Leicester City have a chance to make a statement of intent and show former centre back Harry Maguire what he left behind in the Midlands as the unbeaten Foxes look to further their fast start Saturday at Old Trafford against Manchester United.
(Potential Starting XIs)
Brendan Rodgers’ side are one of only three unbeatens remaining in the Premier League, looking up only at table-toppers Liverpool and two-times champions Manchester City. The former Liverpool and Celtic boss has imbued a tactical fluidity into Leicester City (2-2-0), who are sporting plenty of confidence after heading into the break on back-to-back wins.
“If you look at it at the minute, we’re in good form and we’re confident,” midfielder Marc Albrighton told the club’s official website. “They (United) struggled to turn draws into victories. There’s no reason why we can’t do it. We’re going there full of confidence and we’re playing with freedom.
“We’ve got the ability, in my opinion. I feel like we can hold our own against them, and probably more than that, go on and beat them.”
Striker Jamie Vardy has gotten off to a flying start with three goals in the four league matches and bagged a brace in the 3-1 win over Bournemouth in Leicester’s most recent contest.
Saturday will mark the first time Maguire faces his former mates since his £80 million transfer to United, setting a record for defenders. Affectionately nicknamed “Slabhead” by Vardy during England’s run to the World Cup semifinals last year, Maguire is a threat on corner kicks in attack and one of the best at winning aerial duels in his own penalty area.
“I’m sure he’s looking forward to playing against his old team, but now he’s here, he’s going to be a big part of the future of this club,” United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said in Friday’s weekly press conference.
“That’s why I know so much about Leicester as well, because we’ve watched him enough to know that he’s the guy we wanted. That’s why we spent the money we did on him. And Leicester didn’t want to lose him.”
Leicester City, though, have seen Caglar Soyuncu step into Maguire’s vacated spot and answer the challenge of being a full-time starter, forming a partnership in the spine with Jonny Evans. Soyuncu also had a productive break, helping Turkey claim the maximum six points in European qualifying to move joint-level atop Group H with World Cup champions France.
Rodgers confirmed all of his players returned from international duty healthy and has a full roster to choose his starting XI from.
Manchester United (1-2-1) are still trying to establish an identity in Solskjaer’s first full season in charge, but they have struggled to find cohesion since opening the season with a 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea. United were held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton prior to the break, with winger Daniel James furthering his impressive start to life at Old Trafford with his team-best third goal.
He continued that purple patch of scoring with his first international goal for Wales in their Euro qualifying victory over Belarus, with the marker standing as the match-winner in a 1-0 triumph.
“I’m loving football at the minute,” James told Sky Sports after the victory. “It’s started well but it’s something I have to keep continuing to do. I think I’ve got the right people around me. The gaffer [Ryan Giggs] has been great here [at Wales] and at United, so it’s just about continuing that.”
United’s entire offensive goal-scoring output has come from three sources – James, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial. Paul Pogba has assisted on two of United’s seven goals and with no movement before the close of the August transfer window, will be with the team at least until the next set of rumours begin for the January window.
Solskjaer does have some injury concerns as attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard is trying to shake off the flu, while right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka missed England’s qualifiers with a back injury. Martial and Pogba did not play for France while nursing thigh and ankle ailments, respectively, and Luke Shaw will definitely miss this contest with a hamstring injury.
Vardy has proven problematic for Manchester United with four goals and two assists in eight career matches, but his success has not led to wins for the Foxes – they have two points in the last three matches he has found the back of the net.
United did the double over Leicester last season, recording a pair of one-goal victories. They opened the 2018-19 Premier League season with a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford on goals by Pogba and Shaw.
Leicester City are winless their last nine (0-3-6) versus Manchester United since a 5-3 victory in 2014 and have gone 0-2-8 at the Theatre of Dreams since their lone top-flight victory there, a 1-0 triumph in 1998 on a 30th-minute goal by Tony Cottee.
Odds and Ends, per Ladbrokes
To Win: Manchester United 21/20; Draw 12/5; Leicester City 13/5
Both Teams to Score: Yes 8/11; No Evens
Over/Under 2.5 Goals: Over 20/23; Under 5/6
First Goal Scorer Manchester United: Rashford 4/1; Greenwood 9/2; James 13/2; Lingard 17/2; Mata 17/2
First Goal Scorer Leicester City: Vardy 9/2; Iheanacho 7/1; Perez, Maddison 10/1; Barnes 11/1
Anytime Goal Scorer Manchester United: Rashford 13/8; Greenwood 15/8; James 13/5; Mata 16/5; Lingard 10/3
Anytime Goal-Scorer Leicester City: Vardy 7/4; Iheanacho 11/4; Perez, Maddison 7/2; Barnes 4/1
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Manchester United 1, Leicester City 2.
PREDICTED HALFTIME SCORE: Manchester City 1, Leicester City 1.
PREDICTED FIRST GOAL-SCORER: Daniel James
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(Harry Maguire photo courtesy Manchester United official Twitter account)