Manchester United V Leicester City, Premier League, Old Trafford, 26th August 2017
Two former Premier League champions meet at Old Trafford on Saturday as Manchester United, the dominant force in the 25-year history of the competition, host the world’s most famous footballing underdogs, 2015/16 champions Leicester City. And indeed, it is United who enter this game with the highest of expectations, with the visitors once again taking on the mantle of unfancied outsider – a role the team played with relish seasons ago.
United have been intimating good in their opening victories over West Ham and Swansea – both achieved by a scoreline of four gaols to nil. Defensive solidity matched with attacking ruthlessness, all performed with unrivalled physicality; this now really is a team built in image of coach José Mourinho. The signs are ominous for United’s rivals as Mourinho’s famed second-season success stories threaten to continue, but both those wins must be taken in the context of opponents who possessed little fight; West Ham and Swansea will not be competing at the upper ends of the Premier League this season. But the fact remains, a team boasting a spine of David de Gea, Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matić and Romelu Lukaku is going to swat many a team aside like a pesky irritant.
Leicester City, meanwhile, have enjoyed mixed results so far, with a comfortable win over Brighton at the weekend preceded by a rather unfortunate 4-3 defeat at the Emirates; the Foxes were seven minutes from victory in that game. With the burden of ‘champions’ no longer carried, and most of that title-winning team still intact, Leicester should enjoy a good season, and the early signs are that the club has bought well after the rather erratic purchases of the previous campaign. Harry Maguire is a strong defensive addition, and Kelechi Iheanacho’s arrival from Manchester City could be viewed as somewhat of a coup. Wilfred Ndidi, Islam Slimani and Demarai Gray are earlier arrivals who are threatening greater consistency this term, so the only cloud on the horizon is the possible departure of 2015/16 Premier League Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez, and it is a move that most could not begrudge at this stage. The Foxes seem set for a top ten finish however, particularly with the ‘distraction’ of Champions League football no longer an issue this time around.
Looking at team news leading up to this game, United are in excellent health and continue to only find themselves without long-term absentee Marcos Rojo with knee-ligament damage. For the visitors, Harry Maguire picked up a knock in the EFL Cup win over Sheffield United, but should be fit to return at Old Trafford, while Danny Drinkwater, Wes Morgan and Iheanacho are also all slight doubts. Summer signing Vicente Iborra is definitely out with a groin strain.
United won this fixture 4-1 last season, also winning at the King Power Stadium by a scoreline of three goals to nil. Even in Leicester’s title-winning campaign the Foxes were unable to overcome United, securing two 1-1 draws on the way to their surprise success. Indeed, to find the last time Leicester won at Old Trafford you would need to go all the way back to January 1998 and a 1-0 win – Tony Cottee scoring the solitary goal. The Foxes have only drawn twice in eight league visits since.
A Manchester United win seems almost inevitable despite Leicester’s promise for the season. The Red Devils have simply started the season in too good a form to not take anything from a game they have traditionally dominated, but to find any value you would need to back them on the handicap; Manchester United -1 is 1.91 with 10bet. Furthermore, United to win to nil is 2.10 with bet365.
And finally, Romelu Lukaku has scored in both his Premier League appearances for Manchester United so far, and he can be backed at 1.80 with PaddyPower to continue that run here.
United’s dominant start to the season should continue at Old Trafford on Saturday as Leicester are the latest team to attempt to halt the steady momentum José Mourinho seems to be building in charge of the most successful club in Premier League history. An unenviable task on current evidence.