Belfast Telegraph

Leicester City title party put on hold with Manchester United draw

Man United 1 - Leicester City 1

By Ian Herbert

So Leicester City take it to the Bridge, but on a day when Manchester United were there for the taking, Claudio Ranieri's champions-elect should have left Old Trafford with the Premier League trophy decked in blue ribbons.

If Tottenham fail to claim three points against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tonight, the title will be Leicester's and there will be no sense of anti-climax at the King Power Stadium if the club secure a first-ever league championship with their players watching from their sofa.

Although Louis van Gaal's team began the game like the United of old, they ended it like the United of now - a team light on flair and invention.

Two more points will seal the title for Leicester, who play Everton next weekend.

But as for United, their prospects of making a late surge into the top four to secure Champions League qualification now appear increasingly bleak after Wes Morgan's 17th-minute equaliser cancelled out Anthony Martial's eighth-minute opener.

Leicester were the better team, and whoever is in charge of United next season, their priority will be to ensure that it will be the red shirts attempting to win silverware as well as those in blue.

Still, while United's 2015-16 campaign will quickly be dismissed as one to forget, Leicester's season will go down as the most memorable in the club's history.

Their response to United's whirlwind start was a pointer to the qualities that have taken Leicester to the top of the table - there was no panic, just a steely determination to haul themselves level.

Martial's opener was United at their best with pace on the break resulting in clinical finishing.

Antonio Valencia's break down the right flank was picked out Jesse Lingard. Having found space, Valencia crossed to the far post and Martial beat Kasper Schmeichel at the near post with a low strike.

Leicester responded quickly, though. Shinji Okazaki headed narrowly over four minutes later before Schmeichel denied United a second with a stunning save from Lingard.

Ranieri's team cancelled out United's opener on 17 minutes when Morgan escaped the dozing Marcos Rojo to head past David de Gea.

Rojo endured a nightmare first-half. Having gifted Morgan his goal, the Argentine repeated his mistake shortly afterwards, only for the Leicester captain to head over.

The left-back was then lucky not to concede a penalty when he stuck a leg out to trip Riyad Mahrez on 39 minutes.

Referee Michael Oliver dismissed Leicester's appeals, but the official's first-half was as unimpressive as Rojo's, with Marouane Fellaini somehow escaping punishment for elbowing Robert Huth twice.

Huth instigated the spat by tugging Fellaini's hair, so both could find themselves facing violent conduct charges.

Fellaini later suffered the ignominy of being sarcastically cheered off when replaced by Ander Herrera in the second-half. Prior to that, Leicester had upped the tempo.

It was a telling tactic, one which highlighted the confidence among Ranieri's squad.

Leonardo Ulloa, once against deputising for the suspended Jamie Vardy, twice went close as the home side struggled to cope with his presence.

United, in contrast, failed to land a punch, allowing themselves to launch hopeful balls to Fellaini.

Van Gaal threw on Juan Mata, Herrera and Memphis Depay, but it did little to make a difference.

Wayne Rooney, largely unimpressive in the No.10 role, almost teed up a goal for Chris Smalling on 78 minutes, but his header hit the post.

Leicester were comfortable, even after losing Danny Drinkwater for the final five minutes following a foul on Depay which resulted in his second yellow card.

But with or without Drinkwater, the title will surely be Leicester's before the end of the week.

Belfast Telegraph


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