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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 16 December, 2018


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Hello! And welcome to our coverage of tonight’s game between Manchester United and Leicester City.

Sound the alarm, light the gauntlets and ring the bell — it’s back, it’s back, the Barclays is back. Well, there wasn’t too much of a break to begin with, now was there?

It’s just three weeks since the World Cup final and Premier League football has already forced its way kicking and screaming back into our lives. Like Christmas it just seems to get earlier and earlier every year.

It’s a new dawn and a new era for many clubs. The buzz and adrenaline and hopes and dreams and desires of a new campaign have resurfaced and there’s so much to get excited about.

New faces, mega million pound signings, new bosses in the dugout. Yes sir we’ve all that and more to sink our teeth into as the first weekend of a new season crashes over us like a wave, and it all starts tonight at Old Trafford.

It’s been a damp squib of a pre-season for Man United, while there is also pressure on Claude Puel already to get up and running after a dreadful second half to last season.

Jose Mourinho didn’t get the centre back he so desired, Ed Woodward and the Special One appear to be at loggerheads and the bossman himself even admitted on the club’s pre-season tour of the US that he wouldn’t have paid to see his side in action against Liverpool in Michigan.

All that aside, the negativity surrounding the club can be put to bed by focussing on the bright side — they have succeeded in signing Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk and held onto both David de Gea and Paul Pogba.

A win tonight is what Jose needs. Anything else and there will only be more fuel added to the fire.

Let’s get started with the team news…

A strong starting XI from Jose Mourinho for tonight’s game, with Paul Pogba handed the captain’s armband for the opening game of the season. The French midfielder was absolutely electric during the World Cup as France were crowned champions and there will be much focus on the 25-year-old to replicate that form for his club this year.

A little under 45 minutes to go before kick-off, how’s this one going to go?

Poll Results:

Sky Sports have Gary Neville giving a tour of Man United’s new dressing rooms. Not only did Man City win the title last season, they also ran away with Best Dressing Rooms 2018™. Neville is insistent that United move past all the negativity which has surrounded the club over the summer. Has the doom and gloom being over-exaggerated?

Despite being linked with everyone from Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire, to Toby Alderweireld and Jérôme Boateng, Man United did not succeed in bringing in another centre back over the summer.

Mourinho is renowned for his conservative, defensively solid teams but there will be a lot of skepticism over whether a defence with players like Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo can go out and actually win the title.

With Manchester City boasting centre backs like Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, will United regret not bringing in another experienced body in their attempt to secure a first league title since 2013?




Man United have the chance to take the lead after just 75 seconds. A strike from Alexis Sanchez is blatantly handled by Wes Morgan in the box and the referee points to the spot. What a start to the new season!


Man United score the first goal of the 2018/19 Premier League season and it comes from the right boot of Paul Pogba. The skipper takes an audacious, stuttered run-up but succeeds in cooly dispatching the ball into the back of the net with ease and composure. Excellent penalty.


Goodness me, what a start to this game. Some fans had hardly taken their seats and Man United were ahead. Jose Mourinho’s men have started this game with so much intent and vigour, while Leicester simply look like rabbits caught in the headlights. Pogba did so well to put that penalty away with so much pressure on his shoulders this season. That captain’s armband seems to suit him.


Matteo Darmian gives away a silly free-kick for throwing his body in the way of Demarai Gray. The free is in a decent position, but David de Gea does well to punch the resulting cross to safety.


Claude Puel’s side have calmed down since going behind, putting nice attacks together down the left flank where Darmian seems to be getting targeted as a weak spot. Eric Bailly is being asked to clear a lot of loose possession up at the back. He has his work cut out for him this evening and seems like the designated babysitter for his right back. Maybe that’s a tad bit harsh.


Leicester with their first real sight at goal as Onyinye Ndidi let’s fly from range. Once again the attack comes courtesy of a swift move down the left flank via Demarai Gray. Possession fell to Ndidi right on the edge of the box, but his effort lacked any real precision and rolled harmlessly into the arms of De Gea.


Another half-chance for Leicester as Kelechi Iheanacho flashes a decent right-footed strike across goal. It seemed to have De Gea beaten, but it just misses the bottom corner and flies wide. Man United under a little bit of pressure since going ahead.


The crowd has grown a little bit quiet over the last few minutes as the pace dies down just a notch. Both teams appear to be getting a slight breather after a fairly barnstorming opening 20 minutes at both ends.


It can be premature to provide too many hot takes in the opening game of the season, but even with that in mind Man United have looked bright and lively in the final third so far. Despite the doom and gloom around the club in recent months, this is still a team with stars like Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku to boast. Marcus Rashford has been keen to get on the ball after 20 minutes this evening, and is fairly persistent in closing down space and not allowing Daniel Amartey and Wes Morgan time to rest in possession.



A really good piece of combination play sees James Maddison play Demarai Gray through behind enemy lines, however the winger’s cross is put out for a corner. Much has been expected of Maddison after his move from Norwich during the summer. So far the playmaker has adapted seamlessly to Premier League football, knitting play together very well with his head held up and the ball at his feet.


SAVE! David De Gea keeps his side ahead with a stunning save. James Maddison snapped up possession and ushered a powerful right-footed effort goalbound. The shot came out of no-where, but that didn’t deter the goalkeeper from making a snappy and athletic save to keep his clean sheet in tact, pushing the ball off the line with a strong right hand. Incredible responses from De Gea.


Harry Maguire has, in fact, brought the love train back from Russia – with Leicester deploying the strange but effective tactic at corners, lining four players up in a row to distract and confuse opposition defenders. It hasn’t had much success after half an hour in this game, but it does catch the eye when deployed.



Close! Ooooof, so very nearly for Kelechi Iheanacho. The front man almost catches Man United off guard with a darting run between Eric Bailly and Victor Lindeloef. Bailly manages to do just enough to put the striker off, as he ushers the ball away from danger. Iheanacho almost had a clean sight at goal there, and yet again Leicester are showing great ability to put a few passes together in the final third to cause trouble.


Paul Pogba releases a decent effort from 25 yards but it curls into the arms of Kasper Schmeichel. It was a nice, neat passage of play down the left wing but the French midfielder just didn’t put enough spin on his shot to whip it into the top corner.


Close! Man United racking up a few decent chances now as Alexis Sanchez heads just over the crossbar. There were calls for offside but the forward just managed to time his run perfectly — the ball fell down onto his head invitingly, but he just couldn’t direct it on target as his effort floated harmlessly over.


There will be one minute of stoppage time to come at the end of the first half.


Well, what have we made of it so far? A barnstorming start with a penalty inside just two minutes — Paul Pogba cooly dispatching to put Man United 1-0 up. Leicester looked a little bit unsure thereafter, perhaps a bit overawed at going behind so early. But Claude Puel’s side have created more than enough chances to get back into this game, growing into the match as time went by. Where it might have looked like Jose Mourinho’s side would run away with this early doors, it has been tight and quite evenly-matched. More action to come shortly!


No changes from either side at the break. Leicester will feel that now is good a time as ever to play Man United with so many of their World Cup stars just returning to club duty on Monday. A point is not out of reach and the Foxes really could have come into the break level pegging for their efforts. They seem intent on leaving Manchester with some sort of a result tonight, immediately taking command of possession inside the opening few minutes of the second half.


A yellow card for Daniel Amartey as he drags Alexis Sanchez to the ground with a cynical foul with the winger building up speed and momentum down the left wing. It’s the game’s first booking.


Almost a half-chance for Marcus Rashford who is played clean through on goal thanks to a clever pass from Sanchez, but the linesman’s flag is raised as the England international wanders offside.


A second yellow card in as many minutes as Fred is booked by the referee. The midfielder is making his debut following a £52.5 million move from Shakhtar Donetsk and is penalised for retaliation after being fouled by James Maddison.


A handful of promising attacks break down in the final third for Man United. Alexis Sanchez is seeing a lot of the ball but, instead of running at defenders, keeps trying to pick out clever through balls behind the lines. The problem for Sanchez, however, is that Marcus Rashford just doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength.


Some really brilliant defending from Eric Bailly denies Kelechi Iheanacho. The striker tried to latch onto a pinpoint ball played over the top, but the Ivorian read the danger perfectly to shield the ball from danger and regain possession under intense pressure.


Chance! Juan Mata almost puts this game to bed on the edge of the box, but his shot lags wide of the post. It’s a quick counter attack culminating in Sanchez teeing the ball up selflessly on a plate for his team-mate, however Mata just couldn’t curl it into the bottom corner. So very close.


Again the atmosphere drops to reflect the lack of any action on the field of play. Both teams slowing down again, with Man United happy to rest on their one goal lead. Leicester really haven’t had a sniff at goal after the break, but are still within one goal of snatching a share of the spoils. Still a lot to play for with 20 minutes to go. Nothing is decided.


A lot of sloppy passes going astray now. Firstly Fred played the ball out of play as Juan Mata asked for it further down the pitch. Moments later a counter was halted once again as Luke Shaw undercooked another pass in the middle of midfield. Little bit of nervousness creeping in it seems.


Save! So very nearly an equaliser for Leicester as David De Gea produces another excellent save to keep it at 1-0. Luke Shaw was muscled off the ball far too easily by Jamie Vardy before the England striker fizzed the ball into the box. Demarai Gray did well to peel away from his marker, but his shot was brilliantly denied by De Gea who dived early to his right.


Romelu Lukaku passes up the chance to double his side’s lead at the other end. Alexis Sanchez picks out the Belgian in oceans of space inside the box, but he can only see a close-range effort deflected over the bar courtesy of a smart save by Kasper Schmeichel. Really, really good save.


Man United double their lead with eight minutes to go and it’s a first ever senior goal for Luke Shaw in the red and black. The defender latched onto a clever through ball from Juan Mata, before beating his man with a deft touch and then dinking the ball into the far corner. It means the world to him and it’s 2-0 to the hosts, who look all but certain to be on their way to three points.



They are sensing blood now. With the result all but beyond doubt Man United go in search of a third. Alexis Sanchez has been excellent in this second half and once again he drives his side forward with a raking ball over the top. He picks out Juan Mata, who in turn tries to find Romelu Lukaku — but the Spaniard’s cross is overhit and bobbles out of play.


There will be four minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the second half.


Jamie Vardy almost halves the deficit in injury time, but his volley from seven yards out flies well and truly over the crossbar. A poor miss, it has to be said.


In fact, Jamie Vardy does half the deficit in injury time. A second chance in as many minutes comes his way and this time he makes no mistake. Ricardo Pereira had an initial effort which came back off the post, with Vardy on hand to head a close range effort into the bottom corner. It’s 2-1 and now a nervous final minute for Man United to try and hang on.


A final chance as Leicester earn a corner late in stoppage time. Kasper Schmeichel goes up and manages to get a head on the cross, but his effort dramatically lags wide of the post. That should be that.

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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