The final place Manchester United took points on their travels last season was Leicester City and the first they dropped them this season was at the King Power Stadium. Six months after drawing with Tottenham in their first game of Project Restart, United experienced a rare feeling: frustration. Their 100 percent record on the road is gone.
There was a novelty factor in that a team who had come from behind to win each of their six previous away league games this season inverted parts of the plot. They took the lead twice and lost it twice, the second time when Jamie Vardy met the substitute Ayoze Perez’s low cross on the half-volley that deflected in off Axel Tuanzebe — ultimately, it went down as the defender’s own goal.
United denied Leicester of Champions League football in July but Brendan Rodgers’s team are displaying more mettle now. They ensured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side could not rise from 15th to second in less than two months. A terrific game showed frailties as well as flair.
The Norwegian tends to say that United like to make things hard for themselves. This time it was not by conceding early, but with Bruno Fernandes’s role in the first goal they let in and their profligacy before and after.
They missed the chances to inflict Leicester’s fifth home defeat of the season. Marcus Rashford scored his 50th Premier League goal – only Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney have reached the milestone for United at a younger age – but he could have had a hat-trick. Fernandes was involved in three goals, only two of them were scored by the visitors.
United’s false starts in away games have tended to be defensive. This time the early error came in attack. When Fernandes found an unmarked Rashford after a minute, he headed wastefully over the bar.
It meant his goal was redemptive. Rashford’s execution was altogether more assured. Fernandes was again the provider, although it is a moot point if, at full stretch, he really meant to turn Daniel James’s pass into Rashford’s path. Regardless, it was his sixth assist of the Premier League season.
In one respect, he created another goal, definitely unintentionally. Fernandes was caught in possession by Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison fed Harvey Barnes and he lashed in a glorious equaliser. Leicester merited parity. They had posed a threat. And yet it was another goal that David De Gea conceded from a long-range shot. It threatens to become a Joe Hart-esque habit.
His opposite number Kasper Schmeichel made a terrific save when Rashford pierced the offside trap. He prevailed in a game of brinkmanship when watching Anthony Martial slide the ball past him and in. The striker was then ruled offside, sparing the son of United’s greatest goalkeeper embarrassment.
Thereafter, Solskjaer summoned first Paul Pogba and then Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan provided the slide-rule pass for Fernandes to drill United back into the lead. But if Rodgers’ bench was less star-studded, it included Perez and he, Vardy and the unwitting Tuanzebe combined to ensure an eventful game finished where it started, with Leicester above United in the standings.
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