A brace from Juan Mata wasn’t enough to lift Manchester United to a win over Leicester City, with the visitors being largely wasteful.
Manchester United had the opportunity to open up a sizeable gap between themselves and their fellow rivals. But, the Red Devils fell behind early on, thanks to a scintillating counter attack from the home side. A decent buildup saw Juan Mata fire home the equalizer.
The little magician then lifted United into the lead with a brilliant close-range free-kick. United then went on an attacking spree, with at least a quartet of easy chances being missed. The Red Devils then lived to rue the misses, with Leicester City grabbing a goal late on as Harry Maguire headed it in home from close range.
The draw sees United drift 13 points away from leaders Manchester City. Let us take a look at how each of the Red Devils fared on an individual basis.
David De Gea – 6.5
A normal outing for De Gea, who had a few saves to make. While he couldn’t have done anything for the stoppage-time goal from Harry Maguire, there is a general sense of belief that the first goal could have been averted had De Gea come up to clean the ball rather than fall back and leave the fate to the backtracking defenders.
If there is any chink in De Gea’s armour, it is definitely his sweeping ability. The goalkeeper is a throwback to the old era of goalkeepers and seems to have trouble venturing outside the box.
Victor Lindelof – 7
Lindelof started as right-back, with Valencia unavailable. And the Swede did put in a good shift defensively while his ability to spray passes with ease was also a highlight. Lindelof also kept the ball out of the United’s goal with an on-line clearance and was overall solid, except for earning himself a booking.
Chris Smalling – 6
Smalling was not at fault for the first goal mainly because he was beaten by the bounce on the ball and it cannot be classified as a mistake. The second goal though, he could have done much much better. But, perhaps, it was niggling issue from a few minutes earlier that caught up with him.
Mahrez was waiting for Vardy to come so he pass the ball to him and Chris Smalling was actually waiting with him lmao 😂😂😂💔💔💔 pic.twitter.com/TAsmP7vTXM
— OMAR 👑 (@Omar__cr7_) December 24, 2017
Still, he has faced a lot of flak and a Bailly-less United backline does not look as solid. Expect January reinforcement in the said position.
Phil Jones – 6.5
An average Phil Jones performance. Phil Jones has not made much mistakes in recent times and even though Leicester put two past United’s goal, the Englishman would be content with his own performance.
Ashley Young – 6.5
Had anyone said a while ago, that Ashley Young will be Manchester United’s best left-back, it would have probably gotten the person some very weird looks from the others that heard it. But, however hard a pill to swallow, Young does look like the best left-back for United at the present time.
Young had the highest passing accuracy among all the Manchester United starters and put in a real shift down the left side, accompanying Martial and later on, Rashford to good effect. Quiet, Solid work as usual from the veteran.
Paul Pogba – 5.5
Sorry but for a player that has been hailed as the most complete midfielder in world football, Pogba disappears in more games than he can afford to. The Frenchman tried many things that did not come off, especially one which made the highlight reel and later, a meme as well.
“Man United would have beaten Man City if they had Paul Pogba.”
Pogba back in the team:
Bristol City 2-1 Man United
Leicester City 2-2 Man United pic.twitter.com/IotiW6BBSM
— 9GAG Football ⚽ (@9GAGFootball) December 25, 2017
There has been murmurs about his inconsistency at United and perhaps the last few games would be the best piece of evidence to back one’s thesis on. Must buckle up.
Nemanja Matic – 6.5
Matic as always, was solid and went about his work with aplomb. The only niggling issue with the Serb is his ineffectiveness going forward. And in a 4-2-3-1 formation, a side like United cannot afford for both of his midfielders to be close to non-existent in terms of creative contribution in a single match.
Juan Mata – 9.5
In Juan Mata’s last four games in which he has started, he has scored two goals and recorded three assists. Super form. Super Juan.
— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) December 24, 2017
Mata proved just why Mourinho was wrong in leaving him out. The 29-year-old ran the show and had much more to contribute apart from the two goals. Had the most number of key passes (4) , the most number of shots on target (3) and the most number of dribbles completed (3).
Jesse Lingard – 7
The more we see Lingard in the number 10 role, the more we are convinced that Mourinho has made the correct decision. Lingard, though, should have ended the game when put on through by Romelu Lukaku with a sumptuous pass. Had it not been a hurried shot that hit the post, Lingard might have scored another crucial goal. The boy with the rising stature.
Anthony Martial – 6
Martial had a few good runs. But, more often than not, his shots were wasteful and he did look a bit over his depth on Saturday. Would already know he needs to improve upon his performance.
Romelu Lukaku – 8.5
This has, quite comfortably, been Romelu Lukaku’s best performance in a Manchester United shirt, and yet he has nothing to show for it. Far too many wasted chances.
— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) December 23, 2017
On Saturday, we saw a near-impossible. We saw the beast turning into a beauty, almost. Lukaku connected with his teammates well, ran the channels right and his passes were a joy to behold. If only the likes of Rashford and Lingard were clinical, Lukaku would have ended the match with a couple of assists. Great performance to build upon.
Marcus Rashford – 4.5
It is tough to be hard on Rashford when he is played out of his position for the most time. But, of late, he has been very selfish and that shined through his display after coming on Martial on Saturday. There was an incident where he had two open players in a 3-on-1 situation and he chose to pass backwards while his 1-on-1 did not go as smoothly.
Needs to drop the selfish attitude going forward.
Ander Herrera – 5
Manchester United still have problems in midfield and at right wing. Ander Herrera’s performances have become non-existent and they need more quality in the squad. Have to also sign an orthodox winger – someone like Riyad Mahrez.
— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) December 17, 2017
A transformation that has been most disappointing. From perhaps the best player last season to now being a nervy wreck in midfield, Herrera has completed the reverse-transformation it seems. He came on for the final hustle – the last quarter of an hour and did not look comfortable at all, defending a narrow lead. Does not inspire confidence lately.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – N/A
Too little time to influence the game.
Jose Mourinho – 6
His game plan had worked all right, if not for his players’ wastefulness. But, it was perhaps his own fault that the game ended in a draw. Chris Smalling looked in discomfort and had even sat down on the field for treatment. Surely, there had to be a tactical tweak to allow him to see the game out.
Now either it was Mourinho’s inability to make his players understand of what needed to be done or the players’ inability to understand what Mourinho wanted. But, Smalling stayed on the pitch and his lack of marking on Maguire led to the goal.