weeks now, so he should have enough fitness, even if he has only played in one behind closed doors training match. Jadon Sancho should start on the right-wing, the position he was bought to play in. After his two assists for England during the international break, despite the criticism, I think he will start making his mark in the Premier League, which will come weeks after some kids said he was rubbish live on MUTV.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Phil Jones, Alex Telles; Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Elanga

United can name nine substitutes on the bench in the Premier League this season, utilising three of those. With the current injuries and unavailable players, Solskjaer will have to think about the players he has available and whether to trust youth or bring Phil Jones back into the fold. Dean Henderson will be the substitute goalkeeper with De Gea keeping his place in the team. In defence, I think having Jones over Teden Mengi would be better based on experience as United will need to win this match. I don’t have much confidence in Lindelof and Bailly, but they have worked well together in the past and need to be determined to try and win back their places.

In midfield, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic could all be called upon if needed. I think Van de Beek will start ahead of Pogba as he will want to show what he can do, which could also get him into the shop window ahead of January, with reports of him wanting to leave the Old Trafford club just over a year after he arrived. In attack, Anthony Martial, who scored his first goal of the season against Everton a fortnight ago, Mason Greenwood, who has been in fine form so far this season and Anthony Elanga, who could be seeking to fight for a place in United’s attack this season should all be available for the Leicester match.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Manchester United to change tactics in order to beat Leicester City?

Leicester City -v- Manchester United

Premier League

King Power Stadium, Leicester

Saturday 16 October 2021, KO 15:00 BST

Referee: Craig Pawson Assistants: Lee Betts, Dan Robathan

Fourth Official: Andy Madley

VAR: Darren England Assistant VAR: Eddie Smart

Manchester United return to Premier League action, travelling to face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in a traditional 3pm kick off on Saturday afternoon. It has been a positive international break for some United players with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick in his last match, extending his international goals record for Portugal. United need to get back to winning ways in the league this weekend, righting the wrongs from the lacklustre 1-1 draw with Everton a fortnight ago. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to start finding the best of his talented team, which is why he’s got so many critics at this time.

United head into a busy period where they will face Leicester (A), Atalanta (H), Liverpool (H) and Tottenham Hotspur (A) before the end of the month, with Atalanta (A), Manchester City (H), Watford (A), Villarreal (A), Chelsea (A) and Arsenal (H) all coming before the end of November. Solskjaer will need to get the right results otherwise the pressure will intensify and the muppets on social media, who thing they are qualified to make adult decisions, will be calling for his head some more. These so-called supporters seem to proclaim that they have all the answers without actually giving any answers other than Ole out, which is pathetic.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWLLWL

Everton 1-1 D, Villarreal 2-1 W, Aston Villa 1-0 L, West Ham United 1-0 L, West Ham United 2-1 W, BSC Young Boys 2-1 L

Goals: 5 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, 3 – Mason Greenwood, 2 – Jesse Lingard, 1 – Fred, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles

Assists: 7 – Paul Pogba, 3 – Bruno Fernandes, 1 – Victor Lindelof, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane

Leicester City – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DLDWLD

Crystal Palace 2-2 D, Legia Warsaw 1-0 L, Burnley 2-2 D, Millwall 2-0 W, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 L, Napoli 2-2 D

Goals: 6 – Jamie Vardy, 3 – Kelechi Iheanacho, 1 – Marc Albrighton, Harvey Barnes, Ademola Lookman, Ayoze Pérez, Youri Tielemans

Assists: 2 – Harvey Barnes, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ricardo Pereira, Youri Tielemans, 1 – Jamie Vardy

Previous meetings with Leicester City and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Leicester have met 30 times in the Premier League. United have won 19 times, drawn eight times with the Foxes winning the remaining three matches. United have scored a total of 63 goals, winning four penalties and scoring three of them. The Foxes have scored just 26 goals, winning two penalties and scoring both of them. The Red Devils have kept 14 clean sheets with the Foxes keeping just two. Discipline has been an issue in this fixture with United players receiving 38 yellow cards and one red card and Leicester players being shown 35 yellow cards and three red cards. This should be a fiery match.

Over the years, there has been many players who have donned the shirts of both United and Leicester, whether just at academy level, or for the first team also. The likes of John Curtis, Mark Robins, Danny Drinkwater, Matty James, Ron-Robert Zieler, Brian Carey, Colin Gibson, John Doherty, Robbie Savage, Keith Gillespie, Ritchie De Laet, Tom Cleverley, Jonny Evans, Tom Lawrence, Michael Keane, Jesse Lingard, Nick Powell, Danny Simpson, Harry Maguire have all played for both teams. Maguire is perhaps the most expensive player to be involved in a transfer with his £80 million fee paid in the summer of 2019. There were some talented played named here.

Team News: Leicester have three players ruled out and one doubt with United having one player out through injury, two still on international break but up to three returning to action from injury.

Raphael Varane (Groin) is the main injury for United at this time and he will be out for a few weeks, which is a major blow for the club. Marcus Rashford and Amad Diallo have returned to training with Rashford training for a number of weeks, however, Harry Maguire still seems to be out of action. Solskjaer will also be without both Fred and Edinson Cavani as Brazil and Uruguay face each other in a World Cup qualifier on Friday evening, in South America, so both will be missing from this match, which is hardly a blow but it means that United will need to set up differently and possible even play different players, which could be a good thing.

Wesley Fofana (Ankle), Wilfred Ndidi (Thigh) and James Justin (Knee) have all been ruled out of the clash with United at the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The was once a time that with Ndidi missing, it could be costly for the Foxes, but with the addition of Boubakary Soumare this summer, the Foxes are fine without him. Jonny Evans (Ankle) has a 50% chance being available to face his former club, but will no doubt be subject to a late fitness in order to gain a place in the squad. Leicester will be hoping he is fit as he is one of the best central defenders at the club – he could be key for the Foxes.

Predicted Starting XI: Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Fred and Edinson Cavani all set to miss clash with the Foxes. Solskjaer will need to get his team playing a better brand of attacking football.

United started the season in good form, which has returned but in fits and starts but of late, they seem to have been lucky – which is not ideal. Solskjaer will need to find the right balance in the squad that he currently has in order to get the results that are needed to guide United back to glory, which is the next step for the club after almost eight seasons out of a proper title race. Solskjaer and his players know what they need to do in order to achieve things and they will need to work hard to achieve that – after all, United need to start winning trophies so we can see that they mean nothing to the so-called fans who incessantly moan on Twitter about Solskjaer.

Against Leicester, I think David De Gea will keep his place in goal as Dean Henderson has not had a good enough run at first team football this season, which could come in the Champions League against Atalanta. With both Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane injured, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly will partner in the centre of the defence with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw in the fullback positions. A three-man midfield consisting of Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek could be interesting. In attack, Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the line with Marcus Rashford making his comeback and Jadon Sancho also starting.

Match Prediction: The Foxes were tough to beat last season but their form this season has not been the greatest. United will need to dig deep and find the momentum to get them through October.

Last season, at the King Power Stadium in a match that was played on Boxing Day, United drew 2-2 with the Foxes. Marcus Rashford opened up the scoring in the 23rd minute of the match, assisted by Bruno Fernandes. Harvey Barnes equalised eight minutes later, assisted by James Maddison. Then Fernandes, assisted by Edinson Cavani, scored what should have been the winner in the match in the 79th minute but an Axel Tuanzebe own goal in the 85th minute of the match saw the two sides grab a point each, which was not ideal for either at that time – although Leicester still bottled the Champions League places – for a second time.

At Old Trafford, Leicester beat United 2-1 last season. Luke Thomas, assisted by Youri Tielemans opened the scoring in the tenth minute of the match but Mason Greenwood, assisted by Amad Diallo equalised five minutes later. It was an even match from there but Çaglar Söyüncü assisted by Marc Albrighton found the winner in the 66th minute of the match, which was a blow for United – but they did finish above Leicester as they fell out of the top four for the second time in two seasons. Solskjaer will be seeking to find some form against Leicester this season, at least go for the double over the midlands club.

Leicester City 1-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

Facundo Pellistri just wants to play football, giving Jadon Sancho as a reason for loan spell

Manchester United winger Facundo Pellistri has talked about life after signing for the Old Trafford club, including giving a reason why he left the club on loan for the second season in a row – seemingly because of the signing of Jadon Sancho, who arrived from Borussia Dortmund in a £73 million deal. United signed the Uruguayan winger in the summer of 2020 from Penarol for £9 million.

This was a deal for the future rather than now. Pellistri was rated highly and United got in there before any of the competition, seemingly getting a good deal for what could be a top player in the years to come. The 19-year-old started well in United’s pre-season campaign this summer, even scoring United’s second goal in a 2-1 victory over Derby County and assisting United’s first goal in a 4-2 defeat to Queens Park Rangers.

It was suggested that the player wanted to stay at United this season, finding his feet at the club but in the end he was loaned to Deportivo Alaves for the second time. This should have given him more minutes on the pitch, therefore allowing his to acclimatise to European football, which will give him more benefit ahead of his future at United, which seems to be something that he wants to achieve, which is a good things considering the player’s attributes.

When United signed the Uruguayan, arriving with compatriot Edinson Cavani, the Old Trafford club saw him as a player for the future, also securing a deal for Amad Diallo of Atalanta, with his spell at United starting in January 2021 when he made the move to Manchester. He is a talented player and could offer United a lot in the coming years, providing he makes it at the club.

Pellistri, 19, recently spoke to The Athletic about his move to United, including the loan spell which sees him playing a bit-part role at Alaves in Spain. The player spoke greatly about his pre-season escapades in which he tasted first-hand what is expected of a United player, confirming that Sancho’s move was one of the reasons for his agreement for the loan spell, saying:

“I felt stronger in the first team, I scored in a game at Derby for the first team. It was a very hard pre-season, the hardest I’ve ever had. Physically, you are really pushed, the training is such a high level.

“New players came in, including in my position [Jadon Sancho] so I thought it was a good idea to go on loan again. The best thing for a player is to play, and for a young player, to get experience.”

Pellistri also spoke about the changes in his life now that he had signed for one of the world’s biggest football clubs, talking about the house that the club provided for him, plus the food, which would have lasted him many months – also talking about the fact that the club would have provided anything that he wanted. He concluded by saying:

“The club gave me a house filled with enough food for two months. The difference between United and a club in Uruguay was incredible. There were so many people to help look after us.

“If we had any problem, I just had to call. If I wanted a new phone — no problem. They would get one for me.”

The Uruguayan winger will have known that his participation in the squad would have been limited before Sancho arrived at the club and playing regular football on loan, at least in a country that speaks the same language as him, whilst being in Europe, therefore helping him acclimatise to European football at the same time, would have been a good choice for him, rather than being frustrated of a lack of football at United.

At Alaves this season, it does not seem to be going to plan for the 19-year-old, making seven appearances for the club, not scoring or assisting a single goal and only playing 195 minutes of football. This means that United could look at recalling the winger from his loan spell which reportedly states that he will need to log 1,000 minutes of first team football by a date at the start of December 2021.

If this 1,000 minute clause is true, Pellistri would need to play every minute of the next nine matches to get that number of minutes and with just 195 minutes played since the start of his loan spell, it would seen unlikely but still possible for him to achieve. This would mean that he would play against Real Betis, Cadiz, Elche, Barcelona, Levante, Sevilla, Celta Vigo, Granada and Getafe with the last match played on the 12 December.

If United did end up recalling the player, which was reported in the past few days, United will either place him in the U23’s, the first team or find another club that would give him the minutes that he needs in order to develop. In the first team this season, that would seem unlikely but next season, with players leaving this summer on the expiry of their contracts, it would be a possibility.

Instead of loaning him to a league in another country, perhaps United could find a club in the Championship or even the Premier League that would give him the minutes he needs to show his level of ability and make his mark in England. The Championship would seem more likely, which would give him a taste of how football is played in this country, like he found out against Derby and QPR in the summer.

Written by John Walker

Feyenoord to make fresh bid to take Amad Diallo on loan from January – reports

Feyenoord are reportedly ready to make a fresh bid to take Amad Diallo to the Eredivisie from January. The Dutch club were advancing in a. deal to sign the Ivory Coast winger during the summer transfer window, but. thigh injury ended that as the player would have been out of action for a few months, rendering the deal void, at least until the next transfer window.

The 19-year-old arrived at Manchester United from Atalanta during the January transfer window in 2021, after a deal was agreed towards the end of the summer transfer window in 2020. Amad joined United for an initial fee of £21.25 million, which could rise to £34 million if the add-ons are activated. So far the winger has been used sparingly, achieving more at U23 level than for the first team.

It is stated that Feyenoord still want to sign the winger on loan with the two clubs aiming to sort out a deal to be completed as soon as possible after the transfer window opens again on the 1 January 2022. The reports come from The Mirror, with them getting the information from Transfermarkt regarding the Dutch club. It would be a good transfer move for the teenager, who needs to find regular football in order to develop as a player.

Amad may be an inexperienced player but he has represented his country, playing with teammate and compatriot Eric Bailly during the summer Olympics in Tokyo. This led to the season starting late for the duo, which is where the winger got his injury, once he returned to training – although it could have happened at any time. This move would be beneficial for the winger as it will give him time, albeit away from scrutiny.

The Ivorian has played eight times at first team level for United, scoring one goal and one assist. At U23 level, he has played just three times, scoring four goals and three assists, which is impressive. During his time at Atalanta, he made just five appearances, scoring one goal – playing just 59 minutes of football at first team level, which was ended when United brought him to Manchester.

Arsenal academy player Reiss Nelson moved to the Rotterdam club in the summer, with the Dutch side seeking ore attacking talent for their squad. The England U21 winger has yet to feature for the club after suffering a groin injury, which could be the reason why the Rotterdam club now want to re-establish the loan move for Amad as the signing of the Arsenal player has not really strengthened their attack.

It has been reported that Amad could be back in training at some point in the not too distant future, which would be good for him and the team. United have a wealth of attacking talent at this time and Amad’s availability, when fully fit will be great for that. However, I would expect to see him play more football at U23 level, which will strengthen the squad at that level at this stage of the season.

The path to first team football at United will be tougher for Amad as he now have Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of him, not that Ronaldo, who will mostly play as a central striker, will impact him. However, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford will add to the competition for places in the starting XI. This is one of the reasons why a loan spell in January would be good for the Ivorian winger, as that will give him more confidence ahead of him breaking into the first team at the club.

I would fully expect this transfer to take place as soon as is possible as it was all but agreed when injury stopped it from happening. Of course, other clubs could come forward and state their case to signing the winger, but United will need guarantees of playing time as that is the whole purpose of a loan spell. If he goes to a club that is not going to give him playing time, there would be little point in completing that as it will just be wasting the players time.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW