Manchester, Sep 24 (IANS) Manchester United returned to their winning ways in emphatic fashion after four first-half goals saw them beating champions Leicester City 4-1 in the English Premier League (EPL) football competition here on Saturday.
Defender Chris Smalling headed United into a 22nd-minute lead following a Daley Blind corner, before Juan Mata doubled the Reds’ tally on 37 minutes at the Old Trafford stadium.
Two further Blind corners were met by Mata, who found Marcus Rashford for the third strike, and then Paul Pogba who made it 4-0 three minutes before the break with his first senior goal for the club.
Demarai Gray pulled one back for the visitors with a stunning strike 14 minutes into the second half, but it turned out to be a mere consolation as United came away with the much-needed three points.
As expected, Jose Mourinho reshuffled his pack following the win over Northampton Town in midweek in the English League Cup, with the likes of David De Gea, Eric Bailly, Pogba and Mata all restored to the starting XI. Zlatan Ibrahimovic began the game up front, with club captain Wayne Rooney on the bench.
United came into this fixture against the champions knowing only a win would do following two successive EPL defeats and started on the front foot, looking to boss proceedings with the lion’s share of possession.
Ibrahimovic so nearly played in Rashford with an acute through ball, but former United youth-team goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler was quick off his line to gather.
At the other end, the Foxes were looking dangerous on the counter attack. First former United acadamy graduate Danny Drinkwater had a shot blocked following a corner, before Robert Huth blasted over from a narrow angle.
The opener for United came on 22 minutes through an unlikely source. Blind’s out-swinging corner was met by the towering Smalling who climbed above three Leicester defenders to bullet a header past Zieler, who did get a hand to the ball, but could not prevent the hosts taking the lead.
Minutes later and it could have been two as United began to turn the screw. First Ibrahimovic fired over before Rashford did likewise. Pogba then clipped a majestic ball over a Leicester defender for Ibrahimovic, but the Swede again fired over.
On the half-hour mark, Pogba was involved again. This time he struck a stunning 40-yard curling effort towards goal which was tipped wide by Zieler. But the pressure finally told on 37 minutes as great interplay between Mata, Pogba and Lingard allowed the Spaniard to celebrate his 150th EPL start in style as he fired past Zieler into the far corner.
United weren’t done there. A quick corner from Blind three minutes later found Mata again who squared for Rashford to slide the ball in for United’s third goal and second in quick succession.
Then Pogba rose highest to a Blind corner kick and head past Zieler for his first senior United goal. He celebrated in typically cool style, standing proud as the fans watched on in awe. The game was as good as over by half-time.