Belfast Telegraph

Record-breaker Jamie Vardy has what Wayne Rooney is lacking

Leicester City 1-1 Manchester United

By Kevin Garside

From Fleetwood to Eternity, the flight of fancy continues. Swansea City are next in the shy for Jamie Vardy, who, having dispatched Ruud van Nistelrooy into the Premier League weeds by scoring in an 11th consecutive match, is now chasing Jimmy Dunne's 83-year-old record of 12 on the spin for Sheffield United in the old First Division.

Vardy's goal against Manchester United on Saturday, under the nose of England coach Roy Hodgson, not only set the King Power Stadium ablaze, it set in sharp relief the present failings of the man he might replace in the national team, Wayne Rooney.

The United and England captain was hooked with 20 minutes to go by a manager finally tiring of his failure to get behind defences. This detail, not Vardy's brilliant finish, may yet be the most significant development to emerge from this game.

Vardy struck on the counter as Leicester City broke from a United corner. The ball from Christian Fuchs, into the box from the right channel, would have been wasted on Rooney, who no longer has the pace to convert a pass like that into a chance. Vardy, occupying the space between the centre-backs, was on to it like a rocket, despite a foot injury, taking a touch before clipping the ball past David de Gea.

United struck back with Bastian Schweinsteiger's first goal in English football, but he is not the solution to United's attacking failings. While Louis van Gaal ponders how to resolve those and the problem of Rooney, Leicester press on with Vardy's the first name on the teamsheet.

It beggars belief that almost four years ago to the day Vardy slammed an equaliser for Fleetwood at Gateshead in front of a gathering of 786.

"I was suffering with a foot injury that day as well," he revealed. "So it's turned around full circle. That's how it is. I know I'm going to get injured at times. It's the way I play and if I have to play through it sometimes, that's what I'll do."

To their credit the United players showed their appreciation afterwards, joining the club's former servant Van Nistelrooy in offering their congratulations. "The majority of them came over, to be fair to them," Vardy said.

Chris Smalling, a fellow beneficiary of a non-league apprenticeship, had, the goal apart, a fine game keeping Vardy shackled.

Smalling said: "I know what type of player he is. I don't think he had too many chances, but the frustrating thing was they scored from our corner.

"If they opened us up then you could say fair enough but we knew that their strengths were the counter-attack and they punished us with that. Fair play to them - and on the record as well."

Like the rest of the Premier League, Smalling knew nothing of Vardy before his rapid rise, but he's a fan now.

"He is a laid-back character," he said. "Everyone is talking about him and he is doing great things. You can tell he is the kind of lad that is not going to change. He takes everything in his stride."

Indeed so, as Vardy's reaction to chasing records shows: "If I let it get to me it's going to affect my performance, which then goes into the team performance. It means the boys are going to be playing with a man down. So as soon as I step over the white line I have to make sure that's right at the back of my head and just concentrate on my game. The main thing is the team."

If the team ethic is keeping Leicester grounded, there was still time to mark Vardy's remarkable contribution with a shirt presentation. "The chairman's just had one signed by all the lads which I'll be reading to see if I can frame it," he said. "If there's a few words which are unacceptable I'll just have to leave it in the wardrobe."

Belfast Telegraph


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