Analysis: Lessons learned from Manchester United's 2-0 win against Leicester City

Analysis: Lessons learned from Manchester United's 2-0 win against Leicester City

Exciting football, competition for places and a reoccurring team concern - what did we find out after the Red Devils became the only Premier League side to win all their opening three matches this season?

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Hesham Bilal-Hafiz

The Manchester United faithful were walking out of Old Trafford with beaming smiles once again after they saw their side maintain their 100 per-cent record this season against Leicester City.

United fans have seen their side score an impressive 10 goals and keep a clean sheet across three Premier League games in what has been a scintillating start from José Mourinho's men.

But even though it is just the start of the campaign, there have been plenty of eye-opening observations in the first few games and the latest 2-0 victory against Leicester proved no different. 

So what could be taken away from the home win over the Foxes?

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1) United's team mentality has strengthened

Last season, United had 10 home draws against sides such as Hull City, Swansea City and Bournemouth - a damning statistic which epitomised why they finished in an underwhelming 6th place.

It was the sides the Red Devils were expected to beat that they seemingly struggled to put to bed. Whether the excuse was poor officiating or wasteful finishing, United spurned multiple chances to make the top-four with such repetitive draws.

The 1-1 draw to Bournemouth last season is analagous to Saturday's victory in some ways. In that game, Zlatan Ibrahimović missed a penalty and it affected the team's confidence. That meant the winning goal never looked likely, and indeed it never came.

At the weekend however, after Romelu Lukaku's penalty miss, despite the frustrating wasted opportunity - there was a roar in Old Trafford to push the side. The players responded in a manner which was alien last season.

Instead of dropping their heads, the players upped their intensity and looked even more dangerous. The inspired Mourinho substitutes transformed the team from an attacking perspective, scoring two goals in a position in the game from which they would have perhaps drawn last season.

Clearly, the second season Mourinho syndrome is already in full flow with this shift to a stronger team mentality. 

2) Superior squad depth shows again

In the first two games we saw that the United bench can certainly impact games in a big way. Anthony Martial did not start either of the first couple of games yet in the 26 minutes he was on the pitch managed to score twice and assist another in that time.

That clearly illustrated that there were still game changers off the bench if needed. Even from a defensive perspective, if the team needs to consolidate in a tight game, there are options like Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini who can add solidity or height in cases of teams chasing a game.

That was seen with long balls from Leicester with Belgian midfielder Fellaini helping deal with the added aerial threat of Islam Slimani.

From an attacking standpoint is where we saw a brilliant impact against Leicester. The three substitutes all either scored or assisted a goal (Rashford with a goal, Jesse Lingard with an assist and Fellaini with a goal).

That is a fantastic sign for the fans, knowing that when the starting XI fail to provide the goal, it is certainly encouraging that the bench can instead provide the answer. 

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3) Marcus Rashford vs Anthony Martial

The left-wing role this season already has been one of the most competitive positions in this Manchester United side.

Both players are outstanding talents, comparable with their blistering pace, but boast very distinct playing styles and unique qualities. In the first two games, Rashford provided a superb assist for Lukaku's debut goal and he was outstanding in the transition between midfield and attack in the Swansea away game too.

Meanwhile Martial - in his cameos - had two chances and took them with the clinical ruthlessness we saw in his debut season in 2015-16.

Those cameos were rightly rewarded with a start, showing brilliant management by Mourinho - who appears more open-minded this season with his team selection. He has shown that an impressive performance can force him to make changes to his team. 

The fans were not disappointed by that selection either on this occasion as Martial terrorised the Leicester defence, going past either full-back with ease and varying his play by drifting centrally to accommodate overlapping runs.

That created multiple scoring opportunities and his superb movement gave the other United attackers the chance to make threatening runs.

Rashford this time around was the substitute and he transformed the game with his exhilarating pace, while his intelligent through balls to beat the offside trap meant he played a crucial role in both goals - a clinical finish seeing him net the first.

This is testament to Mourinho's motivating skills. Pushing his players to perform with high intensity to compete for team places seems as though it has pushed Rashford and Martial in particular to play to an excitingly high level.

4) The swagger is back at Old Trafford

Throughout the last few years post-Sir Alex Ferguson, the loyal Old Trafford attendees have been put through some testing times watching their side lose without fight, playing like a mid-table side and the club losing its renown identity of exhilarating attacking football.

But it was on display in the home victory against West Ham United and this Leicester game showed that first performance was no fluke. The exciting and unpredictable fluidity of the interchanging front-four was very impressive and an absolute far cry from last season's laboured build-up play and predictable crossing game.

Everything that the likes of Martial, Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan promise on paper - which was not delivered last season - is now on show with the wingers driving forward with the pace they have been blessed with. They all genuinely worried both Leicester's full-backs.

There is a sense of ruthlessness as well which is reminiscent of the Ferguson glory days. When the side was winning, instead of being content with the single goal lead, they pushed hard in the last 20 minutes to go for a 2nd, 3rd and 4th goal - particularly with the late counter attacking threat the United attackers are capable of posing. 

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5) Weaknesses still remain

Whilst the attack certainly appears an improvement on last season, there is undoubtedly still more areas for improvement and the full-back positions are something which still appear can be upgraded.

Antonio Valencia or Daley Blind were regularly put into incredibly threatening positions on the edge of the Leicester but the Red Devils' attacking quartet, waiting in and around the box, were often left frustrated by poor deliveries.

Valencia and Blind's crosses did not beat the first man or even worse their indecisiveness resulted in them being dispossessed time and time again.

Given the way the attackers interchange and how the wingers have been direct this season thus far, the attacking full-backs delivering are pivotal to the team style so them faltering is a concern if this is a sign of things to come from them.

Mahrez's trickery caused Blind issues throughout the whole game with poor positioning and a real lack of pace costing him. Whether it means Luke Shaw or Matteo Darmian return to the team and improve the left side or whether it is a late signing that is still needed this summer, United fans will be hoping that this outstanding issue will be resolved effectively and promptly.

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