This weekend is a rare one in the Premier League, as there is no clash between any two members of the big six. You have to go back to October 2013 to find the last time there wasn’t a tussle between the big boys directly following an international break. The TV companies usually reward you for sitting through an interminable fortnight of dull games with a big match, but not this time, folks.
Still, there’s something bigger than top-of-the-table glory to fight for this weekend. That’s right, it’s the all-important battle for a sixth-place finish in the 2019/20 Premier League.
United are not the outsiders from the big sides to finish in the top six – Paddy has them at 3/10 while Chelsea are 4/7 – but Leicester are the shortest priced of the other 14 teams, at 15/8. Can the Foxes win here? Not in Paddy’s eyes, as he has the home side priced at 4/5, with the draw 13/5 and an away win at 10/3. Leicester have a poor record in this fixture, winning just one of their last 20 league games against United.
As they were 3-1 down in the one match they won, they should really be winless since 1998. But aside from facing each other, the wider form guide definitely gives the away team hope.
Following Brendan Rodgers’ first league game in charge, only Manchester City and Liverpool have won more points than Leicester.
And since Solskjaer was permanently appointed, there’s not many teams who’ve earned fewer points than United. If you’ve only been better than Bournemouth, Watford and Brighton in that spell, you might be better off handing the wheel to somebody else?
United have the worst record of the big six teams when facing one of the other 14 from the start of 2018/19 onwards. They’ve dropped points in 13 of their 31 such matches and might do so again here. A share of the spoils is the value play here.
The main reason Leicester have a chance is they carry a genuine goal scoring threat on the road. The Foxes have finished ninth in each of the last two campaigns, and in their 16 away matches against teams who finished above them in that period, they found the net in 13 of them.
Of course, if any defender knows how Leicester work, it’s old Slabhead.
Can the world’s most expensive defender keep the world’s most Steptoe-looking striker at bay? As United only kept two clean sheets in the league at Old Trafford last season, and conceded two to Crystal Palace in their last home match, probably not.
Four of the last six meetings have featured at least three goals, and since the start of 2017/18 only Manchester City and Watford have had more home league games that paid out on over 2.5 goals than United have. Leicester are a little further down the away table for goal-heavy games, but there have still been at least three in 60% of their league games on the road in the last two years.
Only one player has ever scored in his first three Premier League appearances at Old Trafford, and he currently occupies the manager’s seat there (for the time being at least). United new boy Dan James will become the second if he nets here, and he’s available at 12/5 to do so.
The Red Devils’ pair of penalty pillocks lead the market. One-third of the spot-kicks awarded in the Premier League this season have gone to United, but once Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba have decided who should take the penalty, they’ve usually missed.
However, Rashford has three goals against Leicester in his career, the joint-most he’s bagged against any opposing side, and he scored the winner when these sides last met. Rash is goalless for club and country since the opening weekend, so he’s due one before too much longer.
James Maddison currently holds the coveted ‘most shots without scoring’ trophy for the 2019/20 Premier League. It’s Jamie Vardy who loves sticking it to the big six the most though. He has five career goals against United, and two of the three teams he’s scored more against are Arsenal and Liverpool. Maddison might line them up, but it’ll be Vardy who’ll put them away.