When Claudio Ranieri takes his Leicester City team to Old Trafford on Saturday lunch-time, he will be forgiven for hoping that his side’s top scorer from last season will be in red-hot form.
Indeed, Jamie Vardy may not be the surprise package he once was, but his consistent goal-scoring record, especially against the Red Devils, is enough to encourage even the most pessimistic of Leicester fan.
In the four games he has featured against United, he has scored in three of them – a 1-1 draw both home and away last season, and the Community Shield at the beginning of this campaign. So, a fourth goal against the Red Devils would be much welcomed by his Italian manager.
Vardy seems like a player beginning to slowly find his feet this season. It was always going to be difficult to follow the roller-coaster of last year, and only two goals have perhaps shown that. That said, the desire and ability to create six chances for his team-mates and put in star performances in the Champions League and against Arsenal in particular have put himself in a good position to be up there again.
He will feel that the United game offers plenty for him to work with. After all, his goals against them have all come through his ability to run-in behind, which is his trademark. This trend continued even under Jose Mourinho when in the Charity Shield, Vardy was gifted an opportunity to go around David De Gea and equalise for his club.
With United having lost two in a row in the league, there is every possibility Vardy may get an opportunity against this back-line.
The Red Devils have now conceded five goals in two league games, and will be looking to keep a clean-sheet to get them back on track. Much evidence suggests that they may struggle to keep out a Leicester side whose goal-scoring has risen at the same time as Manchester United’s defending has declined.
New United signing Eric Bailly is one player who is beginning to feel the pressures of a team on the back-foot. In the 2-0 win over Southampton, the former Villarreal man had a 94% pass rate, and he won 100% of his duels in a convincing win. It seemed easy when the team were in-form and confident, but now the Old Trafford outfit have lost that swagger. Compare that to the defeat to Watford, in which Bailly won 33% of his tackles, only intercepting on two occasions. The new-signing is being tested for the first time, and he is having to work over-time to try to keep his stats looking impressive.
Unfortunately for him, Vardy is beginning to pick-up form, as is new-signing Islam Slimani. If the English forward can replicate the level he exhibited against Arsenal; in which he successfully completed five take-ons, then he will cause problems in the United back-line. Whether it be Chris Smalling or Daley Blind that partners Bailly, they will have to work probably the most coherent they ever have in order to keep out the 29-year-old.
In the last four games between the two, United have won two and drawn two while Leicester have not beaten the Red Devils in that time. At Old Trafford, the home side will be just favourites to get a result and get themselves going, but keeping the champions out with the likes of Vardy up-front is going to be crucial if they are to get the result they want out of this game.