Reaction from Old Trafford as United get back to winning ways.
United were winners in a poor match. They didn’t really do much aside from the penalty and Leicester might consider themselves unfortunate as they fashioned two good chances which forced David De Gea to make good saves in the first half.
Considering the injuries, though, and considering that even at full strength most people have tipped United to be competing with the likes of Leicester as outsiders for a Champions League place you have to look at the game for what it was and come away feeling encouraged by the admittedly relatively minor signs of progress.
If you have a taste for the negative there was plenty to be found — United started brightly and faded away, reminiscent of so many performances last season.
If we are looking for conclusions to be drawn, which is always a dangerous game to play in a regular, run-of-the-mill league game, you could consider this game further evidence that Andreas Pereira and Ashley Young are not for the long term in this team.
Otherwise, you have to simply look at the positive side. It was a good afternoon for De Gea, and McTominay. It was possibly the most comfortable Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof and Maguire have looked as a trio, tentatively providing a little vindication for this writer’s opinion that all they needed was time after Maguire signing so late in the window.
James was quiet but looked menacing. Rashford showed good bravery to step up, knowing the potential backlash of a miss would be greater than usual. And United showed a good work-rate to overcome a team many had tipped to get a result at Old Trafford.
There has been much criticism of the manager and his in-game management. Personally that is not an opinion shared here, at least not based on the evidence we’ve seen at United so far; it was pretty impressive last season in the first few weeks at least and on the occasions he has faced scrutiny this campaign it seems circumstantial and a little unfair.
Today though there was a sharp intake of breath as Fred was brought on and then Chong was introduced for Mata; the front line had little quality as it was, and bringing off the more composed and experienced member of it when United needed to see the game out seemed to be a bit of a gamble. The thing is with these sorts of gamble, they rarely have an upside, only a potential downside — Fred made hearts skip a beat when he decided to acrobatically clear a ball for no reason.
However, these players need minutes, and as United were not punished, you can consider it a gamble that they escaped unscathed from.
I don’t think I’m the only one (surely I’m not) who shudders at the break-neck speed of a game when our team is still trying to find its feet and has a number of players trying to prove themselves.
I don’t know if it’s jitters, a general lack of composure or if it even just comes down to a lack of quality (I hope it’s not the latter, though I suspect it is) but there have been a few occasions I have winced when I have seen our players commit to a loose ball that isn’t under control. One of these incidents actually won the penalty as Pereira did well, forcing the Leicester defender to commit.
But it only takes one of those tackles to be over the top or one of those 50/50s to go wrong and a player could end up seriously injured either because they weren’t in total control of the ball, or, because a team mate has given them a pass that wasn’t great. On separate occasions Wan-Bissaka and James both went into this sort of tackle and I feared the worst. Memories of Valencia’s horror injury came flooding back. Ironically enough, James and Wan-Bissaka are players who do seem to have genuine quality, but could get hurt exerting themselves trying to impress.