Manchester United defeated Leicester City 2-1 on the opening day of the Premier League. To make this possible, Andreas Pereira, Fred, and Paul Pogba showcased a variety of skills in the center of the pitch. Moreover, it should be noted that Eric Bailly bailed Manchester United out of trouble on numerous occasions.
Those who are familiar with Andreas Pereira know him as an attacking midfielder. Against Leicester City, he played in a surprisingly defensive role. Still, the young Brazilian puffed out his chest and looked as if he had been playing with the first team for years. Most impressively, he kept his passes tidy in a match where some of the more experienced players couldn’t pass effectively at all. This is particularly impressive considering how Manchester United invited pressure from Leicester City after Paul Pogba scored an early penalty.
Similar to Pereira, Fred understood his role and executed it well. Defensively, he covered an absolutely ridiculous amount of space in this match. That is, the Brazilian sprinted out to confront opposing players in possession of the ball. From an attacking perspective, when Fred received the ball, his first touch looked sharp. On numerous occasions, he let the ball run across his body in order to open up pockets of space in midfield. In doing so, he gave his teammates more time on the ball.
However, make no mistake, center-back Eric Bailly still shouldered more of the defensive responsibilities in this match than he should have. He rose magnificently in the air and put in some sensational sliding blocks. He also cleared the ball with purpose and determination. Ideally, Bailly would have fewer attacks to deal with, particularly at Old Trafford. He will surely appreciate having a specialist like Nemanja Matic back in the team. The Serbian is widely known for his interceptions and tackles just in front of the back four.
Paul Pogba delivered the strongest performance out of the starting midfield three, despite the absence of Nemanja Matic. The Frenchman seems to have matured drastically since becoming a World Cup winner. There were moments against Leicester City when Pogba received a pass in a tight area and chose to win a throw-in. Still, fans saw the flashy side of his game as well. He showcased nutmegs and step-overs to wonderful effect. Given these two sides to his game, Pogba can give the fans entertaining moments while also assuring manager Jose Mourinho of his tactical discipline. As the poster boy of Manchester United, Pogba will be pivotal in a top four race or a title race.
In many ways, this was a typical Jose Mourinho performance. His team scored an early goal and defended for long periods in the match. However, he will not care at all if the performance wasn’t easy on the eyes. In fact, he raised his fists in a dramatic show of victory when Luke Shaw found the back of the net. The Portuguese looks determined to make an impact this season, and he must be thinking that he doesn’t have much longer at The Theatre of Dreams.
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