A defeat for Manchester United against Leicester City was a disappointment, but not the end of the world.
Champions League qualification is already wrapped up, and while there were a handful of disappointing displays, there were also a lot of positives.
United still sit second in the Premier League table, and can strengthen that position with a win on Thursday night.
So while it’s never good to lose any game, there were some positives to take from a stress-free night at Old Trafford…
Amad and Elanga game time
Anthony Elanga became the 14th Manchester United academy player to be granted his debut under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Elanga and Amad both started, and the Ivorian produced the assist for United’s goal.
Both players should get more chances against either Fulham or Wolves next week. It was so important to give both players the opportunity in this dead-rubber of a fixture, and they will each be better for it.
Solskjaer praised the pair, telling the club website: “The young kid Amad did really well. Anthony [Elanga] was full of enthusiasm and positivity, with runs in behind and good defensive work.”
Greenwood shows his quality
Teenage star Mason Greenwood was the oldest of United’s front three at 19, and was starting his third game in five days.
Greenwood started in a central role and scored United’s goal, his 12th of the season.
Amad set up his goal, and it was remarkably the first time two teenagers have combined for a Premier League strike since 2006.
Solskjaer was delighted with Greenwood, commenting: “Mason [Greenwood] again he looked a seasoned professional out there. He’s only 19 but the way he has played tonight it was very, very good. He was fantastic leading the line.”
Need for reinforcements highlighted
This wasn’t the vintage, controlled display United will have wanted. United lost the midfield battle, with Nemanja Matic’s strong first half display fading in the second. Donny van de Beek and Juan Mata both disappointed.
The game underlined why Solskjaer has been so reluctant to change his more regular starters during the course of the season. And while that has had a detrimental impact on some of the fringe players, they did not put together a convincing enough case against Leicester.
Solskjaer seemed to realise this after the game, underlining that he wants more reinforcements in the upcoming transfer window.
The United boss said: “We want to take the next step and it might be that we need a couple more to have a stronger squad.”
Axel and Eric recover from poor start
Defensively United blundered to concede a soft but superbly taken opening goal, with players out of position. But after the 10th minute error, United’s centre-backs settled.
Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho are a dangerous strikeforce and Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly coped with their threat well, giving neither any real opportunities.
Tuanzebe, making his first start since January, made more clearances (4) than any United player, and did not give away a single foul, which has been one of the weak points to his game this season.
With Harry Maguire nursing an injury, both players have a chance to be involved in the Europa League final, and they should be pleased with how they came through the Leicester test despite the poor start, with neither player at fault for Caglar Soyuncu’s set piece headed winner.
Liverpool closer to the Europa League
If United were going to lose any game this week, it might as well have been this one.
Leicester’s victory stops their slide in form, and now the Premier League top four looks pretty set, between City, United, Chelsea, and Leicester.
This leaves rivals Liverpool looking at Europa League football this season, and United can pretty much confirm that by beating them on Thursday night.
Liverpool supporters were left rattled by United’s necessary rotated team selection, which softens the blow of actually losing this one.
Knocking them down to the Europa League hurts their title chances next season, as well as impacting them negatively in the transfer market.
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