WILLIE DUNCAN (@Willie_Duncan) is in the hot-seat for the early Saturday kick-off as Manchester United welcome Leicester to Old Trafford.
Manchester United v Leicester | Saturday 12.30 | Sky Sports 1
If anyone had suggest 12 months ago that Leicester might not be at their very best against Manchester United at Old Trafford because Claudio Ranieri’s men could have one eye on their home debut in the Champions League, it is fair to suggest that the person in question would have been laughed at loud and heartily.
That, however, is the very conundrum facing punters ahead of this weekend’s Premier League curtain-raiser on Saturday lunchtime – and Jose Mourinho’s men may be the main beneficiaries should the Foxes find their minds wandering towards Tuesday’s tussle with Porto at the King Power.
Despite United having suffered three defeats in their last four games – with the only win coming against Northampton in the EFL Cup – there are still fewer trips in English football that are more daunting than Old Trafford if you’re not at your best.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored four goals in five Premier League matches so far this season – and the veteran Swede was merely a Heurelho Gomes fingertip away from making it five goals in five top-flight fixtures earlier this summer after the Watford stopper denied him with a stunning save.
Ibrahimovic won’t have enjoyed failing to find the net in that match and he won’t have much enjoyed losing to Watford either and there is no doubt that Ibra will be as determined as anyone to get his name back on the scoresheet on Saturday afternoon.
Marcus Rashford, too, must be desperate to be fully unleashed in the Premier League for the teenage sensation, who has had his game time severely restricted at Old Trafford this season, has hit six goals in six games for club and country.
And surely it is only a matter of time before the Paul Pogba that Manchester United paid a world record transfer fee turns up and does something more spectacular than send a shot crashing against the crossbar, as he did at Vicarage Road last time out.
Wayne Rooney, too, will be desperate to prove his doubters wrong and, so, despite some recent poor results, there is no doubt that Mourinho’s squad is packed with world class talent and that if Leicester are not at their best, they could receive another away-day thumping – as they did when they were lashed 4-1 by Liverpool at Anfield earlier this month.
The Premier League champions, however, will not go down without a fight, for they, too, have plenty of exciting attacking options to choose from.
Jamie Vardy has yet to hit the heights that he reached last season, but he always has the potential to grab a goal; the same can be said for Riyad Mahrez, while recent doubles from Islam Slimani and Shinji Okazaki have highlighted that Leicester’s squad perhaps has more strength in depth than their detractors would give them credit for.
If the Foxes lack focus, United will almost certainly win well, but this match has plenty of potential for goals, given that Mourinho’s men have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last four fixtures.
As such, it is the 5/6 (Boylesports) quote for both teams to get amongst the goals that is the recommended play for punters ahead of Saturday’s showdown at Old Trafford.
Manchester United v Leicester – Both Teams To Score (5/6 Boylesports)