Manchester United 3-1 Leicester City – Has van Gaal finally discovered the diamonds that shine?
Leicester City shaped-up in a 4-4-2 formation against Manchester United’s 4-4-2 diamond formation. Louis van Gaal placed Angel Di Maria behind a strike partnership of Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie, which provided enough potential to overcome Leicester City’s organized defensive unit. Previously, the slow tempo of Manchester United’s attacks and desperate lack of movement up front affected their inability to score enough. The key battle in this game was Di Maria’s ability to intertwine the midfield and attack together, and the forwards’ runs in behind the Leicester City defence. The visitors made four changes: Hamer, Konchesky, Knockaert and Nugent made way for Schwarzer, Da Laer, Ulloa and Kramaric respectively.
Alike the two clubs’ previous meeting back in September, it was a clash of similar formations; Nigel Pearson replicated their opposition’s diamond formation to full effect. At Old Trafford, Leicester City tried staying disciplined; eventually failing against Di Maria and Rooney’s attacking play through the middle with support from attacking full-backs Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia. A delightful pass over the Leicester City defence from Blind to Van Perise opened the scoring – latter being in an offside position, when the ball was eventually played. At times, during counterattacks, Di Maria blistering pace (through the middle) and Falcao’s runs were noticeable – resulting in Manchester United’s second goal as the latter bundled the ball into the goal after Schwarzer failed to hold Di Maria’s shot.
The Red Devils’ incapability to provide mantel in attack was a result of their striker’s immobility; failing to drop into the channels. But, from the kick-off their approach meant the Leicester City’s defenders should be at their toes if they are to grind any result. Both Manchester United strikers operated fluidly dropping deep and supported attacking full-backs. Adnan Januzaj provided an extra option down the left-side as Di Maria and Rooney operated through the middle. Staying at the base of the diamond, Blind provided additional defensive stability to Jones and Rojo. Valencia and Shaw’s ability to motor forward adds essential decisiveness to the play. Despite the fact: first-choice Valencia isn’t a natural right-back, he is surely one of the key members of Van Gaal’s setup. Meanwhile, Rooney’s corner was touched on by the influential Blind, and Wes Morgan’s attempt to head clear only found Schwarzer’s top left corner.
In the second half, Cambiasso’s introduction for Vardy in the Leicester City midfield delivered additional experience and authority.
With Marcos Rojo assured at the heart of the United defence there was no way back for Leicester. When Nugent was gifted a chance shortly after coming on after Jones under-cooked a back pass, De Gea was alert to the situation and left his line to get a crucial touch. Nugent’s arrival did signal a determination to keep going from Leicester, however, and the visitors did manage to deny United a clean sheet when Wasilewski beat Rooney and Jones to head in Marc Albrighton’s cross from close range.
Leicester City had a handful of chances, lately. But, never looking like causing a shock but threatening a second goal. Di Maria should really have put the game to bed after showing brilliant control to bring down a Rooney pass five minutes from time. Instead, the Argentine blasted the ball into the Stretford End.
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