It’s sometimes difficult to remember that Manchester United finished second in the Premier League standings last season. The Red Devils finished with a very creditable 81 points after 38 games played, although there was plenty of criticism for a team who won 25 of their matches throughout the season.
Perhaps it was their lacklustre showing in the FA Cup final, their Champions League disappointments or indeed the negative brand of football that was at the root of things.
Jose Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure during the pre-season, with the former Chelsea and Real Madrid seemingly preparing a list of excuses for why the campaign might not see United challenge for the Premier League title again.
There haven’t been any notable arrivals with the exception of Fred, although Mourinho is at least buoyed by the decision of Romelu Lukaku (who’s 3/1 to be first goalscorer at Karamba), Marcus Rashford and Phil Jones to return to the squad earlier than anticipated after their World Cup involvement.
Pogba Won’t Play
It will be a longer wait before Paul Pogba is back in action although United will be practically at full strength for this curtain-raiser, with Alexis Sanchez looking sharp after not being present at the World Cup thanks to Chile’s failure to qualify for the tournament.
As you might expect, United are warm favourites to win this clash, just as they did in fifteen of their nineteen home games last term. United only conceded nine goals in nineteen clashes at Old Trafford which is just less than 50% and it owed plenty to the heroics of David de Gea, a player who had a surprisingly disappointing World Cup for Spain.
Mourinho seems keen to land Harry Maguire from his team’s opponents this summer although it’s a tough call to wrench him from the grip of a Leicester side who have already seen Riyad Mahrez leave the club.
Mahrez Departure May Hurt Leicester’s Chances
Mahrez’s departure to Manchester City marks a similar setback to the one that occurred when N’Golo Kante set sail for Chelsea, although Jamie Vardy is likely to stay put and we should expect lots from James Maddison who arrives from Norwich with a big reputation and is 4/1 to score anytime at the best bookmakers.
Ricardo Pereira and Jonny Evans should also slot into the team, with Claude Puel among one of the favourites to win the infamous managerial Sack Race, similar to the odds afforded to Jose Mourinho.
This match should be a fairly straightforward win for United who will look to grind out an opening day victory against a team that finished ninth in the top flight last season, although it was noticeable that seven of their last nine matches ended in defeat.
Indeed, Puel could be vulnerable to the sack considering that he was expected to leave towards the end of the previous campaign. Leicester’s owners have been trigger happy enough to dispense with Claudio Ranieri and Craig Shakespeare in a relatively short space of time so they won’t show patience if results don’t go according to plan.
This fixture is all about keeping things tight for the visitors and hoping to frustrate their opponents, although it’s hard to argue with United’s fantastic home record and it was their erratic away form that proved to be the ultimate letdown last term.