Manchester United’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on March 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO
The English Premier League 2018/2019 season is up for a deserving start after a month of World Cup action in Russia, when Leicester City visit Manchester United at the Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho will be looking to get the team to a winning start, while Claude Puel will want to start the season on a good note.
The Red Devils find themselves in the unusual position of being overlooked as title contenders. They have a 19-point gap to make up on champions Manchester City from last term. On the other side, Mourinho’s last two jobs – at Real Madrid and Chelsea – have ended turbulently during his third year in charge and there are signs that history could repeat itself.
United’s pre-season results and performances have been underwhelming and Mourinho has publicly belittled the young players who made up their US touring party in the absence of those World Cup stars who have enjoyed an extended break.
Jose Mourinho’s side has endured frustration in acquisition of new players and a rather negative pre-season display which ended with two losses, three draws and a win. Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez also voiced his disappointment stating that he hoped for more world-class players to arrive Old Trafford.
Leicester City on the other hand brought in decent quality to bolster their squad after the loss of their talisman Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City. The Algerian contributed 60 goals in his three seasons with the Foxes. With Puel looking to spread the creating burden after Mahrez’s departure, James Madisson, Demarai Gray and Fousseni Diabate will be key for the Foxes as Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho and Shinji Okazaki provide the cutting edge up front.
However, Puel will need to meld his youngsters quickly enough as his may not be secure for long given Leicester’s form in the second half of the season.
After a honeymoon period of one defeat in his first nine matches upon arriving last October, the Frenchman oversaw just five wins across the next 21 league games and Leicester only narrowly hung on to a top-half finish.
The club’s owners might have forgotten the miracle title win of 2015-16 as they have not since gone through a season without making a managerial sacking. And they may not waste much time continuing that trend unless Puel can show improvements.
The expectations of Leicester City’s fans may be tempered after the loss of Riyad Mahrez, who contributed to
The Foxes will need the likes of Jamie Vardy, new signing James Maddison, and Demarai Gray to launch their hopes of finishing in one of European places at the end of the season.
United are unbeaten in eight matches against the Foxes since losing a 5-3 classic at the King Power Stadium in Leicester’s first season back in the top flight in 2014. They also faced them in August last season, when goals from Rashford and Fellaini earned Mourinho’s men a 2-0 win. The Red Devils have won their opening game in each of the last three seasons.
The Red Devils have only lost at home once to the East Midlands outfit in the Premier League era – back in 1998 when Tony Cottee scored the winning goal.