Manchester, United Kingdom, Sep 14 – Marcus Rashford put the disappointment of a previous penalty miss behind him by scoring from the spot to give Manchester United a much-needed 1-0 win over Leicester at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The result was also a personal triumph for United’s £80 million ($99 million) defender Harry Maguire, signed from Leicester last month and jeered and taunted throughout the game by his former supporters.
Maguire made an early error that might have gifted his old team the lead but grew in stature throughout as United secured just their second win in 10 Premier League games.
“I don’t think that bothers him whatsoever,” said United manager Solskjaer. “You’ve got to be that way.
“When you play, when you coach, when you manage, you don’t get carried away when you win maybe a game you don’t deserve to win, but you don’t get in the dumps when you don’t win the games you deserve to.”
Solskjaer’s admission that this was a game United were fortunate to win was honest and accurate and one he could make thanks to Rashford’s eight minute penalty – the fourth spot kick awarded to his team in their opening five games.
Penalties have dominated much of the news agenda around United in the early stages of the campaign, with Paul Pogba and Rashford both guilty of misses that cost their team points against Wolves and Palace.
So when Caglar Soyuncu pushed over Rashford, all eyes were on the identity of the taker, and the outcome of the kick.
Pogba, however, was not a candidate, having missed the game with an ankle injury, paving the way for Rashford.
The England forward showed admirable poise and composure before sending Kasper Schmeichel the wrong way and placing a right-footed kick into the bottom corner of the Leicester goal.
“Every striker misses a penalty,” said Solskjaer. “I’ve seen (Diego) Maradona, (Lionel) Messi, (Michel) Platini, Zico – my favourite player of all-time, miss them.
“You’ve just got to be confident enough to step up next time. Whats the worst that can happen?”
The penalty was a just reward for United starting the game in electrifying fashion, Andreas Pereira’s free-kick from the edge of the area having already forced Kasper Schmeichel into the save of the game.
But, even before that opening goal, there had been signs of the concerns that have plagued Solskjaer in the new season as Maguire allowed a long punt from Schmeichel to bounce twice before James Maddison shrugged aside Victor Lindelof far too easily, his shot forcing David de Gea into an important block.
By the time Leicester, with the impressive Maddison front and centre, had started to take a grip of the contest either side of the interval, De Gea was also required to tip over a 25-yard volley from Ben Chilwell.
“It was the first time this season we have had to defend for longer periods,” said Solskjaer. “Of course we want to play better than this but I thought we rode the game out well.
“If Leicester had won, we would have been too far behind them for my liking. At least we’re in there and not really having to put in our minds doubts about ‘are we doing the right things?’”
Victory takes United level with Leicester on eight points from their first five games, and importantly alongside Tottenham and Chelsea, who enjoyed big wins on Saturday, in the early race for a top-four finish.
And Rashford was unlucky not to add a second late on when his dipping free-kick hit the post.