Five things we learned as Manchester United lose 2-1 against Leicester City
Manchester United have been beaten 2-1 by Leicester City, handing the title to cross-city rivals Manchester City.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made 10 changes to the team that beat Aston Villa 3-1 on Sunday and gave a debut to Anthony Elanga and a first Premier League start to Amad Diallo.
Despite a spirited first-half display that saw an exquisite goal from Mason Greenwood, the rotated players did not quite have enough quality and energy to win the game.
Here are five things we learned from the match…
Ole’s squad rotation almost pays off
Despite the loss tonight, the players made their manager proud as the squad was rotated during a heavily congested fixture period.
This was the second of three games United will have played in the space of five days, with a clash against bitter rivals Liverpool coming up on Thursday.
And with that in mind, Ole rested the majority of his regular first-team players, with only Mason Greenwood keeping his place from the previous win against Aston Villa.
United’s first-half performance certainly exceeded expectations, going into half time at 1-1, but a long season and heavy legs from too many games in a short period saw Leicester dominate the second half.
Not many United fans would have expected them to win with the starting XI they put out tonight but there are plenty of positives to take away from the performance.
Greenwood in best form of United career
Mason Greenwood is on fire. Handed the centre-forward role today, instead of his usual place as a right-wing forward, Greenwood continued to show why he could be an addition to Gareth Southgate’s England squad this summer.
Brimming with confidence, Greenwood scored a brilliant goal, the type only a player on hot form attempts.
Receiving the ball just outside the box and shimmying his way past Leicester’s defence, Greenwood rolled the ball past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel into the far corner with devastating accuracy.
For the remaining time he was on the pitch, Greenwood looked like the only avenue United might have any luck with, as he buzzed around the pitch trying to make things happen.
This is only positive news for United as we are beginning to see Greenwood fulfil the potential we know he has.
Missing Maguire but replacements impress
Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly started together in defence for the first time since a 1-0 win over Watford in the FA cup in January.
It was the first time Harry Maguire had not started at centre-back in the Premier League since he joined the club, following an ankle ligament injury in the previous game.
Aside from the first goal – a wonder strike by the Leicester left-back – which could have been prevented by the duo with better positioning, Tuanzebe and Bailly did not put a foot wrong.
Neither was to blame for the second goal, as poor marking from a newly substituted Marcus Rashford allowed Leicester to score from a corner, punishing a known weakness of United’s.
But Tuanzebe kept former City striker Kelechi Iheancho quiet and Eric Bailly was calm and composed in the face of Jamie Vardy’s pace.
It is an encouraging sign the duo could form a strong partnership and offer Maguire a break so that he does need to start every single game from now on.
Diallo and Elanga get Premier League debuts
Amad Diallo made his first Premier League appearance after four promising showings in the Europa League and Anthony Elanga made his first senior appearance for the club.
Diallo was immediately in the midst of the action setting up Mason Greenwood’s equaliser, his first assist in a United shirt, and generally making a nuisance of himself for the Leicester back line.
Elanga had a quieter game, to be expected for a debut performance, but showed his pace and prospects as a wide outlet, which United have been criticised as lacking in the past.
United fans will be pleased to see Ole continuing a club tradition of including youngsters in big games, that are perhaps above their level of quality, but will do wonders for their development.
Van de Beek fails to shine
Donny Van de Beek, who has not been handed many opportunities this season to show why United paid £40 million for him, once again failed to impress.
In fairness to him, this was only his second Premier League start this season, mostly picking up scraps in the latter stages of games.
But Ole’s reasoning for not featuring the Dutchman more this season appeared to be vindicated, as Van de Beek went missing for large parts of the game, as he has often done before.
His effort and energy cannot be faulted, throwing himself into challenges and always looking to get on the ball. With Matic likely to play less of a role next season he could still find a way into more regular football at United.
At present he does not suit United’s setup, his positioning makes him look almost awkward and out of place.
There is no doubting the potential Van de Beek has, especially after his triumphs at Ajax, but some serious adjustments need to be made in order for him to find his place in this team.
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