A quick-fire double from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, coupled with a second-half effort courtesy of Juan Mata helped Manchester United to all three points at Leicester City’s expense on Sunday afternoon.
It took the visitors some time to get going at the King Power Stadium but once comfortable, the attacking quartet were in free-flow and looked dangerous every time they drove with purpose towards the opposition area.
On the half-hour mark, Marcus Rashford forced goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel into a good diving stop down to his right after Riyad Mahrez and Rashford himself fashioned chances early on.
Eric Bailly had made a crucial sliding challenge to dispossess the onrushing Ahmed Musa in a counter-attacking move shortly before this, with the Ivorian defender managing to relieve pressure on his teammates from a promising Leicester breakaway.
Paul Pogba spurned a golden opportunity to test Schmeichel from close-range but United eventually turned their dominance into goals just before the interval.
Utd make dominance count in final third
Chris Smalling’s headed flick-on fell to the path of Mkhitaryan, who sped past a static Robert Huth and found himself through on-goal. He evaded the oncoming Wes Morgan and despite bouncing off Schmeichel’s knee, the Armenian wheeled away in celebration as his effort rifled into the corner. Just like that, Leicester found themselves behind and Huth’s defensive mishap was ruthlessly punished on the counter-attack.
Then a minute later, Leicester had a two-goal deficit to overturn. Passive defending allowed Antonio Valencia the space to run in-behind unchallenged and when the ball was fizzed towards the path of Ibrahimovic, the 35-year-old striker didn’t hesitate to shoot on sight. Schmeichel was unsighted by Morgan’s best efforts to block the strike and found himself helplessly diving after the Swede’s shot was in the back of the net.
Wilfried Ndidi saw a powerful effort comfortably held in David de Gea’s gloves at the other end after good work during the build-up by Shinji Okazaki and at the interval, United were comfortably ahead.
Foxes’ porous defence exposed
Claudio Ranieri must’ve been wondering why his team were playing so poorly, especially in their own defensive third as Mata effortlessly waltzed past Christian Fuchs to cooly slot home and net United’s third, just three minutes after the restart.
After a probing one-two with Mkhitaryan, the creative Spaniard saw himself clean through with Fuchs caught ball-watching and Mata had no problems to score his eighth goal of the season in all competitions.
Leicester’s confidence was shot down in flames drastically just before the interval and having made two alterations at the break, Ranieri’s side were desperate for a change in fortune. Their midfield was constantly being overruun – Drinkwater and half-time substitute Andy King struggled to match Ndidi’s workrate in midfield, with the Nigerian unable to replicate the brilliance of N’Golo Kante from last season.
Mahrez, who seemed to be drifting through the motions for large periods of the game itself, came close with a free-kick effort from 20 yards.
Danny Drinkwater, Rashford, Mata and Mkhitaryan all had opportunities to score for either side before the full-time whistle but a 3-0 scoreline was as commanding as it got for the visitors.
What’s next for United?
After this victory, Jose Mourinho’s side find themselves only two points adrift of the top four places with Manchester City leapfrogging Arsenal into third after their 2-1 win over Swansea earlier in the day. Liverpool are a point above in fifth, but lost 2-0 away against Hull City as competition for UEFA Champions League places continues to intensify.
United’s next league fixture is a home game against Watford, who ran out 2-1 winners over Burnley on Saturday. They’ll be eager to end the Hornets’ unbeaten run of four league matches, having shocked Arsenal at the Emirates in midweek.