Manchester United 4-1 Leicester report: Dropping Wayne Rooney pays off as Jose Mourinho’s men blitz champions
Paul Pogba scored his first goal for Manchester United as they thrashed champions Leicester at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime.
Substitute Demarai Gray scored a spectacular goal for Leicester in the second half, but it proved a mere consolation as United closed out the 4-1 win.
The England captain has struggled to reproduce his best form this season and had to make do with a spot on the bench as Mourinho selected Mata in the number ten role.
Smalling came in at centre-half, with Daley Blind replacing Shaw at left-back, while Ander Herrara was chosen alongside Pogba in central midfield and Rashford was once again paired with Ibrahimovic in attack.
Leicester, meanwhile, were again missing the injured Kasper Schmeichel, so named Ron-Robert Zieler between the sticks, while record signing Islam Slimani partnered Jamie Vardy up front.
They looked the more dangerous side early on, with United understandably cagey given their recent poor run.
But the game swung United’s way on 22 minutes when stand-in skipper Smalling rose highest in the Leicester box and emphatically headed home Daley Blind’s out-swinging corner.
The goal sparked United into life and they almost grabbed a second soon after when Ibrahimovic found Rashford unmarked, but the young striker’s first touch let him down and he could only blaze the ball high and wide.
Pogba was the next to try his luck, the £89million world-record signing striking a powerful long-range effort which Zieler did well to push out.
Leicester were struggling to get out of their own half and United’s pressure told ten minutes before half-time when they deservedly doubled their lead through Mata.
After a sustained spell of possession, Pogba played a clever flick into Jess Lingard who turned the ball into Mata’s path and the Spaniard showed terrific technique to fire home from 18 yards.
Just three minutes later and United had a third as Leicester’s defence disintegrated. Mata was left unmarked at the near post to flick on Blind’s corner and Rashford had the easiest of tasks in tapping home.
United were buoyant and it got even better for the hosts before half-time as Pogba made it four with his first goal for the club.
The Leicester defence once more went to sleep at a corner, and the midfielder rose unmarked to head home Blind’s cross.
Leicester were dead and buried and Ranieri hauled off Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez at half-time, with one eye on the club’s Champions League match with Porto next week.
The Foxes looked a stronger unit for the changes, however, and pulled one back 15 minutes into the second half in stunning style.
Gray, one of the half-time replacements, cut inside and unleashed a stunning long-range drive which flew past a stunned David de Gea.
With United seemingly happy to sit back and see out the game, Gray had another effort which was well blocked by De Gea but that was as good as it got for the visitors.
Mourinho introduced Rooney late on but there was to be no more goals as United closed out a comfortable – and much-needed – win.