Even after recording an impressive comeback win over Aston Villa on Sunday, Manchester United has no time to rest and face off against Leicester City on Tuesday. That is the first of two games in the space of just four days for the Red Devils & the start of a ‘mini-war’.
Fortunately for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his side has been enjoying a bright run of form lately. Leicester City also seems to be nosediving downwards & in danger of dropping out of the Premier League top-4 again. With United looking to maintain their impressive home record (having won 5 on the trot) & Leicester in desperate need of a big win – this should be a thrilling encounter.
Manchester United Likely XI
Henderson, Williams, Lindelof, Bailly, Telles, Fred, Van de Beek, Mata, Pogba, Greenwood, Cavani
Harry Maguire picked up an injury against Villa & is definitely ruled out. Anthony Martial & Dan James are also doubtful after failing to recover from respective injuries.
Leicester City Likely XI
Schmeichel, Ricardo, Castagne, Soyuncu, Fofana, Albrighton, N’Didi, Tielemans, Maddison, Vardy, Iheanacho
Leicester are dealing with injury concerns of their own – with 4 first-team stars in Jonny Evans, Wes Morgan, James Justin & Harvey Barnes all ruled out.
Manchester United vs Leicester City Preview
Because the game against Leicester is their third game over a five-day period, Solskjaer will be forced to make multiple changes to his starting XI. This can actually benefit Leicester – who are likely to play their strongest XI. With the more important Liverpool game a few days after this one, Solskjaer is probably going to rest some of his star players & make the game more open-ended than it really should be.
But after his recent heroics, Edinson Cavani is guaranteed to start this one. The Uruguayan has scored 5 goals in his last 3 games & will be craving to terrorize Leicester’s relatively inexperienced backline. With his impressive movement & lethal finishing technique, Cavani has to perform at his best to carve out a result for United.
Mason Greenwood should also start beside him but it’s painfully obvious he needs to play more centrally than out wide. If able to get some prominent shots on target, Greenwood can cause Kasper Schmeichel many problems. With Bruno Fernandes likely to be rested, experienced campaign Juan Mata could get a rare start.
The Spaniard might be lacking the pace of his teammates but can make up with his creativity. For United to break the Leicester backline, Mata must make good use of his link-up style & make those perfect final-third passes to create big chances. Alongside him should be United’s own midfield engine Paul Pogba.
He seems to have found a new role on the left-wing and should start there again, being given the license to roam forward freely. With his impressive passes in tight spaces & impressive vision to create something out of nothing – Pogba can turn the game on its head if operating at his highest level. Donny van de Beek also deserves a start – but has to show more urgency in counter-attacks & execute those perfect through-balls to win over his gaffer’s confidence.
This game should be decided in who wins the midfield battle – hence Solskjaer is expected to pack his midfield line. James Maddison can run riot at Old Trafford if not marked or tracked properly, while his set-pieces can cause real headaches. Youri Tielemans is another who loves getting involved in the attack – so he must be pressed hard to keep quiet.
Wilfred N’Didi will make it difficult for United’s midfielders with his energetic presence. Leicester’s adventurous wing-backs Ricardo Pereira & Marc Albrighton can also cause havoc with their movement through the wings. Even if United are able to maintain a strong stance in midfield, they have to be extremely alert at the back.
With no Maguire in a PL game for the first time since the 2018/19 season, United put their hopes on the composed Victor Lindelof & wild Eric Bailly to keep a tight defensive line. Both defenders must make use of their pace & quick reaction timings to keep Jamie Vardy & Kelechi Iheanacho at bay. Iheanacho – in particular – is riding on a lot of momentum so the Red Devils’ makeshift defence & Dean Henderson have to be flawless to stop him.
If they’re playing many backup players, United are guaranteed to be more vulnerable on Tuesday. This should encourage Leicester to go with an all-out-attack mindset to get a big win at Old Trafford. But that mentality could also gift the Red Devils’ chances on the counter-attacks. If able to survive the Leicester onslaught & clinical enough on the breaks, United could come out with a surprising, positive result.
This is tough to predict. If United do play a ‘weakened’ team, they’re likely to be outperformed. But Leicester are also experiencing poor form & could end up giving the hosts too many chances. So I think both teams will cancel each other out & play out a 2-2 draw.