Saturday’s early kick off is a huge encounter at Old Trafford as an out-of-form Manchester United take on an in-form Leicester City in what is undoubtedly a significant day in the managerial career of one Jose Mourinho. Three consecutive defeats, including a mauling at Watford last time out, have placed the ‘Special One’ under intense scrutiny, and with the form of skipper Wayne Rooney failing to improve, the Portuguese boss is not the only one feeling the heat at England’s most successful club. Are Leicester City, those most famous of party crashers, set for another day in the spotlight?
One of the indirect consequences of Leicester City’s shock 2015/16 title win was the high-profile managerial casualties it caused, not least at Manchester United, where Louis Van Gaal’s failure to guide United into the top 4 and the Champions League ultimately cost the Dutchman his job two years into a three-year contract. Step forward Jose Mourinho, who had been linked with the United job ever since Sir Alex Ferguson hung up his chewing gum and stepped away from the Old Trafford hot seat. Mourinho’s arrival was meant to signal a new dawn of United success, and prior to September’s international break, things were looking good for the Red Devils; three wins from three and a new brand of incisive attacking football, with Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the fore. Three defeats in little over a week, starting with the Manchester derby, have well and truly burst that bubble. Be in no doubt, the locals, many of whom voiced their displeasure at Mourinho’s appointment in the first place, are unsettled, and a home defeat at the hands of a Leicester side improving with every game would be another blow to Mourinho who is increasingly looking isolated in his post, especially in light of player criticism and a perceived favouritism towards certain out-of-form stars.
This season was never going to be easy for the Foxes; where do you go after quite simply the greatest season in your history? Yet early season setbacks have been replaced by now-familiar successes as Claudio Ranieri’s side look to regather the momentum which saw them storm to the title last time round. Two comprehensive 3-0 victories in the league and Champions League have reminded the rest of the football world that Leicester are not going to go away easily, and this could be a very dangerous time to face the Foxes, who seem to be integrating new signings including record-buy Islam Slimani well into the current season’s team. Could a Leicester win spell disaster for yet another high-profile coach?
Team news and head-to-head
Last season’s encounters between the two sides both ended in 1-1 draws, and the game at the King Power stadium back in November was that in which Jamie Vardy famously bettered United legend’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record of scoring in ten consecutive matches. The return at Old Trafford was only a day before Leicester were crowned champions after nearest rivals Tottenham’s failure to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. These two sides of course met in Wembley’s season-opening Community Shield game back in August, where an 83rd minute winner from Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw United to victory. For United, both Luke Shaw and Antony Martial could miss out after picking up problems at Vicarage Road last time out, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan could return after a thigh muscle strain. Phil Jones remains sidelined with a knee ligament injury. For the visitors, ‘keeper Kasper Schmeichel and summer-signing Nampalys Mendy should be available after recovering from concussion and an ankle knock respectively.
Manchester United 1.666
Leicester City 5.840
All odds courtesy of Pinnacle and correct as of 14:00 GMT on 21/09/16
By: Steve Paget