Manchester United are the Premier League’s resident kings of the road, but they could not rule at the King Power Stadium. For the first time since June, they dropped points in a Premier League away game. They were ahead twice, they were five minutes from victory, but ultimately they were unable to shrug off Leicester City as the match finished 2-2.
For United, runs of 10 consecutive away league wins and six victories despite conceding first both ended. This was the proof of Leicester’s capacity to come from behind.
They did so twice, United losing leads after eight and six minutes respectively. “We feel disappointed,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said. “The boys are flat in the dressing room. We created enough chances to score more goals and defended well but they had one moment at the end, great movement by Jamie Vardy and they got a bit lucky.”
Six years ago, Vardy’s first Premier League goal came against United. The sizeable deflection off Axel Tuanzebe that meant this went down as an own goal to deny him another but, then as now, Leicester mounted a spirited comeback.
Even without being on the scoresheet, Vardy’s role earned him praise from both managers. “He'll always be in and around the box,” said Brendan Rodgers. “He has a football brain and knows where it's going to drop.”
Vardy had latched on to Ayoze Perez’s cross and, in an action-packed game of evenly-matched sides who kicked off in second and third, the Spaniard cancelled out another striking substitute.
Edinson Cavani had come off the bench to set up a goal for United; hired for his finishing, Paris Saint-Germain’s record scorer provided a defence-splitting pass for Bruno Fernandes to restore United’s advantage. “A great pass,” said Solskjaer.
United’s games tend to revolve around the Portuguese, but rarely quite to this extent. Fernandes had scored on their previous visit to Leicester, helping them secure Champions League football in July. He served as a barometer on his return, contributing to three goals: two scored by United, one by Leicester. “He is definitely a player that impacts results,” said Solskjaer.
Marcus Rashford also had the sort of game that defies easy explanations. He joined a select band by becoming the third youngest player to reach 50 Premier League goals for United and, as the other two are Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, he is good company.
“Both as a player and a person, Marcus has been absolutely brilliant and we are very proud of him as a human being,” said Solskjaer. And yet perhaps he should have been departing with a hat-trick to his name.
United often concede early on the road. They should have scored after a minute. Fernandes crossed and, six yards out and unmarked, Rashford skied his header over the bar.
The watching Paul Scholes put his hands on his head in disbelief. “Marcus knows the first chance was a glorious one,” Solskjaer said. “Missing that is just one of those things.”
Rashford produced an altogether better finish when Fernandes found him again, guiding his shot into the corner. This time the Portuguese’s contribution could be questioned. He was stretching when he diverted Daniel James’ pass into Rashford’s path, but perhaps not deliberately.
United posed themselves problems with misguided attempts to play out from the back. When they conceded, however, it was not due to David de Gea’s struggles in possession.
Fernandes’ willingness to take risks makes him so productive at the other end but he was robbed by Wilfred Ndidi. James Maddison teed up Harvey Barnes to rifle in a wonderful shot. “We showed real quality,” Rodgers added.
United responded. In the 1990s, they savoured Schmeichel saves. This time they rued one. Kasper Schmeichel produced an outstanding stop to turn a Rashford drive wide. Excellent then, the Dane was bold a minute later when he declined to save an Anthony Martial shot. The Frenchman was subsequently ruled offside but it felt a closer call than the Leicester goalkeeper realised. He was powerless to stop Fernandes’ shot.
United were without the injured Aaron Wan-Bissaka, with Victor Lindelof switching to the right. When he hobbled off, Tuanzebe ended up as at right-back and, inadvertently, he turned the ball in.
“I think [my shot] was going wide,” Vardy said. But it left Solskjaer lamenting the goals conceded. “The pressure on the ball for the first one wasn’t good enough,” he said. “Second one, we could have stopped the cross maybe we were a bit unlucky on the deflection.” A United player had the last touch but it gave Leicester the final say.