Manchester United fall into five-goal Foxes’ thrilling trap
Sensational Leicester City, 3/1 for a top 10 finish, secured a famous victory, clawing back a two-goal deficit and putting five past Manchester United’s ‘Galacticos’ to extend an impressive Premier League home record.
The King Power Stadium was well and truly rocked, as the fearless Foxes showed sensational spirit despite falling behind, before romping home to a memorable 5-3 win.
Whilst the home side exposed United’s already evident defensive frailties with ruthless but predictable counter-attacks, it was the Red Devils’ crumbling confidence in the face of adversity that once again proved most shocking.
Louis van Gaal’s men initially picked up where they left off after thumping QPR 4-0 at Old Trafford, with Angel Di Maria looking set to be the star of the show yet again. The Argentina attacker had seemed to seal a routine win early on, with a sumptuous chip over Kasper Schmeichel to double United’s lead, after rusty duo Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao had combined to put their side ahead.
Nigel Pearson’s side were in no mood to take their medicine, though, and the Red Devils should have been wary of their opposition’s recent form in front of the Foxes faithful, with Arsenal and Everton having previously fallen foul of their ability to fight back.
Even after Argentine hitman Leonardo Ulloa responded to United’s two-goal lead by heading past David de Gea, the Red Devils failed to heed the warning signs, displaying an arrogance unworthy of a side that have won just one game this season.
Nigel Pearson mirrored Van Gaal’s diamond formation and, with the inclusion of Foxes full debutant Esteban Cambiasso, the hosts looked likely to stifle United’s superstars. As it turned out, the ex-Inter Milan man was to provide more help in offence, and netted his first Premier League goal to bring Leicester level at 3-3.
Whilst Sir Alex Ferguson always favoured the just ‘score more than your opponent’ approach, United had previously been able to count on the presence of centre back stalwarts such as Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, through to Jaap Stam, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
There was no such leadership or balance evident from the current Red Devils crop, though, as Jonny Evans, shaky from the start, limped off with injury yet again.
Rash, red-card magnet Rafael and new boy Marcos Rojo contrived to seal United’s collapse, with the latter even perplexingly avoiding a challenge on man of the match Jamie Vardy, allowing the former Fleetwood Town forward to make the assist for Ulloa’s first.
The build-up to the clash was dominated by the focus on Leicester’s unusual number of former United starlets present in their ranks, but, although the Red Devils old boys all acquitted themselves well, it was Vardy and record-signing Ulloa who lit up the King Power.
United have now conceded 11 goals in six games in all competitions this season but, even though Pearson would have no doubt prepared his team to prey on a predictably porous backline, the Foxes could never have dreamed of the defensive gaffes they would benefit from.
Momentum swung crucially in the hosts’ favour following Rafael’s petty response to a foul by the menacing presence of Vardy, resulting in a dubious penalty that was coolly dispatched by David Nugent. The Foxes had their tails up then, and the Red Devils were on the back-foot.
Every United attack left a gaping hole in defence, putting pressure on a young rearguard. Blackett was to be the victim of Juan Mata’s sloppy loss of possession in midfield, allowing his pocket to be picked by the standout ex-Red Devil on show, Richie de Laet.
The Belgian right back came alive as soon as City regained their footing in the match, and put the irrepressible Vardy through on goal once more, with Blackett clumsily conceding United’s second penalty of the game and seeing red for his trouble.
Despite the Red Devils having suffered yet another false dawn, it was not all doom and gloom for Van Gaal, as skipper Wayne Rooney looked revived in a supporting role at the tip of the diamond, and linked superbly with Di Maria.
The Dutchman will have to go back to the drawing board yet again, though, having already appeared to drop his unstable 3-4-1-2 tactic. Whilst his diamond paid dividends against QPR, top-heavy United clearly still require a further balancing act.
A switch to a 4-3-3 with another body in midfield, and a superstar striker dropped, to cover a depleted defence could be crucial to reigniting the Red Devils’ season. Meanwhile, Luke Shaw should finally get his chance at left back with Blackett, and potentially Evans, unavailable for United’s now tricky-looking next fixture against a resurgent West Ham United.