Although for a time it looked as if United might win this game more convincingly, this was a comfortable victory against a team who lacked the confidence of the upstarts who, earlier in the season, had stunned United in a manner Reds fans would rather forget. Perhaps this will help.
United dominated the game from the first whistle, taking up residence in the Leicester half for long periods and probing the well-organised Foxes rearguard without, it has to be said, creating too many early chances. The Reds kept their shape and their patience, however, and made a breakthrough with their first clear-cut goalscoring opportunity: Blind tenaciously recovered possession and his pass found Van Persie who fired past Schwarzer and inside the far post. Although there was a hint of offside about the goal, it was a marginal call and the referee’s assistant gave the forward player the benefit of the doubt.
With Leicester opened up, the second goal wasn’t far away. Di Maria found himself through on goal and, although his shot was blocked by Schwarzer, the veteran keeper couldn’t prevent the rebound falling to Falcao, who duly slotted home. A third looked inevitable and it came just before half-time when Rooney, resuming corner-taking duties following the much-ridiculed Phil Jones experiment, found Blind’s head and the ball span across goal before finding the net off the head of Morgan.
Although Shaw had to recover quickly to deny Vardy in first half stoppage time, United had looked at ease throughout the first half. Van Gaal had once again risked incurring the wrath of Twitter by leaving Herrera on the bench, but a midfield of Di Maria, Januzaj and Rooney ahead of Blind in the holding role offered a combination of energy and passing at speed that had often left Leicester chasing shadows, especially after the first goal went in. Blind was particularly impressive, controlling the tempo of the game and offering intelligent passes forward for the three more advanced midfielders to feed off.
There was a mood of optimism at half-time within Old Trafford that United might go on to run up an even more convincing scoreline, but the Reds struggled to reproduce the tempo of the first period, although Falcao, whose movement was a constant threat up front, almost grabbed his second when Rooney’s pass to put him in was weighted slightly too heavily.
What was then a rare moment of danger came when a poor touch from Jones almost let Nugent in but De Gea was in smartly to deny him a goalscoring opportunity. United began to look a little more exposed as the game wore on, however, and Leicester got a goal back when Albrighton’s fine cross found Waszilewski at the back post for the centre back to head a rare goal. At the other end, Di Maria was put in by a superb Rooney ball but the Argentinian, after appearing to position himself perfectly, struck his shot over the bar.
Although Old Trafford urged United forward in the closing stages, the Reds chose to keep possession and slow the game down. Three points is, after all, three points and although it would have been nice to see the kind of cricket score that appeared possible at half time, three points and a comfortable performance will do just fine ahead of the Cup replay and a tricky visit to West Ham next weekend.