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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 10 December, 2018


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Evening all. It’s a little strange, isn’t it? A Saturday night and a 7.45 Premier League kick-off? Ah, well. It’s Christmas so all bets are off.

Anyway, welcome along. It’s hoping against hope but maybe this will produce entertainment along the same lines as last night’s clash at the Emirates.

Manchester City are obliterating everyone else so the best Jose Mourinho’s side can do is move five points clear of Chelsea in the battle for second place, after the Blues were frustrated by Big Sam’s rejuvenated Everton earlier on.



It was a pretty changed-up Leicester team that faced Man City in the League Cup midweek so, inevitably, they welcome a host of their big-hitters back for this.

Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Demarai Gray, Jamie Vardy, Wilfred Ndidi and Riyad Mahrez all return to the starting XI.

Leicester XI: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Ndidi, Iborra, Mahrez, Gray, Albrighton, Vardy.



Similar story for United and they make eight changes in total from that embarrassing midweek defeat to Bristol City.

Paul Pogba does keep his place and captains the side in the absence of Antonio Valencia, while Anthony Martial and Victor Lindelof are also retained. But, it’s going to be an unusual role for the defender. Matteo Darmian is also injured, so Lindelof will start at full-back.

David de Gea, Phil Jones, Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Chris Smalling, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young and Nemanja Matic all come back in.

And, after a cameo against Bristol, Henrikh Mkhitaryan remains in the squad.

Man Utd XI: De Gea, Jones, Lindelof, Smalling, Young, Matic, Pogba, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Lukaku.

More from Mourinho on Lindelof at right-back tonight:

Darmian is injured. We don’t have too many more options and Victor has experience to play in the position at the highest level, so it’s not new for him.”

Worth pointing out that Mourinho could’ve selected a specialist full-back in Luke Shaw and brought Ashley Young across to the right side, instead of having two makeshift full-backs tonight. Just a thought.


Good early pressure from the guests. Lukaku and Martial do well and eventually the strike from distance takes a nick and goes out for a corner.


Leicester have already tried to release Vardy with a ball over the top but he’ll probably get more change from running the channels, given he’s up against two solid, physical performers in Smalling and Jones.


CLOSE! That’s well done by Schmeichel because the strike from Lingard took a slight deflection on its way and caused the keeper a bit of trouble. But he realigned himself and pushed it over the bar. Nice interchange between Lingard and Lukaku to create the opening.


Just on the Saturday evening kick-off, by the way…

From the 2019/20 season, eight top-flight games will be played in this time-slot. So, it’s something we’ll be used to pretty soon.


Pogba has a go after a neat dummy moves him onto his left foot. Well struck but straightforward for Schmeichel.


United look slick in attack, particularly the partnership between Lingard and Lukaku. The striker made a sharp run in behind and was on onside as Lingard slipped in a nice angled pass. But there was a despairing, crucial touch by Harry Maguire and Schmeichel raced out to gather.


A little warning for United. Their corner gets cleared and Gray is off, quick as you like. But Jones does well to shackle and red shirts get back to offer support. Still, Leicester force the corner.



Martial’s speed down the left side will concern Leicester and he does well to get to a ball down the line and lofting in a cross to the far post. Lukaku tries the spectacular and…erm… suffice to say it doesn’t go well.


A pretty open game here. Both sides going for it in their own way. Inevitably, United have been superior but Leicester have had some moments too. Still, David de Gea could’ve nipped out for a coffee and he wouldn’t have been missed.


Mahrez drifts across from the right and finds a pocket. Makes half a yard and thumps a low drive but it’s easy for de Gea.


Well now! This is all a bit bizarre. Vardy is deep in his own half and lays it off to a blue shirt. The ball is pinged towards the United penalty area and suddenly it’s just Mahrez against Smalling. The attacker keeps it, gets turned and waits for Vardy to get up in support. Where’s the United defence? It’s a perfect pass and Vardy does the rest, slotting it low to the far corner.

Flag 35Mins

BOOKING! Lindelof picks up a yellow after a studs-up challenge. Kinda pulled out of it as he was making contact so it wasn’t too bad. But a booking makes sense.



United have been raggedy since conceding. Passes haven’t been sticking and there hasn’t been the same combinations in attack that were causing Leicester issues earlier on.


Well, apologies to Leicester who I clearly cursed with the last update. The goal comes from United’s left side – where all of their threats have pretty much been – and Martial is faced with Simpson. He just jabs a pass into the area that breaks a bit for Lingard. He instantly lays it off for Mata but it’s all a bit tight. Still, the Spaniard just arrows a low strike to the bottom corner and makes it look so easy. 1-1.

Flag 44Mins

CLOSE! What a chance for Maguire, who sneaks in behind Lindelof. Albrighton curls in the free-kick and it drops perfectly. But it’s like the centre-back isn’t really expecting it to fall for him and his first touch is just a little too heavy and United clear. If he could’ve settled himself, it probably would’ve been Leicester back in front.


That was enjoyable, wasn’t it? United looked good early on and then conceded an absolutely ridiculous goal. But Mata scored a neat equaliser and they deserve that. Interesting to see what Claude Puel does at the break because poor Danny Simpson has been given no support on Leicester’s right flank. The vast majority of United’s attacks have come down that side and the Foxes’ boss may just tweak things for the second period.


No changes for either side and let’s hope for more of the same quality over the next 45 minutes.

Flag 47Mins

BOOKING! Matic is the latest player to get a yellow, by the way.

Flag 52Mins

SO CLOSE! At one end, Fuchs has his shot brilliantly blocked by Lindelof before United break and Lukaku does really well to turn, look up and play Martial through superbly. You’d bank on him to knock it home and put United in front but he’s uncharacteristically rash with the finish and blasts it over the bar. The hands instantly go to his head and he knows what a big miss that is.


Simpson, by the way, is really feeling his hamstring and though he is continuing for the moment, it doesn’t look good.

Flag 58Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Amartey (on) – Simpson (off)

Well, Simpson has come off and limps along the touchline. Time for United to push the replacement hard now and continue to threaten down their left side.

Flag 59Mins

BOOKING! Albrighton picked up a yellow just a few moments ago, by the way.


Great chance for United here as Martial is taken down right on the edge of the area.


A second for the Spaniard as he steps up and curls the set-piece inside Schmeichel’s near post. The wall doesn’t really do its job but it’s perfectly done by Mata.


Flag 68Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Okazaki (on) – Iborra (off)

Puel is tweaking things slightly here, now. And his side are still looking a little dangerous, particularly Mahrez out wide.

Flag 73Mins

BIG MISS! Lukaku slips through Lingard and he does the hard part, rounding Schmeichel. But he smacks the outside of the upright with the shot and is too high with the rebound. Leicester survive. Huge moment if United don’t end up winning this.

Flag 76Mins

RED CARD!¬†That’s awful. Amartey came on 17 minutes ago for the injured Simpson. He picked up a yellow a few minutes ago and now he’s been sent-off after a ridiculously silly trip on Rashford along the touchline. Puel is clearly seething on the touchline and this is very difficult for Leicester now.

Flag 77Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Herrera (on) – Lingard (off)

United brought Rashford on for Martial just a few moments ago and now they’ll add a bit of steel to the midfield with the Spaniard’s introduction.

Flag 81Mins

PENALTY APPEAL!¬†That looks a penalty to me but Rashford doesn’t really appeal for it and Jon Moss waves play on. It comes from Pogba’s magnificent pass into the youngster’s path and he’s just got Schmeichel to beat. But he never seems comfortable. He goes around him but the keeper taps him and catches him on the right leg. But it’s not given.

Flag 83Mins

BOOKING! Mahrez takes a dive and deservedly gets a yellow card for it too.

Flag 82Mins

SUBSTITUTIONS! Chilwell (on) РGray (off) & Mkhitaryan (on) РMata (off)

A change for either side as the Armenian makes a return to Premier League action.

Flag 85Mins

PENALTY CLAIM!¬†Well, Smalling is a bit fortunate here as he’s all over Harry Maguire but Moss looks straight at it and waves play on. Smalling looked very nervous as he glanced towards the referee in the immediate aftermath of the incident.


Worrying for United here as Smalling has clearly picked up a groin injury and is struggling. They’ve used all their subs so he’s going to have to grin and bear it for the last few minutes.


Herrera has dropped back to right-back so Lindelof can step across and give Smalling a dig-out.


Four minutes of injury time, by the way.


Smalling’s now dropped to the ground and there will be more time added on for this.



What a finale. But bizarre stuff from United! Smalling left the pitch for treatment but incredibly came on as Leicester attacked. He just added to the chaos and went to pick up Maguire at the far post. Albrighton swung over a magnificent cross and Smalling, inevitably considering he’s probably pulled his groin, couldn’t really get near him. The defender calmly knocked it to the far corner from a few yards out (could de Gea have come out and challenged?) and Leicester rescue a point!

Mourinho will be absolutely fuming and questions will be asked about just what happened in those final few moments.

Plenty of reaction to come and I’m sure it will be interesting! Thanks for staying with us and have a very happy Christmas.

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan


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