18+ | Commercial Content | T&Cs apply | Begambleaware.org
Leicester slipped to a 3-0 defeat to a dominant Manchester United to increase the pressure on last season's champions.
Here are five things we learned.
Leicester are very much in danger of relegation
This time last year, Leicester were five points clear at the top of the Premier League and basking in everything that came with it. Vardy was scoring goals left, right and centre. Riyad Mahrez was playing like he’d swapped bodies with Lionel Messi. N’Golo Kante was intercepting anything and everything that came his way. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth were formidable in defence, with Kasper Schmeichel somehow encapsulated the spirit of his father. What a difference twelve months can make.
The Foxes currently sit in 16th place and looking over their shoulder was a thing of the past – they’re in the thick of it now. The same back five that conceded 36 goals in 38 games last season has already conceded 41 in 24 this time around. Some players look too comfortable after being handed contract extensions in the summer, and the desire we’ve become used to seeing in the side has vanished.
Claudio Ranieri and Leicester may have won everyone’s hearts last season, but the club is dropping like a stone and with Hull, Sunderland and Swansea showing signs of a revival, he needs to find a way to turn things around – and fast.
Mourinho’s omission of Mkhitaryan gets more baffling
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was one of the best players in Europe last season, so understandably, everyone was confused when Jose Mourinho kept leaving him out of the Manchester United squad. After explaining in November that he ‘wanted more’ from the 28-year-old, Mourinho is certainly getting more from him now. Against Leicester, Mkhitaryan was selected in the number ten role ahead of Juan Mata and the decision was more than justified as he put in a Man of the Match performance.
The former Borussia Dortmund man took advantage of some questionable defending to put United ahead just before half-time, before playing a beautiful one-two with Juan Mata who put then game beyond doubt. Not only that, but his work rate is admirable, the willingness he shows to bring others into play is excellent and when he starts driving towards goal from midfield he is impossible to stop.
After biding his time early on, Mkhitaryan continues to be a model professional and will be an undoubted asset to the side as they set their sights on Champions League football next season.
READ MORE: Player Ratings: Leicester 0-3 Manchester United
Jamie Vardy – one season wonder?
Jamie Vardy has officially entered one season wonder territory. Having netted 24 times in Leicester’s miraculous title winning season, the 29-year-old has only managed to score five league goals this campaign, with three of those coming in one game. Everything that made Vardy so difficult to defend against like his relentless energy, clinical finishing and nasty streak have all disappeared, with teams simply giving him no space to run into behind. The England striker did not register a shot on target against David De Gea today, which says it all.
Compared to the top scoring strikers in the league, it’s easy to see why Vardy is struggling. The former Fleetwood Town striker has taken 27 shots and completed seven take-ons in 24 appearances this season. Compare that to Alexis Sanchez (84 and 67), Romelu Lukaku (62 and 49) and Diego Costa (68 and 39) – the difference is considerable. Leicester’s performances and the amount of service he is receiving should be taken into account, but a striker with his skills set should be able to create opportunities by himself. If this miserable malaise continues, he’ll be regretting much more than turning town Arsenal.
Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial need to worry about their United futures
Jose Mourinho is known as ‘the enemy of the academy’ in some quarters due to his reluctance in giving young players a chance. The 54-year-old values defensive awareness and correct decision making, which are skills that tend to develop with experience. In Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial, Mourinho has two of the most highly rated talents in Europe, yet one can hardly make the squad at all while the other is only good enough to earn a spot on the bench. Should the pair start to worry about their Manchester United futures?
After notching up 17 goals and 11 assists in his first Premier League season, the thought of Martial linking up with Ibrahimovic and Pogba had United fans salivating. An ice cool finisher in front of goal and lightning quick on the break, they had perhaps unearthed the next goalscoring machine. Shaw also showed glimpses of his vast potential at Old Trafford before having his leg broken, but is struggling to work his way back into the side with small injuries taking their toll and Marcos Rojo playing well.
Several clubs would be interested in their signatures should they express unhappiness, but everybody knows that Mourinho is about as unflappable as they come. It seems like their time to impress is running out.
READ MORE: Why Wilfred Ndidi Could Transform Leicester's Season
Wilfred Ndidi looks an exciting prospect
After joining Leicester in January for £15million, Wilfred Ndidi looks to have a bright future ahead of him. In a team that looked void of fight, urgency and desire against Manchester United, the Nigerian was a constant source of drive in midfield and a cut above his new team-mates.
He has all the physical tools to succeed in English football but also boasted a nice range of passing throughout the 90 minutes. Replacing Kante is almost an impossible task, but Ndidi completed 71 tackles and interceptions in the Europa League for Genk last season – more than anyone else in the competition.
Having parted with over £50million for Islam Slimani and Ahmed Musa last summer, both players have failed to convince Ranieri that they were worth anywhere near that kind of money but the initial signs are good here. At just 19 years of age, the midfielder could prove to be a smart pick-up should Leicester become the ever first team to win the title and get relegated in consecutive seasons.