Manchester United will look to put a disappointing summer behind them when they headline the 2018-19 Premier League season opener against Leicester City at Old Trafford today.
Jose Mourinho’s side won only one of their six pre-season matches in 90 minutes—they beat AC Milan on penalties—and his relationship with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been hurt over transfers, according to several media outlets.
Leicester manager Claude Puel has had a calmer summer of preparation and completed several signings including Jonny Evans and James Maddison, as well as losing only once in five outings in pre-season.
The Foxes are clear underdogs to begin their 2018-19 campaign with victory at Old Trafford, but absences following the 2018 Fifa World Cup mean United may be weakened enough to drop points at this stage of the season.
Pre-season has come to a rather poor end for United both on and off the pitch, with their last tune-up result being Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof each made their first pre-season appearances against Bayern after returning from their post-World Cup holidays slightly early.
Mourinho confirmed on Monday that Lukaku, along with Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young, had returned to training after they ventured late into the World Cup, though he suggested not all will feature today.
Puel enjoyed a relatively successful first season at the King Power Stadium and helped Leicester to finish ninth in the Premier League. They’ve since signed Evans from West Bromwich Albion and Ricardo Pereira from Porto, as well as the £20 million signing of Maddison from Norwich City.
The most recent arrival at Leicester is winger Rachid Ghezzal from AS Monaco, who could be in line to make his debut against United.
Puel recently suggested that reported Red Devils target Harry Maguire was unlikely to play at Old Trafford after his exertions at the World Cup with England, and it appeared Jamie Vardy would also stay rested.
United are unbeaten in eight matches against the Foxes and haven’t lost to Leicester at Old Trafford since January 1998, but a sense of vulnerability around Mourinho’s squad may give today’s visitors hope for an upset.