Leicester too good for Manchester United in FA Cup quarter-final
Brendan’s Rodgers’ injury hit side leave United with just Europa League to play for
Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho scores his second goal in the win over Manchester United. Photograph: PA
Leicester City 3 Manchester United 1
The run had to end at some point but, when it did for Manchester United, it did so in comprehensive fashion. They had not tasted defeat on their domestic travels for 14 months – a sequence of 29 matches – yet they were second best in every department here to see another avenue to silverware closed off.
In simple terms, Leicester seemed to want it more. They were quicker to the ball, slicker when they had it, more incisive and, in Kelechi Iheanacho, they had the two-goal match-winner. To single him out, though, was unfair. There were heroes in blue all over the pitch, including Caglar Soyuncu at the back and pretty much everybody in midfield, where the groundwork for the victory was laid.
It is remarkable to think that Brendan Rodgers was without a clutch of key players through injury, chiefly James Justin, Ricardo Pereira, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes. Leicester brought a high tempo from the first whistle to the last and they will fancy their chances in the semi-final against Southampton. It is their first appearance in the last four since 1982 while their last one in the final came in 1969.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has talked about how the truest measure of his team is the Premier League but that did not dilute the pain of this exit. His tenure has been blighted by semi-final defeats – four of them, to be precise – and the club’s hopes of a trophy this season now rest on the Europa League, where they have reached the quarter-final.
Revenge had been in the air for Leicester, given their defeat here on the final day of last season to United – it cost them a Champions League place and propelled United into the competition – and they bristled with aggression.
Rodgers had gone with his strongest available personnel, configured in a three-at-the-back system and the plan was to win the ball high up and hit United quickly. It worked repeatedly, with United ill at ease in the face of the press.
Twice in the opening 20 minutes, Fred was robbed in dangerous areas, first by Iheanacho and then by Ayoze Pérez, and twice he was bailed out by a teammate. The first opportunity fell to Jamie Vardy after his low cross was only half-cleared by Harry Maguire, breaking back to him. Vardy curled low for the far corner and it took a fine save from Dean Henderson to deny him. The second chance was also for Vardy and, this time, Maguire stood tall to block his shot.
United, and more particularly, Fred did not heed the warnings and, when they tried to play out from the back on 25 minutes, it ended in disaster for them. Maguire’s straight ball up to Fred put him in trouble, with Youri Tielemans snapping at his heels, but what happened next was an aberration. Fred tried to roll it back to Henderson only Iheanacho was lurking. He nipped in, walked the ball around the goalkeeper and tapped home.
Leicester controlled the first-half which made it so annoying for them that the match entered the interval at 1-1. United scored from their only coherent forward thrust and it featured a nice moment for Donny Van De Beek, whose dummy from Paul Pogba’s low cut-back threw the Leicester defence and was the prompt for Mason Greenwood to lash a low shot home. Otherwise, it was another frustrating day for Van De Beek. He was not the only United player to disappoint.
The markers of Leicester’s confidence were numerous, taking in Iheanacho’s skill to beat Maguire and draw a foul near to the corner of the area in the first half and one lovely turn from Soyuncu, which took him away from Pogba. Iheanacho was kept out by a stretching Aaron Wan-Bissaka tackle while Pérez whipped a shot just wide in the 44th minute.
There was an easy balance to Leicester’s approach, with the wing-backs, Marc Albrighton and Timothy Castagne, eager to push up, particularly when the ball was on the other side, and Pérez and Tielemans roaming with menace from their attacking midfield roles. Wilfred Ndidi was dominant further back.
Leicester continued to push after half-time and Tielemans’ goal for 2-1 exemplified many of the differences between the teams. He worked the ball around Nemanja Matic via a slick one-two with Iheanacho and, when he tore towards the edge of the area, United could not get close to him. Fred’s efforts to make the challenge were not good enough. Tielemans’ finish was threaded into the bottom corner.
There was also the moment when Vardy sliced past Maguire after yet another quick Leicester transition only to drag wastefully wide. Rodgers had his hands in the air in celebration.
Solskjær had made changes to his lineup, leaving out Marcus Rashford, who has had a scan on a foot injury, and starting Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and the fit-again Edinson Cavani on the bench. He introduced all four in the 63rd minute and, almost immediately, United looked more purposeful.
Yet the game was up for them when McTominay missed an attempted clearing header at the back post on an Albrighton free-kick and Iheanacho headed in. Fernandes would force Kasper Schmeichel into an excellent save from an 88th minute free-kick but, by then, the tie was over. - Guardian
FA Cup semi-final draw
Manchester City have been drawn to face Chelsea while Leicester will take on Southampton in next month’s FA Cup semi-finals. The all Premier League semi-finals will take place at Wembley on the weekend of April 17/18th.
Leicester v Southampton
Chelsea v Manchester City