How did Man United thrash Leicester, what does this mean for dropped Wayne Rooney and who was man of the match?
Jose Mourinho left Wayne Rooney out of the Manchester United starting line-up and got the performance he was looking for with a first-half destruction of Premier League champions Leicester.
Long road back for Rooney
On this evidence, it could be a long road back into the Manchester United first team for Wayne Rooney.
Dropped, as expected, for the visit of champions Leicester City, United responded by producing their best football for ages. It was not simply because Rooney was ousted. Leicester were dreadful defensively, but United looked a much slicker outfit without their captain, who has cut a painfully laboured figure in recent weeks.
Juan Mata filled the No. 10 role in Rooney’s absence and held his position higher up the field instead of continually dropping deep, something the England forward does far too often to the detriment of his team.
A lacklustre first 20 minutes aside, United were well oiled, with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard cutting inside to good effect and Paul Pogba dovetailing well with the excellent Zlatan Ibrahimovic upfront.
United were 4-0 up at the interval – the first time that has happened in the Premier League for a decade – and for a period in the first half played some of the most fluent, free-flowing football Old Trafford has witnessed since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Jose Mourinho will want more intensity, more urgency going forward, but after a run of three defeats in four games, this felt like a significant corner turned.
Herrera to the fore
For all the improvement shown by Pogba, the influence of Ander Herrera at the base of United’s midfield should not be overlooked.
On the ball, he showed poise and composure and, without it, he was dogged, disciplined and excellent positionally. All of those things were in evidence in the 25th minute, shortly after United had taken the lead, when he was quick to intercept a Leicester pass then instantly steady himself to receive the ball back from Jesse Lingard and release Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a perfectly weighted pass.
Louis van Gaal’s treatment of Herrera was always hard to fathom and few players seemed to regress under the Dutchman quite like the Spaniard but he is rapidly currying favour with Mourinho, who likes his urgency and game intelligence.
There is still some doubt over whether playing Pogba in a midfield two is the best use of the Frenchman and the feeling remains that deploying an additional midfielder, such as Michael Carrick or Morgan Schneiderlin, in with Herrera to give Pogba more licence to attack may be the way to go, certainly against more formidable opposition than Leicester provided here. But Herrera is going to prove hard to shift if he continues like this.
Leicester have lost their mojo - again
There had been signs over the past 10 days of Leicester rediscovering their mojo with two resounding 3-0 wins against Club Brugge and Burnley but this was another huge step backwards, a limp, sloppy, lazy display that echoed the 4-1 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield earlier in the month.
Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were the players who spearheaded Leicester’s remarkable title success last season but by half-time both had been withdrawn as Claudio Ranieri tried to inject some much needed urgency into a side who wore a strange indifference.
Leicester’s intensity, their harassing and hounding of opponents, was an enduring feature of last season but they were barely recognisable here, at least until the impressive Demarai Gray entered the fray and helped his team to rediscover a modicum of respect in the second period. Ranieri badly needs to rouse his players again.
Man of the match - Daley Blind
With Luke Shaw injured, Blind filled in at left back and delivered a quite brilliant performance, one that showcased his threat from set pieces, his quality as an attacking outlet and his intelligence and positional strength defensively. Three of United’s goals came from corners by the Dutchman, the pick of the bunch being the one that led to the third goal when Blind showed quick thinking while Leicester were sleeping to drill a low ball into Juan Mata at the near post for the Spaniard to turn into the path of Marcus Rashford to score.
He can defend, too. In the 80th minute, the quicksilver Demarai Gray ran at Blind, who may not be blessed with much pace but has speed of mind. He stayed on his feet, shepherded Gray wide and blocked the attempted cross. Mourinho nodded his approval on the touchline. It spoke volumes.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
If Mourinho was looking for teamwork, then he found it in United's second goal. Juan Mata played the ball back to Pogba and continued his run along the edge of the area before picking up a delightful back flick from Jess Lingard and sending a volley arrowing into the far corner.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Mourinho dropped Wayne Rooney to the bench after criticism of the England captain's recent performances but any raised eyebrows at his team selection were quickly lowered. United were untouchable in the first half after Chris Smalling gave them the lead in the 22nd minute. Leicester arrived at Old Trafford last season looking to wrap up the title but that seems a long time ago now. The defensive solidity that was a hallmark of their success has evaporated and is an issue Claudio Ranieri needs to address urgently.
David De Gea: 6
Antonio Valencia: 6
Eric Bailly: 6
Chris Smalling: 6
Daley Blind: 8
Ander Herrera: 6
Paul Pogba: 9
Jesse Lingard: 7
Juan Mata: 8
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 8
Marcus Rashford: 7
Michael Carrick: 5
Wayne Rooney: 5
Ashley Young: 5
Ron-Robert Zieler: 5
Danny Simpson: 4
Wes Morgan: 5
Robert Huth: 4
Christian Fuchs: 5
Daniel Amartey: 4
Danny Drinkwater: 6
Riyad Mahrez: 5
Marc Albrighton: 5
Jamie Vardy: 4
Islam Slimani: 5
Andy King: 5
Demarai Gray: 6
Jeff Schlupp: 5
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Manchester United v Zorya Luhansk (Europa League Group A, September 29)
Leicester v Porto (Champions League Group G, September 27)
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