Manchester United have won three Premier League games in a row for the first time this year as they beat Leicester City 1-0 at the King Power Stadium on Thursday.
Although United’s performance was by no means flawless, victory moved them up to fifth in the table, with the nightmares of their first two games of the season seemingly a distant memory.
United were fully deserving of the first-half lead that was given to them by Jadon Sancho at the end of an incisive move – though their level dropped significantly after the restart.
Leicester were encouraged and carried greater threat, but clear-cut chances remained at a premium as United’s solid backline helped guide the visitors to another win.
United looked sharp right from the start and almost went ahead in the 11th minute, but Christian Eriksen shot into the side-netting after breaking into the left side of the area.
The breakthrough arrived 12 minutes later, though.
Diogo Dalot intercepted Danny Ward’s long ball and found Bruno Fernandes, who hurried the ball on to Marcus Rashford and he fed Sancho to round the Leicester goalkeeper and apply a simple finish.
The hosts looked reinvigorated after the break and nearly levelled early on as David de Gea produced an acrobatic save to keep James Maddison’s free-kick out of the top-right corner.
Leicester failed to build on that momentum and United – boosted by a lively Cristiano Ronaldo cameo – finished with something of a flurry, though their inability to add a second goal might have been punished had James Justin kept a stoppage-time strike down.
What does it mean? United unspectacular but solidity something to cherish
It was only a few weeks ago that United looked in absolute crisis, conceding four goals to Brentford and looking utterly desperate at the back. Granted, they were facing a Leicester in dreadful form, but this was another sign of progress. Leicester’s chances were worth a total of 0.6 expected goals (xG), whereas United’s were equal to 1.4 xG.
Leicester did not really look a major threat to the United defence until the latter stages, and even then the visitors were largely in control – Ten Hag might hope for more clinical play in attack, but it would seem he has successfully addressed the team’s biggest issues.
Fernandes leads by example
He has become a source of frustration among United supporters, but to be fair to Fernandes, this was one of his best performances in a while. He played a key role in the goal, with his clever movement to the right crucial in the build-up, but there was much more to his performance as well.
The Portugal star worked tirelessly in midfield and even had an impact defensively, with his three clearances a joint-high and only Dalot bettering his three tackles.
Ronaldo offers a focal point
He only played 22 minutes, but Ronaldo’s display was a marked improvement on his dreadful outing against Southampton.
Sure, neither of his shots were on target, but those were two instances of him offering a threat, and he also got into position for a couple of dangerous passes across goal. Neither quite came off but he led the line better than Rashford.