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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Manchester United can make winning start to Premier League season

Jose Mourinho could finally have something to smile about

New Man Utd midfielder Fred
1 of 1

Premier League
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Jose Mourinho has spent the summer moaning about various problems at Manchester United but the smile could return to his face when the Red Devils kick off the 2018-19 Premier League season against Leicester at Old Trafford.

Mourinho's mood will not have been helped by drawing a blank on deadline day of the transfer window. He failed to bring in another centre-back, adding to his list of pre-season gripes which have included Anthony Martial exiting the USA tour to spend time with his new-born baby and his World Cup stars taking the agreed three-week holiday.

There is no doubt United have been left short of defensive quality and they will be a long way from full strength because of those who returned late from the World Cup. But Leicester are in the same boat with key men Jamie Vardy and United target Harry Maguire short of full fitness.

United's squad remains superior and the odds-on shots can oblige, although it may be a narrow triumph.

It's clear Mourinho is unhappy with the lack of summer deals and missing out on a centre-back could be a significant problem when the major honours are dished out, although United kept 12 home clean sheets last season in the Premier League.

Eleven of those shutouts came against teams from outside of the big six and one goal could be enough for them to claim maximum points.

Much will be expected of Alexis Sanchez after a rare summer off for the Chilean flyer and Romelu Lukaku was one of those who accepted Mourinho's plea to return early from his holiday to increase his chances of being fit for the season-opener.

World Cup winner Paul Pogba may not be able to join his mate Lukaku in the starting 11, but there will be a debut for midfielder Fred, who has impressed Sanchez in pre-season.

"It's what the team lacked - someone who plays 'jogo bonito' (the beautiful game) as they say in Brazil," said the Chilean of the man brought in at great expense from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Leicester boss Claude Puel hinted Maguire and Vardy would not start at Old Trafford having returned to training only on Monday, but he must be tempted to risk them with the team still adjusting to the departure of Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City.

Jonny Evans is rated doubtful to face his former club and that handicaps Leicester's chances of causing an upset.

Puel has some decent options, including new playmaker James Maddison from Norwich, although the Foxes are the sort of side who may need a few weeks to reach theirpeak level.

Manchester United to win by one goal
1pt 5-2 Sky Bet

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Team news
Manchester United
Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo, Diogo Dalot, Antonio Valencia, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera are injured.

Jonny Evans is doubtful but has returned to training, along with James Maddison and Demarai Gray. New signing Filip Benkovic is waiting for international clearance, while Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy need to be assessed. Papy Mendy and Matty James are out.

Key stat
A league-high 24 of Leicester's 38 Premier League matches saw both teams score last season.

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United's squad remains superior and the odds-on shots can oblige, albeit in a narrow triumph
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