At the end, a genuinely spine-tingling moment. Old Trafford stood to applaud the players they believe will be this season’s champions. The men in blue.
Not the whole ground, of course. Plenty had left before the end, plenty more hurried away on the final whistle. Yet the quarter or so who remained – and that’s a sizeable number at Manchester United don’t forget – were absolutely sincere in their reaction.
They recognised they had seen a team that did not quit, they did not crack under the immense pressure of leading down this final straight. A team in the image of some that have passed this way before.
Leicester did not get the win they needed to confirm themselves as champions but took a point from Old Trafford on Sunday
Leicester captain Wes Morgan yells towards the camera after scoring at Old Trafford as the Foxes tried to win the title with a win
Leicester’s players celebrate their equaliser in the first half as the Foxes took a point from their trip to Old Trafford
Both goalscorers Anthony Martial (centre) and Morgan (right) acknowledge each other after full time at Old Trafford
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri pictured at Old Trafford as his team looked to seal the Premier League title
MATCH STATS AND RATINGS FROM OLD TRAFFORD, PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-1-4-1): De Gea 6.5; Valencia 6.5, Smalling 6.5, Blind 6, Rojo 5; Carrick 7; Lingard 5 (Mata 61mins), Rooney 7.5, Fellaini 5 (Herrera 74), Martial 7,5; Rashford 6 (Depay 82)
Subs not used: Romero, Schneiderlin, Darmian, Fosu-Mensah
Booked: Lingard, Carrick, Rooney
Goal: Martial 8
Manager: Louis van Gaal 6
LEICESTER (4-4-2): Schmeichel 7; Simpson 6.5, Morgan 8, Huth 7, Fuchs 6.5; Mahrez 7.5 (King 88), Kante 7.5, Drinkwater 7, Schlupp 7.5 (Albrighton 77); Okazaki 6.5 (Gray 66), Ulloa 7
Subs not used: Amartey, Wasilewski, Chilwell, Schwarzer
Sent off: Drinkwater 86
Manager: Claudio Ranieri 7
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland) 6.5
Ratings by Laurie Whitwell
How the Premier League table looks after Sunday’s matches with Leicester top
Increasingly, with two points required, a game at home to Everton to come next Saturday and Tottenham playing away at Chelsea on Monday night, it seems unthinkable that Leicester will not get over the line.
This was their biggest test, away to a Manchester United side straining every sinew to reach the Champions League. And when Leicester began meekly and went a goal behind after eight minutes, it seemed as if they may fall short, for one day at least. Maybe they would need the odd favour, after all.
By the end, though, Leicester returned south with reputations enhanced. Manchester United did not play poorly, yet were forced to settle for a draw because, quite simply, Leicester ran them ragged. They equalised quickly, they played without fear and, like all champions, they rode their luck at crucial moments.
The woodwork thwarted Chris Smalling after 79 minutes, and Manchester United may have been denied a penalty when Danny Drinkwater fouled Memphis Depay. Against that, Leicester had a decent penalty shout of their own rejected and Drinkwater paid for his indiscretion with a second yellow card that will keep him out of the Everton game, which may yet be relevant.
If Tottenham do win at Stamford Bridge on Monday night, Leicester will be hoping to wrap it up in their last home game of the season, and Drinkwater’s absence will be felt, as Jamie Vardy’s was here. Leicester missed the outlet Vardy provides, and they will miss Drinkwater’s supply line, too.
That route, Drinkwater to Vardy, has been such a crucial combination for them this season, and it will be testament to their resilience if they win the league in a three game spell in which they have been denied one, or the other. Troublingly, there are also implications for Robert Huth.
France international Martial pictured scoring the opener for Manchester United after only eight minutes at Old Trafford
Martial runs away in celebration after scoring the first goal of the afternoon for Manchester United on Sunday afternoon
Martial made life difficult for Leicester as Manchester United took an early lead against the Premier League title chasers
Martial celebrates his goal with his Manchester United team-mates at Old Trafford after they took an early lead against the league leaders
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (left) pictured sat next to assistant Ryan Giggs (right) in the Old Trafford stands
As has often been the case for United under Louis van Gaal, Marouane Fellaini was largely the best of it. He has strange games – disappointing in the air, yet demonstrating incredibly deft touches to play his way out of a tight spot – but in the first half in particular he was a nuisance.
This brought him into contact with Leicester’s own irritant, Huth. The pair came together waiting for a dead ball, Huth tugging at Fellaini’s hair in the box. The Belgian responded with sharp elbow jab to Huth’s face, which could easily have broken his jaw. Huth was the provocateur, no doubt – but Fellaini’s reaction was equally reprehensible and both could now face Football Association bans. After the Dele Alli and Vardy suspensions, it is hard to see how the FA could do anything else.
Maybe, with Vardy playing, the title race would already be run. Leonardo Ulloa worked hard but Leicester missed Vardy’s threat. Ulloa got into good positions but failed to capitalise on them, not least late on when he was played in but simply looked spent.
Vardy was waiting at the tunnel to count all his team-mates back. He didn’t appear unhappy but it shows how far Leicester have come this season that a point at Old Trafford is considered something of an anti-climax. Equally, it underlines how astonishing this campaign had been that it is considered somewhat unsatisfying that Leicester might win the league without actually playing. Imagine carping about that at the start of the season. Imagine a Leicester fan minding how a first title arrived at his club.
And yes, there were odd times when it looked as if sheer momentum might carry Leicester over the line, giving the neutrals and romantics the result they craved. Yet a draw was the fair result. David de Gea made a couple of good saves, from Jeff Schlupp and Riyad Mahrez, but Kasper Schmeichel made two brilliant ones.
Van Gaal will feel that his team had the better of it, but increasingly the top four looks beyond them, and being unable to break down Leicester at home is symptomatic of Manchester United’s underachievement in the two major competitions this season. An FA Cup final win would be a glorious end, but it will feel pretty empty when the Champions League draw is made next season without one very famous name.
Morgan equalised in the 17th minute as he headed in from a free-kick to make it 1-1 at Old Trafford
The ball beats Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea as Leicester equalise via the head of their captain
Morgan runs away in celebration after scoring for Leicester at Old Trafford as the captain showed his team-mates how it’s done
Morgan celebrates at Old Trafford as Leicester drew level with Manchester United after only 17 minutes of the Premier League clash
Leicester manager Ranieri pictured handing out instructions on the touchline at Old Trafford on a damp Sunday afternoon
Leicester will be there, of course, no matter what happens over the next two games. They have long since signed up for their European tour and if they bring the same qualities to Champions League nights that they have brought to venues such as Old Trafford, White Hart Lane and the Etihad Stadium this season, they may fare better than anyone expects. Manchester United are exactly the sort of club Leicester will face next season, and they were still left breathless by the intensity needed to match them.
Perhaps this was why United decided to start the Leicester way, all high tempo, high energy, high action. Leicester could barely get out of their half, and in the first four minutes made just eight successful passes. In the eighth minute, the pressure paid off. In an event that was not in the script of the dreamers, Manchester United scored.
It was a lovely goal, too. Antonio Valencia broke down the right, cut inside and skinned Christian Fuchs before floating a neat chip to the far reaches of the penalty area. Waiting there was Anthony Martial. He brought the ball under control, smartly, and then finished it under Schmeichel – playing, incredibly, his first match at Old Trafford, despite the illustrious career of father Peter. This was not how he would have imagined his debut here at all.
Not how Leicester would have imagined the afternoon, either. Just six minutes later, Marcos Rojo struck a cross that Marouane Fellaine brought down and fed to Jesse Lingard, his shot was kept out superbly by Schmeichel at the near post. United were in charge yet, slowly, Leicester came into the game, equalising after 16 minutes.
Leicester could have been awarded a penalty when Riyad Mahrez went down after making contact with Marcos Rojo
Robert Huth pictured grabbing Marouane Fellaini’s hair (left) before the midfielder elbows the defender in the chin (right)
Danny Drinkwater pictured leaving the Old Trafford pitch after being sent off against Manchester United
Drinkwater, a former Manchester United player, received a second yellow card during the Premier League match
Jamie Vardy, who was banned for the trip to Old Trafford, gives a thumbs up from the stands in Manchester
Vardy was all smiles in the crowd as he saw Leicester draw 1-1 with Manchester United on Sunday afternoon
PREMIER LEAGUE TITLE RACE
Leicester will win the league if Tottenham fail to beat their London rivals Chelsea on Monday night. If Spurs manage to beat the Blues at Stamford Bridge, then Leicester can win the Premier League title next Saturday by beating Everton at the King Power Stadium.
vs Chelsea (A) – May 2
vs Southampton (H) – May 8
vs Newcastle (A) – May 15
vs Everton (H) – May 7
vs Chelsea (A) – May 15
Michael Carrick committed the clumsy foul, conceding a free-kick roughly 35 yards out. Drinkwater clipped it in and Wes Morgan got the better of Rojo in the air to steer the ball past De Gea. From there it was a more even contest, although Leicester nerves continued to show in some unlikely unforced errors.
In the 31st minute, Danny Simpson, one of the unsung heroes of the season, lost possession as the last man in defence, pushed up to the halfway line, and became involved in a dramatic foot race with Lingard, speeding on goal. Simpson grappled with the Manchester United man all the way and vice versa, Lingard finally tumbling to the ground as Schmeichel hoofed clear. Old Trafford screamed for a foul but referee Michael Oliver was, rightly, sceptical. More convincing was a Leicester appeal six minutes before half-time when Mahrez got the better of Rojo but was held by an outstretched arm. He may have made more of the contact with his fall, but it looked a foul. Perhaps swayed by the collapse, Oliver waved that away, too.
So what of United’s second-half penalty shout? Drinkwater had already been booked for a foul on Marcus Rashford, when Depay got around him on the left. He had one tug at him, then another, by which time the Dutchman looked to have a foot on the line of the penalty area.
Oliver gave the foul, but not the penalty, producing a second yellow for Drinkwater that could scarcely be disputed. Red cards have skewed games for Leicester on two occasions already this season – away to Arsenal, home to West Ham – and there were fears this could be a third, but Ranieri’s team held strong not least through Schmeichel who won a thunderous 50-50 with Wayne Rooney to preserve the point deep into injury time.
Match of the Day presenter and Leicester supporter Gary Lineker (centre) pictured in the stands at Old Trafford before kick-off
Lineker pictured stood next to Peter Schmeichel at Old Trafford as the former goalkeeper watched his son, Kasper
Eric Cantona was also in the stands at Old Trafford to watch Manchester United face Leicester on Sunday
A fan holds up a mocked-up photograph showing Lineker in Leicester boxers – as he promised to do on Twitter if they win the title
Leicester’s fans went into this hoping to seal the title with a win over Manchester United at Old Trafford
Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha pictured giving a thumbs up to the travelling supporters after full-time
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