With the Premier League starting back up again after a summer of non-stop football, Manchester United fans will enter this season with a hint of trepidation after what has been an underwhelming and problematic pre-season.
Leicester City, who have lost their best player in Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City, have recruited efficiently throughout the transfer window and should be poised to make major strides in finishing in a Europa League-qualifying position. The opening game of the season can enlighten football betting fans into where the team they’ve bet on in the outrights are really at in terms of progression.
While pre-season is not the greatest barometer to judge a team going into the new season, Manchester United’s defensive weakness has become apparent without first-team starters in Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia.
The two full backs give United safety with their pace to track back if needs be, but also their spatial awareness has been shown to very good for wingers who have transformed into defenders. The Red Devils are trying to sign Toby Alderweireld from Tottenham in a deal worth around £60 million - currently priced at 1/4 with Paddy Power - but even if that eventuality does come to fruition, the Belgian is unlikely to start on Friday evening at Old Trafford.
Mourinho’s constant use of Chris Smalling is a concern, given how lacklustre and totally uninspiring he is in defence. Within seven minutes of Eric Bailly being substituted against Bayern Munich for Smalling, United conceded. Such is the frailties of Mourinho’s defence, Leicester are likely to create chances.
Even though Claude Puel will most likely be without Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy - both having played for England during the World Cup - Leicester’s fans will feel confident in Kelechi Iheanacho leading the line and causing disruption. This match is offered at 11/10 for both teams to score during the 90 minutes with Ladbrokes, and it certainly seems well placed to do so.
Manchester United might have been, on the whole, very poor throughout their pre-season matches in America as well as Germany, but there is nothing quite like a home crowd at Old Trafford to ease you into the season.
With Mourinho’s trusted players such as Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Young only returning to training over the weekend and at the beginning of this week, they are unlikely to start from the off against the Foxes.
As seen against Real Madrid and other pre-season matches, United are likely to opt for Alexis Sánchez up front with Juan Mata in behind the Chilean, offering him support. It is going to be a struggle initially to break down Leicester’s defence, but they should find a resolution due to their opponents not being able to field a full strength side.
Although United’s squad in the USA had been lacking creative ingenuity, Sánchez was a bright spark, constantly running in behind the last man and creating a nuisance of himself against his opposition. The Chilean will never stop running or giving his all on the pitch, which is what the Red Devils need to ease them into the season as summer ends - a player who is completely devoted to the cause.
In this fixture last season, United secured a clean sheet and won 2-0. A similar scoresheet for United is going to be played out, but Leicester are bound to find the back of the net due to Mourinho’s weakened defence that has abundant frailties littered in it.
With the likes of new signings James Maddison and Ricardo Pereira, as well as Iheanacho, who has scored four goals in pre-season, Puel will be quietly confident that they can make a competitive game out of their opening match of the new season. This scoreline of 2-1 is at an enticing 15/2 with Ladbrokes.
With the potential absence of Manchester United top goalscorer last season, Lukaku, the former Arsenal forward is destined to spearhead the attack against Leicester.
Sánchez mustered up two goals and one assist in a very disappointing pre-season for his club, but he was one of few who showed exciting glimpses of what to expect of him throughout the campaign. After the Chilean swapped North London for Manchester, Sánchez initially struggled to fire on all cylinders for United and did not look as comfortable playing on the left wing as he does when played just behind the main target man.
However, with a full training camp in him during the off season for the first time in half a decade, Sánchez is as fit as he will ever be heading into the new season. The forward has already shown his sharpness against the likes of Real Madrid - it is now just about providing him with service time and time again.
In Sánchez’s last full season with Arsenal, he was involved in 48 goal contributions in 51 appearances. That type of return is what Manchester United will be hoping for and will be feeling confident that he can manage similar numbers after a summer full of rest.
He might turning 30-years-old this December, but Sánchez’s desire, hunger and devotion should never be questioned. He knows it will be a big season at United and he will want to be a major part in their success. The Chilean is 17/10 to score at anytime against Leicester with the top football betting sites.