Manchester United 1, Leicester City 1
Fred scored on his 100th appearance in the Premier League for Manchester United to cancel out Kelechi Iheanacho’s opener for Leicester City.
But that wasn’t the whole story as the Reds can count themselves lucky to have won a point despite a grandstand finish as they could have had Scott McTominay sent off and VAR intervened to save United from a late James Maddison winner for Leicester.
Wesley Fofana had a header saved by David De Gea while Maddison’s late goal was ruled out by a fortunate VAR pitch side review as United finished strongly after a disorganised 65 minutes against Leicester City who are now unbeaten in their last five games against the Reds.
United have now won only three games out of their last 11 in all competitions and appear to be as good as out of the running for next season’s Champions League – they are three points behind Arsenal who have two games in hand in fourth place.
United boss Ralf Rangnick was, as always honest in his assessment of the draw, he said:
“I think we had a difficult start to the game, the first half was difficult to find our rhythm.
“We had a lot of unforced errors, passes played in a sloppy way and the speed of our buildup was not high enough.
“Overall the second half was better but the goal that we conceded on our own counter attack was poor. We lost the ball within six seconds, the cross was brilliant but we could have defended it.
“The reaction was good, the goal by Fred was good and we tried hard in the last 15 minutes.
“Jadon [Sancho] should have take two touches on his chance and Anthony [Elanga] should have stayed away from the ball for Marcus [Rashford] at the end.”
He added: “We’re not stable enough and playing at the same level. I’m not looking for excuses but it was an unusual situation – two and a half weeks with no game, players on international duty and coming back with jet lag.
“We missed out with Cristiano Ronaldo – he got sick and was vomiting before the game.
“Leicester were a good time and in good shape. We just have to admit this was a fair result at the end.
“They deserved a point, we deserved a point. But it wasn’t convincing enough.”
And Rangnick conceded that the point today might be damaging to United’s quest to get back into the top four.
He said: “I don’t know where Manchester United will be next reason but it’s our job to finish the season on the highest and best possible note.
“That might mean not finishing fourth.
“For us it’s now about preparing for the next game away at Goodison Park – and we haven’t lost a single game away – and then the next game against Norwich.
“We can’t keep looking at the table – right now we are not favourites for top four.
“The season is not over – we have another eight games to play and then we must draw the right conclusions but right now it’s about three points against Everton.”
Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers was disappointed about the game but quietly pleased to have important players back fit.
“I’m disappointed, clearly. Varane’s used his experience here – he felt a touch and went down.
On the booking of Scott McTominay, he added:
“We had a not too dissimilar situation against West Ham, Ayoze Perez was heavy on his touch and went into the challenge and got sent off.
And he defended his former player – now Manchester United captain – Harry Maguire who came through a difficult week to have a decent game for the Reds.
He said: “Harry’s a good guy but I was mainly concentrated on my own team. In a club like Man Utd the focus is lasered on to you, especially if you are captain.
“He’s an important player here for me and he’s done well for England. He’s a humble guy and will get back to his level.”Embed from Getty Images
The international break had given both clubs time to recover injured players but also to give some players a needed rest after some difficult games
There was no Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting lineup for Manchester United – he was ill – as the Reds made three changes from the side that played against Tottenham three weeks ago.
Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, and Anthony Elanga were brought into the starting lineup to replace Alex Telles, Nemanja Matic, and Ronaldo.
Bruno Fernandes had to play false nine as Edinson Cavani picked up a calf injury playing for Uruguay while Shaw (illness) and Paul Pogba (foot injury) were both passed fit to play.
The Foxes were pleased to welcome back ex-United defender Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana to their starting lineup with Daniel Amartey and Caglar Soyuncu stepping down to the bench.
They were still without Jamie Vardy, Wilfried Ndidi, Danny Ward, and Ryan Bertrand – all with a variety of knee issues.
Manchester United wait too long to start playing against Leicester City
The first half of this game was insipid and went the way you’d expect for a pair of mid table sides fielding either no strikers or a striker with only six goals to his name this season.
Harry Maguire, who was booed by the visiting fans whenever he was on the ball, wa cheered by United supporters – not least when he turned on the ball away from Kelechi Iheanacho in the second half.
It was inevitable that the visiting fans would give the United captain a hard time after he was booed at Wembley in midweek but the home fans more than made up for it with their support the Harry Maguire.
Perhaps it was apt in a first half that contained no strikers on the United team while Kelechi Iheanacho had only scored twice for Leicester this calendar year (and not in the Premier League) and six times in all this term.
Harvey Barnes looked like a major outlet for the visitors without Vardy in the side and he headed James Maddison’s early free kick over the bar in the opening seconds.
Maguire, who was barracked throughout by the Leicester fans, would have loved to convert Bruno Fernandes’ free kick but the ball had too much whip on it for him to connect.
Pogba finally had a shot on target after 22 minutes with a header that was easy to take for Kasper Schmeichel and another low shot that the Foxes keeper got down well to block four minutes later.
United were forced into an early change when Luke Shaw went down off the ball late in the first half.
Alex Telles replaced him at the break as the Reds looked to break the deadlock.
Jadon Sancho’s tame shot was fumbled by Schmeichel early in the second half but Leicester were enraged by a dangerous looking foul on James Maddison by Scott McTominay after he had let the ball run away from him.
Marcus Rashford, who has scored only five goals this season, was brought on to try and change the situation after 55 minutes for McTominay and this time his introduction brought cheers from Old Trafford with Pogba dropping deeper.
The sight of Rashford running onto long balls forward from Pogba roused the Old Trafford crowd.
But it was Barnes who had the best chance after this, cutting inside Diogo Dalot before having his shot blocked by Maguire.
It was then that the game ignited.
Fred briefly led a counter attack for United before the Foxes won the ball back and James Maddison’s cross from the left was headed past David De Gea by Kelechi Iheanacho.
Three minutes later, and with blue smoke still dissipating from the away end, the Reds were level after Bruno Fernandes’ shot was tipped away by Schmeichel but only into the path of Fred who tucked away the the equaliser with glee.
Leicester had clear chances to win it in the closing stages and may regret not taking one.
Iheanacho tried to chip De Gea from close range but lifted it over the crossbar instead with less than 20 minutes to go.
Maddison picked out Fofana with another free kick and his header had to be tipped away by De Gea.
United were so concerned that Nemenja Matic was brought on in the last 15 minutes for the tiring Pogba to shore up midfield.
Leicester thought they had won it with 10 minutes to go when James Maddison lashed home the loose ball after it broke from Iheancho’s tackle of Raphael Varane but a VAR pitch side check by referee Andre Marriner revealed a foul on the Frenchman to the delight of the home fans.
Patson Daka and Hamza Chouhury were brought on in added time for Iheanacho and Nampalys Mendy as an exhausted Leicester barely hung on after Sancho dragged a sitter wide, Rashford had a penalty shout ruled out for offside in the build up, and Maguire’s last gasp header was saved by Schmeichel.
GOALS – Manchester United 1, Leicester City 1
Man Utd 0, Leicester City 1: 63. Fred lost the ball in midfield during a United counter attack – Leicester broke quickly and James Maddison picked out Kelechi Iheanacho for a low flying header which beat David De Gea.
Man Utd 1, Leicester City 1: 66. Fred scored from the rebound after Bruino Fernandes’ long range shot was parried away by Kasper Schmeichel after his poor clearance was intercepted.
MATCH STATS – Manchester United 1, Leicester City 1
Man Utd: De Gea, Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Shaw (Telles 46), Fred, McTominay (Rashford 55), Pogba (Matic 75), Elanga, Sancho, Fernandes
Man Utd Subs not used: Henderson, Lindelof, Jones, Mata, Lingard, Wan-Bissaka
Bookings: Shaw 6 (foul on James Justin); McTominay 49 (Bad foul on James Maddison)
Goal: Fred 66
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Justin, Evans, Fofana, Castagne, Tielemans, Mendy (Choudhury 90+1), Maddison, Dewsbury-Hall, Barnes, Iheanacho (Daka 90+1)
Leicester City Subs: Jakupovic, Soyuncu, Albrighton, Perez, Amartey, Pereira, Lookman
Bookings: Fofana 16 (foul on Anthony Elanga); Tielemans (foul on Bruno Fernandes)
Goal: Iheanacho 63
Referee: Andre Marriner