After a week of some genuine jaw-dropping results in the FA Cup, Premier League football resumes and for Manchester United it does at Old Trafford in a traditional 3 o’ clock fixture on Saturday where they will welcome a side from the bottom 3 in Leicester City. On the back of a largely toothless and uninspiring 0-0 draw at the Abbey Stadium, the hosts will look to hit a rich vein of goal-scoring form with a run of relatively favorable games ahead and consolidate their place in the top four. Their last Premier League outing though, ended in a 0-2 away win, only their third of the season so far at Loftus Road despite a few early struggles and missed opportunities in front of goal. But with 15 points from their last 6 home games including a defeat to Southampton a fortnight ago, Manchester United have by and large been able to get over the line on a regular basis at Old Trafford, something Louis Van Gaal will want to oversee come the weekend.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Leicester City at the moment, after a recent improvement in terms of performances and the fact that they are now able to convert some of those good performances into vital points, should have come as an encouragement to the fans, players and the manager alike. They will head to Old Trafford brimming with belief and desire after a stunning last gasp win at Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup hoping to repeat the same during the weekend. The reverse fixture in fact is arguably one of the greatest games certainly in the Premier League era for the foxes as they came back from 3-1 down to trounce Man United 5-3 at the King Power Stadium. Nigel Pearson though was quick to address the differences between that win in September and the potential clash that awaits them on Saturday in his press conference where he said,
“It’s a completely different game and people shouldn’t look at that last game and think anything of it, it’s totally irrelevant the game we met them in last.I think getting back to winning games is important for us, so maybe the cup competitions have become that little bit more important for us. It’s an opportunity to win games, and maybe that helps us somewhat. Those types of performances against a very good Premier League side should give us some encouragement as to how we need to perform when we get back to our league program. Our next game is a good example of that. We have got to go and be tough to beat again, but be creative like we were against Tottenham.”
Whenever Louis Van Gaal’s teams are out these days it’s not the lineup the fans are looking forward to the most but ‘how’ they are lined up. The manager has been very vocal about his disapproval of the 4-4-2 or four at the back with the defenders at his disposal and criticized for over-tweaking his formation and systems during the game that hampers the flair and puts a dampener on their performances. This weekend could be no different with fans unsure of what they could be witnessing on the pitch but as yet, Chris Smalling (knock), Jonny Evans (knock) and Ashley Young (hamstring) may all miss Saturday’s clash due to injury.
For Nigel Pearson there are a few concerns with Chris Wood (ankle), Zoumana Bakayogo (knee) and Kasper Schmeichel (foot), all doubts for the clash through injury while midfielder Matty James will serve the final game of his three-match suspension. Matthew Upson continued his road to match fitness in midweek with 90 minutes for the Development Squad away at Tottenham Hotspur.
Manchester United have lost just once in their last 14 fixtures in all competitions.
Although the foxes are 20th on their actual league table, Leicester City sit 12th on the form table with 7 points from their last 6 league games including 1-0 wins against Hull and Aston Villa.
Radamel Falcao – Manchester United
It’s been a difficult start for Falcao at Manchester United with the long recovery process and getting himself involved in a run of games which he could be getting between now and the end of the season and his general struggles to put the ball in the back of the net. On another day, he could have had a hat-trick against QPR but that is the way it has been for the Colombian hitman who will have to hit the target soon enough and more frequent enough to force himself into Van Gaal’s plans for the future. The 28-year old has scored 3 times now in 13 appearances which is definitely poor by his lofty standards but surprisingly played the whole 90 minutes only thrice all season (needs more time on the pitch, really?). His shot accuracy isn’t that bad either with 70% of his attempts finding the target but the conversion rate has been very ordinary with just 3 of his 14 shots on target beating the goalkeeper. Manchester United as a team are under-performing in front of goal which is why he could be a vital player in deciding the outcome of Saturday’s fixture.
Jeffrey Schlupp – Leicester City
Schlupp has been impressive of late for the foxes with his versatility more than anything as the academy graduate who broke onto the scene as a forward in 2011, now plying his trade as a left back or at times a left sided midfielder says it all about the commitment of the player. Nigel Pearson heaped a lot of praise on the defender after the Tottenham win citing him one of the key players to bolster their chances of retaining the top flight status. Pearson said, “I think the position that he’s playing in, it suits his game. Defensively in that role he’s very good. He gives a lot of protection to the full back, whoever plays there. His pace and his technical ability going forward is there for everybody to see. He’s a dangerous customer to come up against and it was a good finish [against Spurs].” With 3 goals, 1 assist and 13 chances created from open play in 18 appearances, Schlupp has been equally productive at the other end, averaging 4 defensive actions per game that includes 26 interceptions and 39 clearances. If the visitors were to get anything out of this game they basically need this man to turn up at Old Trafford and inspire his teammates to do the same.
I for one do not see another 5-3 kind of a crazy goal-fest at Old Trafford quite simply because I don’t think Manchester United can score 3 goals in 90 minutes at this point in time, let alone Leicester managing a fiver. It should be a quiet and routine home win in my opinion.