Manchester United 2-1 Leicester City
Paul Pogba wore the captain’s armband and got his name on the scoresheet as Manchester United laboured to an opening day Premier League victory over Leicester.
The World Cup winner confidently scored from the penalty spot as skipper after just two minutes to give United the lead before the hosts struggled to get a hold on the game during a turgid first half.
Leicester had their chances to equalise before the Red Devils, looking brighter in the second period, finally doubled their advantage on 82 minutes as Luke Shaw netted the first goal of his career with a fine left-footed half volley.
Jamie Vardy scored a scruffy consolation with his head in injury-time after Ricardo Pereira’s cross-shot struck the post but United held on for an important win thanks to goals from two players with a point to prove.
United took the lead in just the second minute of the season after Daniel Amartey was deemed to have handled the ball as Alexis Sanchez’s strike ricocheted off a Leicester team-mate and struck him.
Paul Pogba, captaining the Red Devils, took an age to take the kick with a bizarre staggered run up but placed his penalty into the top corner with aplomb to beat Kasper Schmeichel.
While the hosts started brightly, Leicester looked like they were still on their holidays for the opening ten minutes until left-back Ben Chilwell made a marauding run forward but was denied before he could cross by an excellent Eric Bailly slide tackle.
Five minutes later Matteo Darmian – linked with an exit from Old Trafford – was easily beaten by Demarai Gray whose blocked cross ended up at the feet of Wilfried Ndidi but the Nigerain’s strike was easily gathered by David De Gea.
The Foxes enjoyed more success down the left soon after as Kelechi Iheanacho controlled Gray’s ball well and turned swiftly in the area but his left-footed shot was dragged wide of the far post – the linesman’s flag also went against him.
Claude Puel’s side then had another fine chance just before the half-hour mark as the energetic Ricardo Pereira, signed from Porto, cut the ball back to fellow new boy James Maddison but his shot was well saved by De Gea who got a strong hand on the ball to push it away.
Leicester had much of the ball and kept it well despite trailing following a slow start but were caught on the backfoot as Fred latched onto the ball on the counter and space opened up. The Brazilian leapt forward past the centre circle with the opposition hurtling back but just as he decided what to do next he was denied by Gray who excelled in his defensive duties to slide in and halt him.
The 2016 Premier League champions were in the ascendency despite United’s home advantage and were in again as Iheanacho held off the challenge of Victor Lindelöf just yards from goal but his touch let him down and he was dispossessed.
United did register an effort on 39 minutes but Pogba’s tame shot with the outside of his boot from range was easily gathered by Schmeichel.
Chances for the hosts were like buses as seconds after that chance, another one came around the corner. Alexis Sanchez found himself in space in the area as a looped pass fell towards him but, catching Schmeichel off his line, the Chile international headed up and the ball landed on top of the net rather than nestling in it.
United lead at the break but besides their early opener, they had really struggled to exert themselves on Leicester and lacked any real impetus while Maddison looked lively and a good acquisition for the Foxes.
José Mourinho’s side came out after the break with more urgency – Darmian striking low to bring a save from Schmeichel minutes after Rashford had fluffed his lines as he hesitated pulling the trigger in on goal.
Sanchez then looked to unlock Leicester’s defence with the game now becoming more stretched on the hour mark but Juan Mata failed to get his foot on the through ball on the edge of the area and the away side averted the danger.
Leicester introduced Jamie Vardy, fresh from his World Cup exploits and Rachid Ghezzal, brought in from Monaco as searched for an equaliser with 25 minutes to play.
A minute later and United were appealing for a second penalty for another handball in the box. Sanchez again laid Mata off on the edge of the area who bent a shot at goal with his left foot. However, as Wes Morgan went to ground to stop the ball, it clearly struck the defender’s flailing arm. However, referee Andre Marriner refused to give the spot-kick, much to the frustration of an incensed Mata.
Leicester nearly got the goal they had been hunting for on 75 minutes – Luke Shaw dawdled and was dispossessed by Vardy midway between the goal and corner flag. The forward crossed quickly for Gray who get ahead of his man and directed the ball at goal but De Gea got down well to catch it. The Spaniard, interestingly, made more saves here at Old Trafford than he managed during the entire World Cup.
United then got their chance to double the lead, this time it was the turn of Morgan to hesitate around the ball allowing Sanchez to take advantage and feed substitute Romelu Lukaku. The United number nine shaped up and slotted the ball towards goal but it cannoned wide from the stretching leg of Schmeichel and still the game remained on knife-edge.
With eight minutes to go, United finally found the second goal which had eluded the. Mata picked up the ball and spotted the wide run of Shaw in space. The left back took a heavy touch to get round his man before waiting for the ball to bounce and finding the net on the half volley. The goal was the first of the defender’s career.
Vardy headed home a rebound after Pereira’s cross-shot struck the post deep into injury-time but it proved to be a mere consolation as the visitors failed to make their pressure pay – sending Schmeichel up to attack a late corner which he headed past the far post.
United return to action next Sunday away to Brighton while Leicester host newly-promoted Wolves next Saturday.