Manchester United returned to winning ways in the Premier League in emphatic style after four first-half goals led to the Reds beating champions Leicester City 4-1 at Old Trafford.
Chris Smalling headed United into a 22nd-minute lead following a Daley Blind corner, before Juan Mata doubled the Reds’ tally on 37 minutes. Two further Blind corners were met by Mata, who found Marcus Rashford for the third strike, and then Paul Pogba who made it 4-0 three minutes before the break with his first senior goal for the club.
Demarai Gray pulled one back for the visitors with a stunning strike 14 minutes into the second half, but it turned out to be a mere consolation as United came away with the much-needed three points.
As expected, Jose Mourinho reshuffled his pack following the win over Northampton Town in midweek, with the likes of David De Gea, Eric Bailly, Pogba and Mata all restored to the starting XI. Zlatan Ibrahimovic began the game up front, with club captain Wayne Rooney on the bench.
United came into this fixture against the champions knowing only a win would do following two successive Premier League defeats and started on the front foot, looking to boss proceedings with the lion’s share of possession. Ibrahimovic so nearly played in Rashford with an acute through ball, but former United youth-team goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler was quick off his line to gather.
At the other end, the Foxes were looking dangerous on the counter attack. First former United acadamy graduate Danny Drinkwater had a shot blocked following a corner, before Robert Huth blasted over from a narrow angle.
The opener for United came on 22 minutes through an unlikely source. A Blind out-swinging corner was met by the towering Smalling who climbed above three Leicester defenders to bullet a header past Zieler, who did get a hand to the ball, but could not prevent the Reds taking the lead.
Minutes later and it could have been two as United began to turn the screw. First Ibrahimovic fired over before Rashford did likewise. Pogba then clipped a majestic ball over a Leicester defender for Ibrahimovic, but the Swede again fired over. Were United going to rue these missed chances? The Old Trafford faithful hoped not as they rose to their feet in appreciation of the summer signings’ clever combination.
On the half-hour mark, Pogba was involved again. This time he struck a stunning 40-yard curling effort towards goal which was tipped wide by Zieler, but the pressure finally told on 37 minutes as great interplay between Mata, Pogba and Lingard allowed the Spaniard to celebrate his 150th Premier League start in style as he fired past Zieler into the far corner.
United weren’t done there. A quick corner from Blind three minutes later found Mata again who squared for Rashford to slide the ball in for the Reds third goal and second in quick succession.
If two Blind corners wasn’t enough, how about three? This time Pogba rose highest to head past Zieler for his first senior Reds goal. He celebrated in typically cool style, standing proud as the fans watched on in awe. The game was as good as over by half-time.
Possession: United 66% Leicester 34%
Shots at goal: United 10 Leicester 5
Shots on target: United 5 Leicester 0
Corners: United 5 Leicester 3
United had a lot to live up to in the second period but it was the visitors who struck next.
Claudio Ranieri introduced Andy King and Gray at half time and the latter spectacularly beat De Gea from 35 yards with a stunning strike into the top corner. A contender for Leicester’s goal of the season thus far.
Lingard fired over on 65 minutes before Ibrahimovic’s low shot was tipped wide by Zieler as United looked to add a fifth.
King should have pulled a second back for Leicester, but after great work by Jeff Schlupp, could only fire straight at De Gea.
Grey was then close to replicating his goal with a similar effort, but this time De Gea did well to tip it wide for a corner.
It was a relatively quiet second half in truth, but the damage was done in the first half as United silenced the recently vocal critics in impressive fashion.
Possession: United 67% Leicester 33%
Shots at goal: United 16 Leicester 10
Shots on target: United 7 Leicester 3
Corners: United 8 Leicester 6 United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Blind; Pogba, Herrera; Rashford (Rooney 83′), Mata (Young 87′), Lingard (Carrick 78′); Ibrahimovic. Subs not used: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Rojo, Fellaini.
Leicester City: Zieler; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez (Gray 45′), Amartey, Drinkwater, Albrighton (Schlupp 62′); Vardy (King 45′), Slimani. Subs not used: Hernández, Musa, Hamer, Okazaki, Ulloa.
Booked: Huth, Simpson