Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes his United side to the King Power Stadium as his Reds begin a brutal run of fixtures with the potential to make – or indeed, break – their season.
Solskjaer has come under increasing pressure following a string of far from impressive showings and his cause isn’t being helped by injuries to key men at crucial times.
With captain Harry Maguire to miss the trip to his former side with a calf injury, United’s problems were further compounded when Raphael Varane was forced off during his country’s Nations League final victory over Spain.
Leicester have endured an indifferent start to the season but Jamie Vardy and co. will fancy their chances against a United team missing both first choice centre-backs. Here is how we think United will line up on Saturday.
After returning to full contact training during the international break, Rashford could make the bench.
GK – David de Gea
De Gea may have been displaced as his nation’s first choice stopper, but the Spaniard has regained United’s no.1 spot in impressive fashion. Kept our heads above water against Villarreal and Everton and hasn’t been at fault for any of the goals to have gone past him so far. Dispelled the doubts over his long term future with his best form for years. No doubt here – ‘Dave’ gets the nod for the trip to the east Midlands.
RB – Aaron Wan-Bissaka
A mixed start to 2021-22 for AWB as the full-back still searches for his best level. There are still concerns – legitimately and justifiably so – over the attacking side of his game and his sending off in the Champions League showed a lack of awareness and nous. United are yet to discover whether he will be available for next week’s European tie with Atalanta after he was slapped with an extra game’s ban, but there is no doubt over his participation at Leicester
CB – Victor Lindelof & Eric Bailly
This area of the team is a real worry with both Maguire and Varane absent. It means Ole will need to turn to his third and fourth choice centre-halves – a pair that have only played once together this season (in the League Cup loss to West Ham). Lindelof has held the fort admirably alongside Varane but Jose Mourinho’s two big-money signings have never looked completely comfortable when selected together. Solskjaer could throw in a curveball and bring back the lesser-spotted Phil Jones, or drop Nemanja Matic/Scott McTominay into defence, but it seems certain he will go with Lindelof and Bailly to try and shackle talismanic Leicester hitman Vardy.
LB – Luke Shaw
After a stunning, stellar season in 2020-21, Shaw has yet to recapture his metronomic form this time around. Didn’t look fit against Everton and was at fault, at least in part, for their goal. Solskjaer could decide to restore Alex Telles to the XI, fresh from his screamer vs Villarreal but it still seems likely Shaw will get the nod at Leicester despite his patchy performances.
CDM – Scott McTominay
Scored a late, late “Fergie time” winner against Israel to keep Scotland’s hopes of World Cup qualification alive and, off the back of those dramatic heroics, will return to anchor the Reds midfield. McTominay has had his critics but has never let Solskjaer down and will be tasked with more of a defensive role in the absence of the much-maligned Fred – unavailable here due to international commitments. When McTominay is fit, he plays as one of the first names on the team sheet.
CDM – Paul Pogba
Solskjaer could go with Nemanja Matic in place of the unavailable Fred but Nations League winner Pogba looks set to drop into more familiar central position. To his credit, Pogba has done well shoved out on the left wing but he is United’s most creative midfielder and will be tasked with starting our attacks from deep. McTominay and Pogba played as the two against Villarreal and failed to shine so whilst Solskjaer could be tempted to go with the Serbian, the energy and pressing of Leicester’s talented midfield means the pair will surely get another chance.
RW – Mason Greenwood
Probably United’s best and most consistent player so far this season – all the more impressive considering the stellar names surrounding the newly turned 20-year-old. It will be interesting to see who makes way to accommodate the fit again Marcus Rashford but – with the latter likely to be on the bench here – Greenwood should again start. His continued snubbing from England selection remains one of life’s great mysteries, but their loss is our gain and it means he’ll be fresh and injury free for this one.
CAM – Bruno Fernandes
Without a goal in Red since the third against Newcastle over a month ago, this is now Fernandes longest dry spell in front of goal since his move to Old Trafford. His only strike since then – for Portugal in a friendly win over Qatar – came from the penalty spot. Missed against Villa so he might he not even have that responsibility for us now. Only one behind his team-mate and compatriot Ronaldo in United’s early season goalscoring exploits and claimed a filthy assist for Anthony Martial against Everton, but needs to find his best form. Still the first name on the team sheet though.
LW – Jadon Sancho
Pogba will drop back into midfield and Rashford isn’t yet fit enough to start, so Sancho will switch to the left wing. Sancho has had a tricky start to life at United but there are signs he is beginning to come good now. Magnificent when he stepped off the bench against Everton, our expensive and long sought-after summer signing is getting better by the week as he adjusts to the harum scrum nuances of the English game. When Rashford is back fit and firing, where does Sancho figure in this side?
ST – Cristiano Ronaldo
Rested against Everton but comes back into lead the line at Leicester with Edinson Cavani away on international duty with Uruguay. Our top scorer with five goals, Ronaldo has only ever faced the Foxes once during his first stint at Old Trafford as the Reds travel to the east Midlands and a ground the Portuguese superstar has never played at – he was an unused sub in the 2003-04 season (his only previous visit there) as United prevailed 4-1. We can expect a much more difficult afternoon this time around.
Even with our defensive injuries, this seems a good time to face Brendan Rodgers team with the Foxes yet to scale the heights of the previous two seasons. The King Power Stadium is always a tough place to go, but United have a good recent record there and our history-making away run in the league is still intact. We’re banking on the Reds to extend it here although it certainly won’t be easy. Another narrow and no doubt heart-stopping victory is in the offing.
Leicester 1-2 Man United