Leicester tear United apart in remarkable comeback
Louis van Gaal sees shambolic defence ship five goals
Esteban Cambiasso scores Leicester City’s third goal during the Premier League match against Manchester United at The King Power Stadium. Photograpgh: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Leicester 5 Manchester United 3
Football, bloody hell. It was difficult to think of anything other than that famous Alex Ferguson quote to sum up a truly remarkable match.
From being 2-0 ahead early and 3-1 up with less than half an hour remaining, Manchester United conceded five times on a chastening day when they were run ragged by Jamie Vardy – a striker who, almost three years ago to the day, was sent off for Fleetwood Town in a Conference game against Kidderminster Harriers.
By the time the fourth official signalled that there would be six minutes of added time, Leicester’s supporters were chanting “we want six” and Louis van Gaal was wearing the haunted expression of man who could not believe what had unfolded in front of him.
A €190 million summer spending spree has delivered a galáctico forward line for United but somebody forget to mention the defence could do with a helping hand. United were a shambles at the back. Leicester, to their immense credit, took full advantage.
A humiliating defeat finished with United playing out the final seven minutes with 10 men after Tyler Blackett brought down Vardy just as the Leicester striker prepared to pull the trigger. Leonardo Ulloa, who had scored Leicester’s first, made it five in as many games when he converted from the spot. At that stage it was United, not Leicester, facing an exercise in damage limitation – a scenario no one could have imagined when the visitors raced into a two-goal lead, including a peach of a goal from Angel di María, early on.
Radamel Falcao, showing all his experience and class, created the first. Ritchie De Laet got too tight to the Colombian, who expertly used his body to roll the United defender before sprinting clear on the left flank. With no Leicester defender in sight, Falcao had the time to float a perfectly weighted left-footed centre that picked out Robin van Persie, whose far-post header deflected off the shoulder of Liam Moore and beat Kasper Schmeichel at the near post.
Three minutes later United doubled their lead. David Nugent lost possession inside his own half and from that point on Di María took over. A burst of pace took him into the Leicester half, where he found Rooney in space. Continuing his run Di María sprinted on to Rooney’s pass and, with Schmeichel coming off his line, executed an outrageous chip from just inside the area. It would be a difficult skill to pull off at any time, let alone running at pace. The mind went back to that wonderful Karel Poborsky goal at Euro 96.
At that point Leicester looked like they would be blown away by United’s firepower but they responded straight from the kick-off. There seemed little danger when De Laet played a long ball into the right channel but Marcos Rojo was caught on his heels as Vardy nipped in front of him to bring the ball down on the run and turn away from the United left back. With space running out for Vardy close to the byline – television replays showed the ball may well have been out – the Leicester forward dug out a superb centre that the unmarked Ulloa met with a thumping header from 12 yards. Centre back Jonny Evans was caught in no man’s land, marking space, and limped off soon afterwards.
Buoyed by that goal, Leicester gave as good as they got for the remainder of the first half but were undone again 12 minutes after the restart. Schmeichel, who could only stand and watch when Falcao’s volley sailed over his head and hit the crossbar moments earlier, was at full-stretch to get his hands to Rafael da Silva’s cross. Retrieving the loose ball, Van Persie teed up Di Maria for a poorly hit shot that Ander Herrera, with a lovely piece of improvisation, flicked past the wrong-footed Schmeichel.
That looked to be that but Leicester refused to surrender and, remarkably, within seven minutes of that Herrera goal they were level. The first of those goals was hugely contentious. Vardy, foraging in the inside left channel, was looking at the man and not the ball when he barged into Da Silva. Mark Clattenburg, however, waved play on and there was a sense of inevitability about what would happen next. Trying to recover, Da Silva tangled with Vardy and the Leicester striker tumbled to the ground. It looked soft but Clattenburg pointed to the spot and Nugent, drilling his kick straight down the middle, did the rest.
United were all over the place and two minutes later Leicester levelled when Dean Hammond’s shot struck Vardy and Esteban Cambiasso, making his first Premier League start, drilled home from 14 yards. Then the unthinkable happened as De Laet robbed Juan Mata, who was on for Di María, and broke on the right before sending Vardy clear. One on one with David de Gea, Vardy calmly slotted home to make it 4-3. Blackett’s clumsy foul on Vardy allowed Ulloa to make it five from the spot.