Jose is still the Special One
Mourinho shows he's not afraid to make changes as United impress without Rooney and Fellaini
MAN UNITED 4
(Chris Smalling 22, Juan Mata 37, Marcus Rashford 40, Paul Pogba 42)
LEICESTER CITY 1
(Demarai Gray 59)
The apprehension at Old Trafford instantly evaporated, replaced by fresh optimism from a crushing win.
Jose Mourinho rang the changes on Saturday (Sept 24) and was rewarded with a sizzling show by his Manchester United side.
Defending Premier League champions Leicester City were comprehensively beaten, conceding four first-half goals which they never recovered from.
Goals by Chris Smalling, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba gave the hosts an unassailable first-half lead, before Demarai Gray netted a consolation goal for the Foxes after the break.
If the events of the past fortnight had left United fans disillusioned, this dazzling display, at least the first half, would have given them fresh hope.
The Red Devils had suffered three consecutive losses in all competitions before arresting the slide with a 3-1 win over League One outfit Northampton in the League Cup third round during midweek.
It was clear some things had to change, and the loudest call was directed at Wayne Rooney.
United fans were convinced the captain had to be dropped.
Mourinho hesitated and even deployed Rooney as a centre forward against Northampton, in the hope that he would get among the goals to boost his confidence.
It didn't work. Yesterday, Mourinho finally took the hard decision.
Rooney had to be content with a place on the bench as Mata was entrusted with the No. 10 role.
The Spaniard's speed of thought, timing, and dynamism were clearly what Rooney lacked and he gave his side an attacking impetus not seen in a while.
INJECTION OF PACE
The presence of Jesse Lingard and Rashford beside Mata also injected some much-needed pace to a United attack which featured Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the tip.
Mourinho's tactical tweaks also brought the best out of the world's most expensive player, Pogba.
Until yesterday, the £89-million ($156.9m) signing had struggled to live up to his transfer fee.
Mourinho decided to pair Ander Herrera alongside the Frenchman instead of Marouane Fellaini in a deep midfield role.
Not only did the move allow the 23-year-old Pogba more freedom to roam upfield, it also equipped his team with the necessary speed to cope with a quick Leicester attack led by Jamie Vardy.
The result was a spectacular performance by Pogba, who was a constant menace in the final third of the field, picking apart the Foxes' defence with his superb range of passes.
His splendid headed goal - his first for the club - will surely come as a confidence boost, after a slow start to his second United stint.
Down 4-0 at half-time, Leicester were in danger of getting thoroughly humiliated.
But they were let off the hook as United took their foot off the pedal in the second half, seemingly content to hold on for the three points.
The manner of the defeat must worry Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri.
After leading the Foxes to a shock Premiership title last season, his team now have only seven points from their first six league games.
That three of the four goals they conceded yesterday came from corner kicks showed just how far their standards have fallen since their triumph in May.
Instead, it was United who displayed the hunger and ruthless streak.
Credit must go to Mourinho, who once again silenced his critics with a tactical masterpiece.
That's why he's the Special One.
NO. 1: Chris Smalling heads in Daley Blind’s corner kick. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP NO. 2: Juan Mata blasts the ball past Foxes’ Ron-Robert Zieler. NO. 3: Marcus Rashford finishes from close range after Mata squares Blind’s corner kick. NO. 4: Paul Pogba leaps above Christian Fuchs to head home another Blind corner.
>Paul McGrath, former Man United and Aston Villa defender and Ireland captain:
Different class from Utd, Game over at half time. Pogba Brilliant.
>Gary Lineker, former Leicester and Tottenham striker and England captain:
Congratulations and well played @ManUtd. Thrilled for you!
>Eric Bailly, Man United defender:
Happy to see Old Trafford's smile again! Congratulations to @PaulPogba for your first goal!
>David de Gea, Man United goalkeeper:
We are back #MUFC
>Usain Bolt, sprint superstar and Man United fan: That's what I'm talking about @paulpogba @ManUtd