Man United turnaround continues with third straight win, but long-term questions linger

LEICESTER, England — Manchester United’s resurrection from last season’s desperation continues. They visited Leicester City on Thursday and defeated the Foxes 1-0, extending their winning streak to three games.

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An early goal from Jadon Sancho made the difference and Man United conceded another goal on the road too. Here’s ESPN’s Mark Ogden with reaction and analysis:

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Fast reaction

1. Jadon Sancho keeps Man United turnaround on track

Jadon Sancho extended Manchester United’s revival under Erik ten Hag with the only goal in a 1-0 win at Leicester that put even more pressure on Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers after the club’s winless start to the season.

United, who have lost their first two games of the season, move up to fifth place in the Premier League against leaders Arsenal ahead of Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford. Sancho’s first-half strike was enough to take all three points, but bottom team Leicester could have lost by a wider margin as United missed a number of second-half chances to secure a more comfortable win.

Despite failing to score points following Sancho’s strike, United have rarely seen themselves in danger of dropping points and the team’s confidence is now fluid after three straight Premier League wins.

Not only have United made a turnaround in terms of results, Ten Hag’s side have now won consecutive away games – they hadn’t won away since February until Saturday’s win at Southampton – and kept consecutive clean sheets.

Ten Hag’s work to be done was evident at times at King Power, particularly in attack, but this win means United can now face Arsenal with real prospects of ending the Gunners’ 100 per cent win into the season.

However, the prospects are bleak for Leicester. The 2016 Premier League champions have picked up just one point in five games and are now anchored at the bottom of the table.

2. Ten Hag is still looking for a reliable attack solution

Marcus Rashford and Sancho combined a good combination for United in the first half, with the attacking pair combining for the first goal, scored by Sancho in the 23rd minute.

But despite the positive direction their form has taken under Ten Hag, the new United manager will have seen enough of the game to know that neither is the solution to the team’s long-term attacking woes. Although Man United are now on a three-game winning streak, they have only scored five goals in their last five games.

The £86m signing of Antony from Ajax is set to make United a stronger attacking force and Ten Hag can still turn to Cristiano Ronaldo, who failed to leave Old Trafford before the transfer deadline, for the goal to improve his team – goal risk.

But after Darwin Nunez and Erling Haaland left for Liverpool and Manchester City respectively this summer, United have seen their two biggest rivals sign players who would have been perfect for the system Ten Hag wants to play.

Winning games and scoring goals will obviously boost Sancho and Rashford’s confidence but they continue to frustrate with their inconsistency in the final third of the pitch and United need a more reliable exit upfront if they are to fight for big wins.

Antony could prove to be the answer, but if he’s taking his time adjusting to life in England then United will need to somehow hone their edge in order to score more goals.

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3. Martinez was a crucial signing

Lisandro Martinez was written off by many observers after a nightmare start to his Manchester United career, which saw the Argentine defender cited as the main reason behind losses to Brighton and Brentford in the first two games of the season.

A summer signing from Ajax, Martinez was dismissed as too small to feature in the Premier League at 5ft 9in, but he has since silenced his critics with three standout performances.

Against Leicester, the 24-year-old was a tenacious tackle and a real leader in the back four alongside Raphael Varane.

Martinez communicates better than any of his defensive teammates and his reading of the game has also made United much stronger and more organised.

Ten Hag’s decision to ditch captain Harry Maguire and Martinez following the Brentford defeat with Varane underscored the manager’s faith in his former Ajax man and he has since repaid it to the Dutchman.

There will be times when Martinez’s lack of height works against him and his partner in defense needs to make up for that, but United’s back five, including goalkeeper David de Gea, now looks like a cohesive unit for the first time in years and that is down to Martinez.


Player Ratings

Leicester: District 6, Justin 6, Evans 6, Ndidi 6, Thomas 6; Soumare 6, Tielemans 6, Dewsbury Hall 7; Maddison 7, Vardy 5, Barnes 6.

Subtitle: Iheanacho 6

Manchester United: 7 De Gea, 7 Dalot, 7 Varane, 7 Martinez, 7 Malacia; McTominay 6, Eriksen 8, Fernandes 7; Elanga 6, Rashford 6, Sancho 7.

Subtitle: Casemiro 7, Ronaldo 7, Fred 6.


Best and worst performers

BEST: Christian Eriksen, Manchester United.

Eriksen has always been an understated footballer, but his quality on the ball has always made him a key figure wherever he has played. Against Leicester, the Danish midfielder controlled the pace of the game and allowed United to win the midfield battle.

Worst: Jamie Vardy, Leicester City.

Vardy will go down as arguably the greatest player in Leicester City history thanks to his goalscoring efforts for the club, but the 35-year-old is a fading force and he has done nothing to threaten United. Replacing him will be impossible but Leicester need to find a younger striker capable of scoring as regularly as Vardy used to.


Highlights and notable moments

In the end, the game ended in a lone goal, Jadon Sancho’s first-half strike to make it 1-0.

Casemiro, who recently made Real Madrid’s high-profile move to Man United, came on again as a substitute in his second game at the Premier League club.

At the same time, the rumors and quips surrounding the will-he-will-t-he saga over Cristiano Ronaldo remaining at Man United were certainly hovering over Thursday’s game, which fell on the transfer window deadline.


After the game: what the managers, players said

Manager United manager Erik Ten Hag on the win: “It’s another step forward, I’m happy with that. We have shown good team spirit. We had eleven players on the pitch who fought for each other and scored a nice team goal. There is room for improvement, but that’s normal at this stage of the season.”

Ten Hag on closing the transfer window: “We need a good squad and we needed numbers. There are many games to complete. Once Cristiano Ronaldo and Casemiro are fitter it will be even better – we don’t need just one team, we need a squad.”


Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

  • Man United’s victory marks the fifth time since 2010/11 that one of the ‘Big Six’ Premier League clubs have won three or more consecutive Premier League games immediately following a run of three or more Premier League losses: Tottenham ( 2021) and Arsenal (2018). , 2021, 2022).

  • The goal conceded by Man United was positive: Only Everton (29) have conceded more goals away from home in the PL since the beginning of 2022 than Man United (27).


Next

Manchester United: The Red Devils host Arsenal on Sunday 4 September.

Leicester City: The Foxes take a trip on Sunday September 4th to take on Brighton & Hove Albion.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-the-match/story/4735766/man-united-turnaround-continues-with-third-straight-winbut-long-term-questions-linger-in-attack Man United turnaround continues with third straight win, but long-term questions linger

Emma Bowman

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