Premier League preview: Manchester United vs. Leicester City

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  • Man United (9 points): 7th in PL, 6 points off the lead
  • Leicester (7 points): 11th in PL after slow start
  • 1-1 draw in this fixture last season

Three losses in a week — two in the Premier League, one in the Europa League — with only an EFL Cup victory over League 1 side Northampton Town to counteract. Jose Mourinho will be desperately hoping to see his Manchester United side bounce back from his first setback at the club when Leicester City visit Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), before the negativity currently surrounding the Red Devils snowballs and 2016-17 ends up looking like 2015-16 all over again for the Portuguese.

The defense always seemed a likely cause for concern this season, and that’s certainly been the case as Mourinho’s men conceded six times in the losses to Manchester City, Feyenoord and Watford last week. Perhaps just as worrying, they found the back of the net just twice, and enter Sunday’s encounter with the defending champions without a clear first-choice attacking unit. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford have combined to scored six league goals thus far — the latter of which has grabbed his two in just 154 minutes of on-field time — while the rest of the squad has managed two as a whole (one each for Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata).

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Leicester’s slow start — just one point from their first two games, but two wins in their last three — had as much to do with the departure of N'Golo Kante as anything else. With the French midfielder off to Chelsea for $40 million in the summer, manager Claudio Ranieri finds himself still in search of an all-action, do-everything replacement in the heart of midfield.

Islam Slimani enjoyed a dream debut for the Foxes last weekend, scoring twice against Burnley as his new side cruised to a 3-0 victory at the King Power Stadium. Even for the $36 million Leicester paid Sporting CP for the Algerian this summer, that’s a decent immediate return on investment. With Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez combining to score just three times through five games, the best is still yet to come from Leicester in 2016-17.

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Phil Jones (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Anthony Martial (concussion), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (thigh), Luke Shaw (groin) | Leicester — RETURNING: Kasper Schmeichel (concussion), Nampalys Mendy (ankle)

What they’re saying

Mourinho, on football’s Einsteins: “I know that some football Einsteins – football is full of Einsteins – I know that they tried to delete 16 years of my career. They tried to delete an unbelievable history of Man United football club and to focus on a bad week with three bad results. But that’s the new football – it’s full of Einsteins. I can understand clearly the disappointment if the fans are disappointed with the last week. I understand completely, but I’m sure that with the team going back home, they will be behind the team like they always are.”

Claudio Ranieri, on Mourinho feud: “It’s prehistoric, not now. It was a long time ago, I’m OK. He’s a great manager and a fantastic person. Maybe he will offer me a good red wine. I love red wine and if he offers I will go and drink it with him. Mourinho is a fantastic manager, intelligent, clever. He is OK.”

Prediction

Neither side has realized its identity for the 2016-17 season as of yet, thus a frustratingly choppy affair seems on the cards this weekend. If Leicester can defend deep and hit quickly on the counter — as they did all of last season — Man United will be in big trouble. A point for either side, 1-1.