Premier League leaders Manchester United maintained their 100 per cent record after substitutes Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini helped to spare the blushes of Romelu Lukaku who missed a penalty.
The result means United have won their first three matches – just as they did last season. This time however they have a far meaner look about them and still haven’t conceded a goal.
Both United and Leicester had made satisfying starts to the season reflected by the managers making just one change between them, Anthony Martial replacing Rashford on the left-hand side of Jose Mourinho’s attack.
The home side were in particularly buoyant mood having put eight goals past West Ham and Swansea in their opening two fixtures and within 30 seconds the Stretford End were already up to acclaim the first goal until Wes Morgan made a brilliant diving block to keep out Mkhitaryan from close range.
After four fairly turgid seasons under various post-Sir Alex Ferguson managers, the opening stadium announcement of ‘Welcome to the Theatre of Dreams’ didn’t sound fanciful with United adding a bit of style and panache to Mourinho’s well-drilled line-ups.
Pogba and Daley Blind rue another missed opportunity as United huffed and puffed in their attempts to break Leicester down
MATCH FACTS, RATINGS AND PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 7; Valencia 5.5, Jones 7, Bailly 6.5, Blind 7; Matic 6, Pogba 7; Mata 7 (Rashford 67 6), Mkhitaryan 5.5 (Fellaini 74 6.5), Martial 7 (Lingard 77 7); Lukaku 5.5
Subs unused: Romero (Gk), Darmian, Smalling, Herrera
Goals: Rashford 70, Fellaini 82
LEICESTER (4-4-2): Schmeichel 8; Simpson 5.5, Maguire 7, Morgan 7, Fuchs 6; Mahrez 7, Ndidi 6, James 6.5, Albrighton 6.5 (King 60 5.5); Vardy 6 (Slimani 76 6), Okazaki 6.5 (Gray 60 6)
Subs unused: Hamer (Gk), Chilwell, Iheanacho, Amartey
Referee: Michael Oliver 7
Leicester were a step up on anything United had faced in the current campaign and their new England call-up Harry Maguire showed early adventure by progressing into the United half before Matty James rolled a shot from 30 yards past David de Gea’s far post.
James, a former United trainee, had signed a new four-year contract at Leicester on Saturday morning after recovering from a horrendous time with injuries which caused him to miss the entire Premier League title-winning season.
Mourinho, in a smart charcoal grey suit, cut a very contrasting figure on the touchline to the tracksuited Craig Shakespeare.
The United manager seems a much happier soul than a few months ago. His gestures on the touchline were encouraging rather than accusing.
Maybe Paul Pogba took it all a bit too relaxed. The Frenchman has had an outstanding start to the season no longer burdened by being the world’s most expensive player. But twice he dwelt on the ball and had it nicked off him by Leicester’s bundle of energy, Shinji Okazaki.
United had the ball in Leicester’s net after 20 minutes when Kasper Schmeichel, son of United great Peter, spilled a Romelu Lukaku shot and Juan Mata poached the rebound.
Their joy was shortlived, however, when the Spaniard was flagged for offside and replays showed it was marginal either way.
It sparked United into some good stuff.
Martial’s clip to the far post was knocked wide by Pogba at full stretch. Mata’s shot was then beaten away by Schmeichel whose agile leap was completed when he managed to get an outstretched hand on the ball. Pogba produced some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ when his powershot from long range flashed wide with Schmeichel beaten.
Last season, United beat Leicester 4-1 after Mourinho had dropped Wayne Rooney for the first time. Even though in terms of goals, Saturday’s start was slower than that particular match, the tempo of their play was sharper.
The difference is Leicester, who were defending champions on their last visit to Old Trafford, are in much better shape themselves these days, with the gamble on replacing Claudio Ranieri with Shakespeare now looking a good call.
Mourinho’s team of giants contained so many six-footers that Phil Jones wasn’t required to go up for corners. Pogba, the tallest of them all, fired in two more shots at Schmeichel, one parried away and another one wide. He then had a free-kick blocked by the wall after Wes Morgan had illegally held off Lukaku.
The pace of United’s play was enough to impress their most famous celebrity fan, Usain Bolt, watching intently from the directors’ box. But they still reached the half-time interval without breaking through.
The first signs of frustration were heard early in the second period when a lay-off by Lukaku went straight to James.
That was nothing compared to what happened after 53 minutes. Just moments after Juan Mata’s penalty appeal against Christian Fuchs for handball was turned down, Martial’s centre was blocked by the outstretched arm of Danny Simpson and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot.
Lukaku took responsibility for the kick but though his penalty was struck firmly to Schmeichel’s right, it was at a good height for the ‘keeper to reach with another flying dive.
Not surprisingly, the great Dane was immediately engulfed by jubilant team-mates.
Lukaku tries to close down Leciester centre back Harry Maguire. United did not pay for the Belgium forward’s penalty miss
Shakespeare made a double substitution on the hour, sending on Demarai Gray and Andy King, to keep his side’s energy levels up.
Though they continued to allow United to dominate possession, soaking up pressure is the Foxes tried and tested way.
Midway through the half, Mourinho made his first change in bringing on the raw pace of Rashford for Mata. He was fortunate United weren’t a goal down by that stage with Mahrez turning Blind inside-out before firing across goal with Vardy unable to get a connecting touch.
Within two minutes, Rashford had scored for the first time in the Premier League since April – the 20th of his United career overall.
Mkhitaryan’s cross to the near post found its way to the young forward after Pogba had eased a Leicester defender out of the way en route. Rashford’s connection took the ball into the ground and then up past Schmeichel even though the goalkeeper got his gloves to it.
United’s second goal arrived after 82 minutes arrived when Lingard curled a cross-shot towards the six-yard box and Fellaini got a vital touch to wrongfoot Schmeichel.