Paul Pogba’s Show: This Is How Manchester United Players Fared In A Thrashing Win Over Leicester City

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Jose Mourinho spoke extensively about the ‘Einsteins’ of world football after orchestrating a 3-1 win at Northampton Town in the EFL Cup on Wednesday. If there was ever a statement of purpose to deliver post that routine victory, it was against champions Leicester City in a lunchtime clash at Old Trafford.

And so he did. United raced into an unassailable 4-0 lead at the break, courtesy of strikes from captain Chris Smalling, who inherited the armband from substitute Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba. Claudio Ranieri’s men were poor in defence and laggard overall as they simply couldn’t match the speed and guile of their counterparts.

Smalling opened the scoring with a header from a Daley Blind corner. Fifteen minutes later, an outstanding spell of play involving Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and Mata culminated in the Spaniard firing a vicious, low drive past the hapless Ron-Robert Zieler. With a spring in their step, United added two more goals before the interval, the first of which was catastrophic for Leicester to concede. Blind found Mata, who outpaced his marker and swept the ball in for Rashford to tap into an empty net. Two minutes later, the Dutchman, deputising for the injured Luke Shaw at left-back swung in another corner with Pogba doing justice to it by heading the ball across the marooned Zieler into the far left corner.

The hosts took their foot off the gas in the second half and were content to see the game through. It wasn’t plain sailing for them though as substitute Demarai Gray scored his first goal for the beleaguered Foxes this campaign with a gorgeous right-footed effort from distance, beating David de Gea all ends up. The likes of Islam Slimani and Jeffrey Schlupp had a few opportunities to make life difficult for Mourinho’s side but United weathered that passage of play and secured a morale-boosting victory.

Here’s how the Red Devils fared on a wonderful afternoon at Old Trafford:

1.       David de Gea (7/10):

The Spaniard did not have much to do in the first half and looked comfortable with Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling doing a fine job at the back. Couldn’t have done anything about Gray’s outstanding strike, though. A decent performance overall.

2.       Antonio Valencia (8/10):

Looked menacing in attack and linked up excellently with Juan Mata. His marauding runs down the right proved to be a prominent feature for the hosts and a headache for Christian Fuchs at left-back. Supplied a couple of good crosses for Zlatan Ibrahimović although the Swede could not profit from them.

3.       Eric Bailly (8/10):

Following an extensive run of starts for United, Bailly was rested for their midweek trip to Northampton. He returned to the eleven and nullified the threat of Jamie Vardy expertly. Bailly made numerous interceptions and showed plenty of desire towards dispossessing his opponents after a couple of errors. Another fine display by the Ivorian.

4.       Chris Smalling (8/10):

Led from the front as captain with the opening goal and a measured performance alongside Bailly. Smalling ensured Vardy and Slimani were deprived of service and looked assured with the ball at his feet. All in all, it was a good shift by the England international.

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5.       Daley Blind (8/10):

Was United’s creator-in-chief. Provided assists to Smalling and Pogba’s goals from corners and was instrumental in setting up United’s third strike of the game. That aside, he kept Riyad Mahrez quiet for the majority of the first half and made some industrious runs forward in the second half. With a player of his calibre in the side, United ought to feel grateful.

6.       Ander Herrera (8/10):

Having been a shining light in United’s dismal run of form until now, Herrera was entitled with the job of screening the backline while establishing a partnership with Pogba in midfield. The Spaniard did just that and made important tackles and interceptions, thereby thwarting Leicester’s midfield fulcrum of Danny Drinkwater and Daniel Amartey.

7.       Paul Pogba (9/10):

Arguably his finest performance for the club since his summer move from Juventus. Pogba ran the show quite wonderfully in the first half and distributed the ball economically. Involved in United’s second goal, Pogba got on to the scoresheet himself with a perfectly placed header from a Blind corner. He also created a couple of chances for Ibrahimović and looked more relaxed in possession. A few stray passes and poor touches in the second half aside, it was a perfect display by the Frenchman.

8.       Jesse Lingard (7/10):

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Put in a praiseworthy shift down the right and managed to skate past Leicester’s advanced full-backs at will. He set up Mata for his side’s second of the game and looked lively more often than not. A complete turnaround from his nightmare in the Manchester derby a fortnight ago.

9.       Juan Mata (9/10):

The former Chelsea talisman was at his finest. Picked up the ball in dangerous areas and attempted to feed the overlapping Valencia down the right. Mata completed a fine team move, involving himself, Pogba and Lingard with a powerfully struck effort into the bottom-right corner and showed the presence of mind by squaring the ball to Rashford from a corner for United’s third of the afternoon. Given his flamboyant display in the Number 10 role, Mourinho now has a very complicated decision to make as far as his team selection is concerned.

10.   Marcus Rashford (8/10):

It is quite remarkable to see how the 18-year-old has adjusted to life in the first team. Following his strike against Northampton Town on Wednesday, Rashford added another goal to his tally, thereby capping an excellent week for him. Could have scored from a blistering counter-attack earlier having being fed by Ibrahimović although that did not prove to be costly. His pace troubled Danny Simpson on numerous occasions and got the full-back booked in the second half.

11.   Zlatan Ibrahimović (7/10):

Wasn’t the best day on a personal front for the Swede. Ibrahimović worked tirelessly against the likes of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth. Had a glorious chance from an intricate pass by Pogba and almost turned provider for Marcus Rashford following a counter-attacking move. The second half saw him track back and attempt to pick up play as United looked a bit too comfortable at times but put on an industrious shift nonetheless.

Substitutes:

1.       Michael Carrick (7/10):

Was brought on to slow the tempo of the game and shut Leicester out for good. Made a few good passes and looked composed in the middle of the park.

2.       Wayne Rooney (N/A):

The skipper was benched by Mourinho following a string of underwhelming performances. The fluency with which the side played in his absence may not bode well for him although he insisted that the criticism that has been flung his way is routine and will be dealt with appropriately.

3.       Ashley Young (N/A):

Came on as a late substitute for Mata. Made one promising run down the right although that amounted to nothing.