Manchester United 2-1 Leicester City Six Things: Red Devils unconvincing in victory

Shaw celebrates his first senior goal – @ManUtd

After a nervy game, Manchester United secured their first three points of the season with a 2-1 win over Leicester thanks to goals from Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw. Here’s six things from the game.

Pogba performs

Given that Paul Pogba only returned to training on Monday after his World Cup success, it was surprising that the Frenchman started, let alone as captain; yet there was a sense he responded well to that responsibility. He linked play superbly in the embryonic stages, bringing into play full-backs Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw, who both went on powerful runs in the first two minutes. Once Daniel Amartey was penalized for hand-ball in the box, Pogba stepped up confidently and coolly converted, to kick off a performance in which he was among his side’s most inventive performers.

Cool Foxes

Leicester were not fazed by going a goal down early on and took no time to regain composure. Harry Maguire, a United summer target, sprayed passes to the left flank, where Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray caused problems for Darmian due to their pace, which Juan Mata struggled so much to keep up that he briefly swapped positions with Marcus Rashford. It was play down the right flank though from which Leicester created their best chance; Ricardo Pereira,  deployed on the right wing, teed up the bright James Maddison, from whom David De Gea made the save of the first half.

Early game management

While Maddison’s effort might have been Leicester’s only noteworthy chance of the first half, United couldn’t quite build on their opener – in fact, they dropped into their defensive third as soon as it went in. Such a defensive mentality without the ball meant that, once they turned possession over, it was difficult for them to re-discover their rhythm. This approach would be understandable if it were the last 10-minutes holding onto a lead away to a title rival, but to play a full game like this at home to a side expected to finish below them is not acceptable.

Shaw’s big moment

There has long been uncertainty about Luke Shaw’s relationship with Jose Mourinho, but the Southampton academy graduate capped a positive opening night display with a first senior goal. Mata threaded through a wonderful ball for the 23-year-old, who got goal-side of Pereira before, perhaps helped by a fortuitous bounce, scoping the ball into the far corner.

Vardy remains key

New wide man Rachid Ghezzal and Jamie Vardy made a real impact from the bench for Leicester, with the latter deserving his injury-time goal. Although United nerves jangled for the final two minutes, which saw Kasper Schmeichel denied an iconic goal by heading wide on the whistle, the visitors left with a sense of ‘if only’. Midway through the second half with only one goal in it, Gray had been denied by a point-blank save from De Gea and had that gone in, the outcome could have been very different. Put Vardy in from the start and the Foxes could be an exciting proposition this year.

United unconvincing

Had Vardy not bagged, Manchester United’s margin of victory would have been two goals, enough to almost allow their performance to be retrospectively revised as one of savvy control. The fact they finished clinging on however, will be the game’s defining memory, which resembles it far more accurately. Most teams with serious title ambitions would continue to attack while ahead and while The Red Devils were victorious tonight, a continuation of their methods could prove unsustainable.