Man Utd 4 Leicester 1
It was Jose Mourinho's latest intellectual touchstone, Albert Einstein, who said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and again but expecting a different outcome, which was a summary one might apply to the two years overseen by his predecessor, Louis van Gaal.
At Old Trafford yesterday afternoon, the new Manchester United manager decided to do something radically different, which was to drop Wayne Rooney to reinvigorate a United side for whom three years of mediocrity have seeped into this season. After two straight league defeats, the four goals they scored in the space of 20 first-half minutes against the champions took the pressure off Mourinho and ended his early-season wobble.
Rooney played seven minutes of the game, summoned as a substitute for his 528th appearance for the club, replacing Marcus Rashford, who had scored United's third. Mourinho was prepared to play any tune necessary to get the show back on the road, and despite his protestations about a tactical decision to introduce pace and width to the side this was unquestionably a significant chapter in the Rooney years.
The last time United were four goals up at half-time Rooney had by then scored one of two goals he would get in that game, against Fulham on Aug 20, 2006. The first time in a new manager's era that a big name is left out is always an awkward moment for all concerned but it is always a case that life moves on to fresh controversies.
United scored an improbable three goals from corners, while the second was a brilliant passing movement finished by Juan Mata, Rooney's replacement. They blitzed Leicester at the end of the first half, and Ranieri's men were complicit in their own defeat, but it was a strange game that was played out without much note in the second half, save from a brilliant strike from the substitute, Demarai Gray.
Afterwards, Ranieri said that his team had been the more likely to score the first goal, and then having conceded Chris Smalling's header direct from Daley Blind's corner from the left, fell apart seven minutes before half-time, when United scored their remaining three goals. At half-time Ranieri replaced Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to save the legs of his key players for the Champions League game against Porto on Tuesday.
There was also Paul Pogba's first goal for United, the fourth before half-time. Sam Allardyce was in the directors' box to witness Gray's right-footed hit and also to see Michael Carrick come on in the second half for his first minutes in the Premier League this season.
Mourinho said before and after the match that he selected Jesse Lingard and Rashford because he expected a "phenomenally intense and fast" game and wanted them to offer width and pace. Mata was having a quiet afternoon until he shaped the move that ended with his 37th-minute goal, the pick of United's four, and for now it is the Spanish midfielder who is ahead of Rooney in his manager's mind.
In spite of Mourinho's predictions it was a slow burner in which United only came alive in the last third of the first half. Without the intensity to overwhelm their opponents, United required the quality of their passing to pick their way through the substantial defensive line that Leicester had established to stop them.
The first decent sequence of United passes came on 22 minutes and won them the corner from which they scored their first. Daley Blind, an accomplished left-back for the day, whipped a left-footed ball in from the left and amid the Leicester confusion, Smalling got above Islam Slimani to head down past Ron-Robert Zieler.
From there, United hit a groove that would deliver another three goals before half-time. Ander Herrera was outstanding in midfield. He seems to have played his way into favour under Mourinho, who says the Spanish midfielder offers a defensive intensity others do not. Herrera played arguably the ball of the game to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who teed up Rashford with the outside of his right foot, but the teenager missed.
Three goals in five minutes finally got Old Trafford on its feet. Mata started the move for his goal with the ball going to Pogba and then to Lingard, whose right-footed flick put the ball on track for a fine left-footed finish from Mata. Lingard seems to have been forgiven for his display against Manchester City two weeks' previously.
Leicester looked broken, and two more goals followed quickly, both from corners from the left. Blind played the first low into the inside-left channel, where Mata struck it hard across the face of goal, and Rashford finished. Then Pogba met another Blind corner to head past Zieler.
Gray's right-footed shot was a fine goal for the half-time substitute. The game was long over by then, and a victory over the champions - however flat Ranieri's team might be - was just what Mourinho needed. He says that he is still weaning them off Van Gaal's negative approach - and this, you might say, was the start of the shock treatment.