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Leicester City 0 Manchester United 1 | Talking Points

Marcus Rashford’s emphatic early goal saw off a stubborn Leicester City and helped Manchester United to keep pace with the top four.

In his 100th Premier League game, Rashford smashed home Paul Pogba’s through ball after an error by Ricardo Pereira in the ninth minute.

Leicester were on top for much of the game but struggled to create clear chances, finding David De Gea in inspired form when they did get a clear sight of goal.

The result sees Manchester United return to within two points of fourth place, while Leicester remain 11th.

Having drawn in different manners in midweek, both sides freshened up their starting lineups as they sought to return to winning ways.

Leicester made a single change, Harvey Barnes replacing Marc Albrighton on the left side of midfield.  Elsewhere, Kasper Schmeichel continued in goal behind Ben Chilwell, Jonny Evans, Harry Maguire and Ricardo Pereira in defence, with club captain Wes Morgan again on the bench.

Wilfred Ndidi and Nampalys Mendy began the afternoon in the two deep lying midfield roles, behind Barnes, James Maddison and Demarai Gray. That meant no place for deadline day arrival Youri Tielemans, who was absent from the matchday squad entirely.

Jamie Vardy started as the lone striker once again, seeking to continue his remarkable record against the top six, with 13 goals in his last 17 league appearances against Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea.

United made four changes to the side that started against Burnley, Eric Bailly, Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera and Alexis Sanchez replacing Phil Jones, Romelu Lukaku, Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata.

David De Gea continued in goal behind Luke Shaw, Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof and Bailly, with Herrera joining Matic in a deep midfield role.

In form Paul Pogba retained his place further forward in between Sanchez and Lingard, with Marcus Rashford again chosen ahead of Romelu Lukaku in attack as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer returned to one up front.

A day to remember for Rashford

It is easy to forget that Marcus Rashford is still only 21 years old. The trip to Leicester marked his 100th top-flight appearance for Manchester United, becoming the second youngest to reach the mark for United after Ryan Giggs.

Rashford appears to have come of age this season and in particular since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He is already in his highest scoring season in only the first week of February, and he has firmly established himself ahead of £75 million counter-part Romelu Lukaku.

His early finish against Leicester oozed confidence, and remedies lingering doubts about the Englishman’s finishing following a disappointing miss against Burnley.

His talent has been clear to see since he made his debut just under three years ago, but he has struggled to find consistency. Now, 100 games in and playing regularly down the middle, he is creeping up on the world’s elite number 9 strikers, many of whom are past 30 and nearing retirement.

Do not be surprised to see Europe’s biggest clubs come circling for him if this vein of form continues.

Solskjaer’s CV improves again

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made no secret his desire to remain manager of Manchester United beyond his current interim spell. 10 games in, his audition could barely have gone better.

Of those ten games, they have won nine, drawing the other at home to Burnley on Tuesday. Even that result felt like a win given the manner of the comeback.

Solskjaer can only do so much. United are playing better and winning more since his arrival, but now that they are back in the race, the pressure will grow.

They face PSG (twice), Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City in their next eight games. A month and a half ago, this run looked a lot scarier than it does now.

It is truly make or break for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United.

Pressure on Puel

Leicester boss Claude Puel has come under fire in recent weeks for Leicester’s form and style of play, and this result did little to stem the flow of negativity.

Though the Foxes performed well and can feel aggrieved to have left without a point or better, the same problems blighted their side as have all season.

Jamie Vardy was isolated in attack, and though several half chances came and went, Leicester’s play, on the whole, was slow and predictable.

With the score at 1-0, Puel brought on Rachid Ghezzal for James Maddison just after the hour. Maddison had been one of the home side’s brightest sparks until that point, and the home fans made their feelings known.

This was the Foxes third consecutive home loss, and though a defeat to Manchester United is not a dire result, it has done little to turn the growing consensus that Claude Puel is in the firing line. Odds of almost evens are saying that he will be the next Premier League manager to lose his job.

Sanchez and De Gea have different fortunes

In August, both David De Gea and Alexis Sanchez were considered seriously out of form. While one is showing signs of being back to his best, the other is continuing to suffer.

After a terrible World Cup with Spain and a slow start to the League season with United, David De Gea was being doubted for the first time in years. At one point the Spaniard had conceded 10 of the previous 14 shots he had faced.

He has quietly gone about his business since, delivering an exceptional performance at Spurs and again today. Leicester had 17 shots in all, six of which were on target, and all of which failed to beat De Gea.

Though many of these were routine stops, De Gea had no right to stop the freekick from Rachid Ghezzal. It would certainly be safe to say, if there were any doubts over his presence, David De Gea is back; and he means business.

The same cannot be said of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has been almost invisible since his arrival from Arsenal just over a year ago, and he was once again today.

Handed a rare start, he lasted 67 ineffectual minutes before being replaced by Anthony Martial. The 30-year-old had no shots and rarely looked like creating anything.

No January signings on show

Typical of the window as a whole, between Leicester and Manchester United only one player was signed in January, Youri Tielemans joining the Foxes on loan from Monaco.

The 21-year-old Belgian was expected to feature today, but was surprisingly left out of the matchday squad. No explanation has yet been given.

Both sides allowed players to leave during the window, Vicente Iborra, Adrien Silva and Andy King among those to leave Leicester and Marouane Fellaini swapping Manchester for China. Though neither side performed particularly poorly today, the depth of both squads may be tested if injuries or suspensions accumulate before the end of the season.

Sam Hanys

Ipswich Town fan and Loughborough University student.

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Premier League Table

# Team MP W D L P
1 Liverpool 2 2 0 0 6
2 Arsenal 2 2 0 0 6
3 Manchester City 2 1 1 0 4
4 Brighton & Hov… 2 1 1 0 4
5 Tottenham Hotspur 2 1 1 0 4
6 AFC Bournemouth 2 1 1 0 4
7 Everton 2 1 1 0 4
8 Manchester United 1 1 0 0 3
9 Burnley 2 1 0 1 3
10 Norwich City 2 1 0 1 3
11 Sheffield United 1 0 1 0 1
12 Crystal Palace 1 0 1 0 1
13 Leicester City 1 0 1 0 1
14 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 0 1 0 1
15 West Ham United 2 0 1 1 1
16 Aston Villa 2 0 0 2 0
17 Newcastle United 2 0 0 2 0
18 Southampton 2 0 0 2 0
19 Chelsea 1 0 0 1 0
20 Watford 2 0 0 2 0

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