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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

What did we learn about Arsenal's next opponents Man United in 1-0 win at Leicester City?



By Alessandro Schiavone at Leicester City's King Power Stadium


Manchester United have made it three wins on the trot after Jadon Sancho’s tap-in inflicted a 1-0 home defeat on Leicester City yesterday night. Arsenal will travel to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, looking to burst Erik Ten Hag’s bubble all while trying to extend their own victorious run to six games. But what have we learned about the rejuvenated Red Devils and what can the Gunners expect?


Varane is back to his best


Raphael Varane gave Leicester City a quick reminder of what they were up against yesterday when his crucial interception denied Jamie Vardy in on goal from a danger zone after 16 minutes. And in a key moment of the game with eight minutes to go the break, he won possession back in Leicester’s half before his teammates broke quickly only for Sancho to have his shot deflected from Marcus Rahsford’s cutback. In the 60th minute the revitalised centre-back gave the disjointed Harvey Barnes no chance with a brilliant piece of defending to dispossess him.


All in all, Varane looks like the force of old again. Whether it’s because he has a full season in English football under his belt, due to being benched for the first two games of the season or because he has a new defensive partner in Lisandro Martinez, the French World Cup winner is rolling back the years. Stunningly. If the Red Devils didn’t concede any clear-cut chances from open play to Brendan Rodgers’ team until James Justin skied his attempt in stoppage-time, it’s because the former Lens star, with the assistance of his rearguard colleagues and the defensive midfield’s protection, efficiently shut up shop.


New Arsenal superstar (even if he doesn’t fancy that flattering tag) Gabriel Jesus will be in for a challenging afternoon on Sunday at Old Trafford.


Since coming on for Lisandro Martinez at half-time in Brentford before the pair became an insurmountable partnership, Man United have only leaked on goal, against Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah, in 270 minutes. And if life looks very different at Old Trafford Varane has played a key part in it. Against the Reds, Southampton and yesterday at the King Power Stadium, Varane displayed a good understanding of the game, knows what he’s got to do on and off the ball and rarely looked flustered and rushed in possession. It looks as though last season’s investment is beginning to pay off. Surprisingly it took the ex-Real Madrid serial winner the arrival of a Dutch manager, famed for his attacking predilection, to do so. Or maybe was Harry Maguire his problem? Whatever the reason, Saka, Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus will have to raise their game on Sunday.



McTominay is better since Casemiro’s arrival


McTominay put in a good shift against Leicester City. The indefatigable Scotsman broke up the Foxes’ attacks, such as when he dispossessed the sloppy Barnes with a perfect tackle on 22 minutes. And he also served good balls forward thanks to ability to play with his back to goal, swivel and hold off challenges before playing a short or long pass. If there is someone who deserves to keep his place in midfield following the arrival of Casemiro, it’s McTominay. But taken the chemistry between Casemiro and Fred for Brazil into account, even that is no guarantee.



Jadon Sancho enjoys his football again


The heavy price tag Man United of £72.6 million the club paid to sign no longer look like a burden on the Englishman’s shoulders. Yesterday Sancho played with freedom and like someone who enjoys his football again. The signs are encouraging and even though the Premier League isn’t the Bundesliga where he registered a staggering 64 assists in 137 games, he looks on his way back. And Leicester City were on the receiving end of his rebirth as the former Dortmund man scored the all-important winner. He latched onto Marcus Rashford’s through ball, effortlessly rounded Danny Ward before guiding it into the empty net. That was clinical. Last season proved to be a tough one for Sancho. On the back of his missed penalty at euro 2020 the mood and confidence weren’t the best. And making matters worse, he never quite hit it off with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. His displays improved under Ralf Rangnick in the second part of the season but now Ten Hag, who knows how to get the best of young players as he showed at Ajax, has found the magic formula for the youngster. On the face of it, he can only kick on from here and get better and better. Arsenal are a different beast altogether but Sancho showed against Liverpool that he can raise his levels against the best in the land.



Good under pressure


Brentford created havoc against the Red Devils by pressing them high because Thomas Frank knew that’s where the rewards were against a team low on confidence at the time. Yet even though Leicester did the same, Man United stood firm, showing that they are much more comfortable playing out form the back and passing it around in their own half these days. But Arteta’s Arsenal can still find gaps to deliver the sucker punch if they make good use of their wingers and stretch Man United with their pace and unpredictably down the flanks. If Saka and company manage to exploit the defensive weaknesses of fullbacks Diogo Dalot and Tyrell Malacia they have a chance as Man United still concede a lot of territory and are happy to concede possession to the opposition before hitting on the break. Against Leicester it worked a treat but the high-flying Gunners won’t fall for it and let Man United have the ball in key moments of the encounter.



Cristiano Ronaldo has to start


Anthony Elanga looked off the pace yesterday while Rashford is not a killer as his sliced shot from an outstanding Ronaldo lay-off epitomised.

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Man United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was left out of the XI for a record third time in a row yesterday but in the 27 minutes on the pitch he caused Leicester all sorts of problems. His legs may have aged and he has definitely lost that yard of pace but in yesterday’s cameo he could have netted a brace had his spectacular overhead kick from a difficult angle come off. He also fired a low shot across the face of goal after making a smart run in behind the Leicester defence. Now that the transfer window is over the wantaway five-time Ballon D’or winner will switch off all the noise and be able to full refocus on football. And for sure the iconic Portuguese won't miss the same chances again. The question is will he start against the North Londoners? If he does and hits top form just on time for Arsenal's visit, the likes of William Saliba, Gabriel, Thomas Tierney and Ben White are in trouble.

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