Manchester United should be confident of continuing their strong start to the season when they host Leicester City at Old Trafford on Saturday (17:30 BST, live on BT Sport).
Jose Mourinho has won the league title in his second season in charge in each of last five jobs, from FC Porto in the 2002-03 season through to his second spell at Chelsea three seasons ago. While it is still far too early to suggest he will do so again this season, United have certainly made an impressive start to the campaign with consecutive 4-0 victories.
West Ham were the victims on the opening day of the season, while it was Swansea who were brushed aside last weekend. In both matches, Man Utd took a first-half lead, limited their opponents to few chances and then turned on the style in the closing minutes to add shine to the scoreline. The fixture list has certainly been kind to them but these were nevertheless the kind of matches in which they often dropped points last season.
In fact, United drew five more matches than any other side in the top 10 last time out. While their defensive record was the league’s second best, a meagre return of 54 goals meant that they often struggled to score sufficient goals to convert defensive stability into victories. The early evidence does, however, suggest that their new signings will improve things.
The club’s two primary summer reinforcements have both begun their Old Trafford careers in fine form. Romelu Lukaku notched 25 goals at Everton last season and already has three to his credit at United. A powerful presence, he has been asked to lead the team from the front. In midfield, Nemanja Matic has produced two assured and decisive performances that have given last season’s big-money purchase Paul Pogba more license to roam.
There is now more dynamism to a side who often looked a little laboured and short on ideas last season. But whether that will be enough to propel them towards a serious challenge for the league title can only properly be judged once they’ve faced some stiffer opposition.
Leicester will be hoping to provide just that. They began the campaign with a 3-4 defeat away to Arsenal before comfortably seeing off Brighton in a 2-0 home win last weekend. A first-minute goal from Shinji Okazaki got them off to an excellent start and the result was never in doubt thereafter, despite it taking them until just before the hour mark to double their advantage through home debutant Harry Maguire.
Last season was a tumultuous one for the reigning Premier League champions, with the high of a run to the last eight of the Champions League balanced by the low of a league campaign that flirted with relegation and led to the sacking of title-winning coach Claudio Ranieri. His assistant Craig Shakespeare stepped in and was able to right the ship, and he now has the opportunity to lead the club into his first full campaign as a head coach.
Leicester struggled to get much out of the raft of new signings that joined the club ahead of last season, and Shakespeare will have been cheered by the fact that two of them, Ahmed Musa and Islam Slimani, got on the scoresheet in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Sheffield United in the EFL Cup. This summer’s signings look more sensible, giving Shakespeare a squad that should be capable of competing for a top-eight finish.
Since the days of Nigel Pearson, Leicester’s approach has primarily been based around swift transitions from defence to attack and efficient use of set-piece situations. While that was a formula that incredibly led them to a league title, it wasn’t one that allowed them to compete well against Manchester United in last season’s fixtures between the sides.
Man Utd won 4-1 on home soil last September before securing a 3-0 win at Leicester in February. Leicester had little response on either occasion and while they do now look a better side under Shakespeare’s command, United have also improved in relation to last season. Everything points towards a relatively comfortable victory for them on Saturday.
Our Preview’s Man Utd vs. Leicester City Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Manchester United -1.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of evens with Paddy Power.
- Bet on Romelu Lukaku to score at anytime @ 5/6 with Betfair.
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