Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was pleased to see Manchester United get back to winning ways, even if their previous performances have been “miles better” than Saturday’s against previously unbeaten Leicester.
With draws at Wolves and Southampton book-ending a chastening home loss to Crystal Palace, the Red Devils enjoyed a timely shot in the arm on their return from the international break.
Missed penalties cost United dearly in two of those matches, but Marcus Rashford made no mistake from at Old Trafford, with his early spot-kick proving the difference in a hard-fought 1-0 win.
Highlighting United’s team spirit and character, Solskjaer said: “It’s the first time we’ve had to defend for longer periods, and I thought we did it excellently.
“Of course, we want to play better than this. We want to have the ball and dominate.
“But some games, sometimes you play against teams that give you problems and I thought we rode the game out well.”
A second clean sheet in 16 league matches was key to the victory against Leicester, whose fans goaded Harry Maguire in his first reunion since his record-breaking summer switch to United.
“I thought they did excellent today,” Solskjaer said of his centre-backs. “I thought they read the game well.
“I’ve got loads of admiration for (Jamie) Vardy. I think he’s my type of centre-forward, runs in behind, harasses – and you’ve got to be spot on with your decision-making, when to stay up, when to drop off.
“I think both of them proved their worth today and there were a couple of races and Harry did well against him.”
Asked about the chants and jeers aimed at Maguire by the Leicester fans, Solskjaer said: “I don’t think that bothers him whatsoever.
“You’ve got to be that way – and that’s when you play, when you coach, when you manage.
“We don’t get carried away when we win a game that we maybe don’t deserve to win.
“But we don’t get in the dumps when we don’t win games that we should win because the performances have been miles better than this.
“Today we just have to accept three points and wake up tomorrow with a smile, have the day off and relax a bit and look forward to next week.”
Tammy Abraham’s fine goalscoring form continued with a hat-trick as Chelsea beat Wolves 5-2 at Molineux.
Fikayo Tomori put Frank Lampard’s Blues ahead with a superb 31st-minute strike and Abraham doubled the advantage three minutes later.
Abraham, who had netted twice in each of his previous two games, then added a header in the 41st minute and a 55th-minute finish to make victory look all but secure for the away side.
Wolves hit back via an Abraham own-goal in the 69th minute and it was 4-2 in the 85th thanks to substitute Patrick Cutrone, before Mason Mount notched Chelsea’s fifth in added time.
Abraham’s eventful outing concluded with him coming off injured in the 77th minute – but he had a big smile on his face come the final whistle.
In a quiet opening to the game, it was Wolves – who were celebrating 130 years of playing at Molineux – looking the livelier in an attacking sense as Adama Traore and Diogo Jota had crosses cleared.
Chelsea then registered the contest’s first attempt on goal in the 20th minute as a flick by the fit-again Antonio Rudiger, making his maiden appearance of the season, deflected wide.
Willian subsequently fired over the Wolves goal before the visitors grabbed the lead in spectacular fashion when Jota’s challenge on Mount sent the ball to Tomori and the young defender curled in a stunning strike from around 30 yards out.
Three minutes later the advantage was doubled as Tomori played a pass towards Mount in the box, he went down but the ball ricocheted to Abraham, and the striker turned and fired past Rui Patricio.
And after Andreas Christensen had taken the ball away from Jota in the Chelsea area, Abraham then notched his second, Conor Coady unable to prevent the former Aston Villa loanee from heading in Marcos Alonso’s cross.
As Wolves looked to reply, Raul Jiminez headed wide in first-half stoppage time and three minutes after the break Ruben Neves saw a drive deflect behind off Abraham.
The hosts were then tormented once again by Abraham at the other end of the pitch as he completed his treble, bringing down a Jorginho pass, getting past Coady and slotting a shot into the net.
Cutrone just failed connect with a low Jota delivery in the danger zone, before Mount rounded Patricio, only to see his effort go into the side-netting.
Soon after, Wolves pulled a goal back when Romain Saiss’ header from Joao Moutinho’s corner went in via the gloves of Kepa Arrizabalaga and Abraham.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s team then had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Graham Scott when substitute Matt Doherty went down under pressure from Alonso, before Abraham was forced off having made an uncomfortable landing as Chelsea defended a corner.
Wolves reduced the deficit further with five minutes of normal time remaining when Doherty’s shot was parried by Arrizabalaga and Cutrone converted from close-range on the follow-up, the effort being allowed to stand after a VAR check for offside.
The home side had another penalty shout rejected, following a coming together between Tomori and Cutrone, before Mount wrapped up the scoring late on, taking a pass from substitute Michy Batshuayi, cutting inside Jesus Vallejo and shooting past Patricio.
Provided by Press Association Sport
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers insists the aura associated with Manchester United remains despite their recent decline – and that is why Harry Maguire left for Old Trafford.
United’s trophy-laden era under Sir Alex Ferguson has become a distant memory since his departure in 2013. In fact, Leicester have won more Premier League titles during the intervening years.
Under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the gulf to rivals Manchester City and Liverpool has become a chasm, while the gap to what is often referred to as the chasing pack has narrowed alarmingly.
In contrast, Leicester are a club very much on the up. However, this summer they lost their star defender to United after Maguire made it clear he would like to join Solskjaer’s side – and the Foxes’ asking price of £80million was met.
Some questioned Maguire’s move, suggesting Leicester, in the short term at least, might achieve more success, but Rodgers says he understands why the England international wanted to go.
“I’ve been fortunate enough having been at Liverpool, and I understand the draw that type of club has – Liverpool and Manchester United,” said Rodgers, whose team play United at Old Trafford on Saturday.
“They are the two biggest clubs in the country by far. There are other great clubs and other big clubs but those two, in terms of worldwide status, are above everyone else.
“There are other great clubs in England that are currently trying to catch those two but when players get the opportunity to go to one of those clubs and to experience that type of pressure and expectation – and of course there will be a financial side to it as well, where you can go and double your salary – then that package, in a short career and at Harry’s age, is perhaps too hard to turn down.
“And I understand that – I get it. What we are building here at Leicester is exciting, with the new training ground and how we are trying to progress on the field, but for lots of players that draw is still there and I understand it.”
United have finished in the top four in the Premier League just twice since Ferguson left six years ago, winning two trophies, and Leicester could go six points in front of the Reds with victory on Saturday.
Rodgers said: “They may not have achieved what they would have liked over the past few years but it is still a very tough place to go and I am aware that Leicester have not won at Old Trafford in 21 years.”