As the gates of Old Trafford opened, the air of hope and belief entered the iconic field, waiting for the kick-off to the new Premier League season. This was the first game for both the teams where one side entered the game after having a dry transfer window and other one after losing their star winger Riyad Mahrez to defending champions, which only left them tying laces well for the challenging season ahead or least to say against the big Manchester club.
The match started in the much wanted fashion for the home team as World Cup winner cum United’s captain for the day Paul Pogba let his boot kiss the ball for the scoring; slotting his first goal of the Premier League 2018/19 season in the second minute via penalty. By the end of the first half United looked a better side on as opposed to Leicester who created some sparkling chances but only to find the Golden Gloves of David De Gea doing the justice twice. A goal lead is never safe but the way United handled the attacks made by likes of Ilheanacho, Ben Chillwell, Pereira and James Maddison, the game looked well in hands of Red Devils with 1-0 being the score. It was Luke Shaw’s skillful movement towards the penalty box, as Juan Mata read the left-back’s run and delivered him a perfect ball to get the score book 2-0 in United’s favor, which stayed the same till the 90th minute; though eventually ending as 2-1 after Jamie Vardy scored a cheeky goal in the injury time. The final scoreline held many things in its grasp, out of which we bring you the five most important observations:
1. Proving his worth (Luke Shaw).
￼Criticized by manager an year back, was on verge of being sold, had injury plus fitness issues, and what not. After all the struggle and hard time there was a very different Luke Shaw which we saw on the field. The intensity, the commitment and desire was evident in Shaw’s performance throughout. He tackled the ball well, made attacking movements whenever needed and didn’t shy away from sprinting when required. What more one could’ve asked from a left-back? A goal or an assist perhaps?
That was exactly what Luke Shaw did. The left-back scored the second goal for the Red Devils which eventually turned out to be the goal which got his team the 3 points from the tie, or else they would have got only 1 from the available three. But it not ends here, for if Shaw wants to earn more praise from the likes of Ryan Giggs or Phil Neville who were impressed from the player, he needs to be consistent and claim the LB spot for himself throughout the season. It’s surely not one game which makes you a quality player, right?
2. Beast mode on (Bailly).
Rock solid like a mountain and latching onto ball like a Lion, that’s how good Bailly was against the Foxes. The Ivorian was instrumental in blocking the attacks coming in or any threats which his team received at the hands of Leicester inside the box.
Bailly’s rhythm and composure alongside Lindelof is something which would please the manager Mourinho, for Bailly bears right kind of awareness of situation and reads the game well. He was pivotal that game didn’t end as a 2-2 draw, or else it wouldn’t have been a prefect start for the ‘Special one’s in his third season as a United manager.
3. Captain leading his troops.
World Cup winner and now a captain, couldn’t get better than this for Paul Pogba, who amidst the speculations of Barcelona’s interest in the French international lead from the front and marshalled his team to the victory in the first game. While many would call his performance a mature one, which certainly was, Mourinho was not much appreciative when Pogba was appealing for the foul which wasn’t a foul by any order. A little fixation to that aspect can surely garner him words of wonder all around the football world. Pogba is a special talent, no doubt, but it’s more such performances which would make him a world class player. As fans we would only wish for his talents to nourish enough.
Talking about his involvement in the game, Pogba worked well in his role as he tackled, dribbled, kept possession on the ball and didn’t keep himself from making something out of the situation. For some it might not be a perfect performance, but given the situation and the way game was placed it was the best performance one could have asked for.
4. Inspiring in pieces.
Kelechi Iheanacho, Ben Chillwell and Demarai Gray, these three looked sharp in building attacks and inspiring the team to put on a challenge against the Old Trafford side. Leicester can find positive signs through their conduct and would hope for rest of the squad to be clinical enough and emerge out stronger for the future games. Had any of these scored before the injury time goal by Vardy, we surely would have witnessed a great game of football.
5. X-factor Vardy.
Importance of Jamie Vardy was much visible when Leicester weren’t able to break through United’s defence despite many attempts from their wingers, full backs and attacking players. Though visitors were a bit unlucky many times, but being clinical is what matters and that thing was missing before Vardy put his foot onto the field as a substitute for James Maddison.
Since his arrival at 63th minute, the Foxes were looking flair while attacking and there were two occasions when Vardy could have scored before he eventually got the goal in injury time. It was the fitness issue that Vardy wasn’t in the starting XI, but one thing which Claude Puel shouldn’t ignore is keeping Vardy in playing XI is a must deed. He’s the player to guide the teammates through or provide them the missing boost in stuck situations if Leicester are to have a satisfying season their way.