LEICESTER, England — Manchester United‘s resurrection from last season’s pit of despair continues. They visited Leicester City on Thursday and beat the Foxes 1-0, extending their winning streak to three games.
An early goal from Jadon Sancho made the difference, and Man United nabbed another clean sheet on the road, too. Here is ESPN’s Mark Ogden with reaction and analysis:
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 victory at Leicester which heaped more pressure on Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers following the club’s winless start to the season.
United, who lost their first two games of the campaign, move up to fifth in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s Old Trafford clash with leaders Arsenal. Sancho’s first-half strike was enough to claim all three points, but bottom team Leicester could have lost by a heavier margin with United missing a series of second-half chances to claim a more comfortable win.
Despite their failure to add to the scoring following Sancho’s strike, United rarely looked in danger of dropping points and the team’s confidence is now flowing after three successive Premier League wins.
Not only have United turned a corner in terms of results, Ten Hag’s team have now won back-to-back away games — they had failed to win away since February until Saturday’s win at Southampton — and have kept successive clean sheets.
The work still to be done by Ten Hag was evident at times at the King Power, particularly up-front, but this win means United can now face Arsenal with genuine prospects of ending the Gunners’ 100 per cent winning start to the season.
For Leicester, though, the outlook is bleak. The 2016 Premier League champions have picked up just one point from five games and are now anchored to the foot of the table.
2. Ten Hag still searching for reliable attacking solution
Marcus Rashford and Sancho combined well for United in the first half, with the attacking pair linking up for the opening goal that was scored by Sancho on 23 minutes.
But despite the positive direction of their form under Ten Hag, the new United manager will have seen enough in this game to know that neither are the solution to the team’s long-term attacking problems.
The £86 million signing of Antony from Ajax is designed to make United a more potent attacking force and Ten Hag can still turn to Cristiano Ronaldo, who failed to get his move away from Old Trafford ahead of the transfer deadline, to boost his team’s goal-scoring threat.
But having seen Darwin Nunez and Erling Haaland go to Liverpool and Manchester City respectively this summer, United have seen their two biggest rivals sign players who would have been perfect for the system that Ten Hag wants to play.
Winning games and scoring goals will obviously boost the confidence of both Sancho and Rashford, but they continue to frustrate with their inconsistency in the final third of the pitch and United need a more reliable outlet up-front if they are to challenge for major honours.
Antony might prove to be the answer, but if he takes time to adjust to life in England, United will somehow need to sharpen their cutting edge to score more goals.
3. Martinez has been a crucial signing
Lisandro Martinez was written off by many observers after a nightmare start to his Manchester United career which saw the Argentina defender singled out as a key reason for defeats against Brighton and Brentford in the first two games of the season.
Martinez, a summer signing from Ajax, was dismissed as being too small at 5ft 9ins to be able to perform in the Premier League, but he has silenced his critics with three outstanding display since.
Against Leicester, the 24-year-old was tenacious in the tackle and a real leader in the back four alongside Raphael Varane.
Martinez communicates better than any of his defensive team-mates and his reading of the game has also made United much stronger and more organised.
Ten Hag’s decision to drop captain Harry Maguire and Martinez with Varane after the Brentford defeat highlighted the manager’s faith in his former Ajax player and he has repaid the Dutchman ever since.
There will be times when Martinez’s lack of height counts against him and his defensive partner will have to make up for that, but United’s back five, including keeper David de Gea, now look like a cohesive unit for the first time in years and that is down to Martinez.
Leicester: Ward 6, Justin 6, Evans 6, Ndidi 6, Thomas 6; Soumare 6, Tielemans 6, Dewsbury-Hall 7; Maddison 7, Vardy 5, Barnes 6.
Subs: Iheanacho 6
Manchester United: De Gea 7, Dalot 7, Varane 7, Martinez 7, Malacia 7; McTominay 6, Eriksen 8, Fernandes 7; Elanga 6, Rashford 6, Sancho 7.
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 Denmark midfielder controlled the tempo of the game and enabled United to win the midfield battle.
Vardy will go down as arguably the greatest player in Leicester City’s history thanks to his goalscoring feats for the club, but the 35-year-old is a fading force and he did nothing to threaten United. Replacing him will be impossible, but Leicester need to find a younger striker with the ability to score as regularly as Vardy used to.
Highlights and notable moments
The match came down to a single goal in the end, Jadon Sancho’s first-half strike for the 1-0 finish.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 1, 2022
Casemiro, who recently completed the high-profile move from Real Madrid to Man United, again came on as a substitute for in his second match with the Premier League club.
At the same time, the rumors and banter around the will-he, won’t-he saga of Cristiano Ronaldo staying at Man United certainly hung over Thursday’s match, which fell on deadline day for the transfer window.
Casemiro’s eight-pack ⁉️
Ronaldo not going to be happy with this competition. pic.twitter.com/CRqZmCt0gi
— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) September 1, 2022
After the match: What the managers, players said
Will be updated shortly. Check back soon…
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Man United’s win marks the fifth time since 2010-11 that any of the “Big Six” Premier League clubs win three or more consecutive Premier League games immediately after a streak of three or more Premier Leagye losses: Tottenham (2021) and Arsenal (2018, 2021, 2022).
Man United’s clean sheet was a positive turn of events: Only Everton (29) conceded more goals on the road in the PL since the start of 2022 than Man United (27).
Manchester United: The Red Devils host Arsenal on Sunday, Sept. 4.
Leicester City: The Foxes take a trip to face Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday, Sept. 4.