Anthony Martial scored the opening goal for Manchester United in the 1-1 draw with Leicester City
The media had billed it as the day of the coronation. The new champions elect were to show the old masters what they are now missing and crave so much. It didn’t quite work out that way as both Manchester United and Leicester City gained a point from the tie. United had started the better and capitalised on the early pressure when Anthony Martial latched on to a Antonio Valencia cross in the 8th minute to strike past Kasper Schmeichel. Martial has been United’s best player all season and is continuing to develop into a a top class forward – next season will be a big test for the Frenchman as he will be expected to add to his goal tally of 15 goals for this campaign.
Leicester City were on the back foot for the opening twenty minutes, however – Wes Morgan got the league leaders back in the game with a strong header from a Danny Drinkwater freekick. The Leicester captain got ahead of Marcos Rojo, not the only time, to head past David De Gea to equalise for the visitors.
There were moments when either side could have scored a second goal, with Jesse Lingard and Riyad Mahrez going close, only to be denied by Schmeichel and De Gea respectively. There was controversy involving Marouane Fellaini, who was lucky to stay on the pitch having elbowed Robert Huth, whilst Danny Drinkwater was sent off for pulling back Memphis Depay late in the second half. Depay should have been granted a penalty following the foul by Drinkwater, but Michael Oliver decided the penalty was outside of the box.
Here we discussed the talking points of the game and welcome comments from both sets of fans.
United blow chance to put pressure on City as Leicester await coronation
Manchester United are in a much better position than five months ago. Looking forward to an FA Cup final and closer to Manchester City and Arsenal than the club should was – at kick off, United fans were optimistic that what was once a desperate situation, could potentially be salvaged by a strong finish to the season.
It has to be said, over the winter months – United were woeful, up there with some of the worst football in years. Pedestrian, slow and outright boring – United were a million miles away from the swashbuckling nature of a Ferguson team. Whilst United fans vented frustration at the lack of adventurism within United’s play, Louis van Gaal was adamant that his philosophy would still work and that United were unlucky with injuries. The defeat against Stoke City on boxing day was an embarrassment, with £30 million signing Memphis Depay putting in a performance that would get slated if he actually turned out for the local Rose and Crown pub.
When assessing United’s chances at the turn of the year – any United fan would have taken an FA Cup final appearance and a chance to qualify for the Champions League. Even with Manchester City’s 4-2 defeat away at Southampton, United fans will feel that Louis van Gaal missed an opportunity to close the gap on City further with a very tepid second half performance.
Marcus Rashford, so often United’s saviour since February, was awfully quiet against the strong pairing of Robert Hugh and Morgan – whilst Jesse Lingard, despite a decent first half showing, failed to make an impact in the second half. N’Golo Kanté covered so much ground throughout the match, he looked as if he was part of a three man midfield with licence to roam, and intercepted the ball well, whilst former Manchester United player Danny Drinkwater was tenacious in the tackle, but lacked the runs in behind of Jamie Vardy to utilise his long passes. Michael Carrick, despite keeping the ball well, looks tired in the centre of the park, whilst Marouane Fellaini’s final contribution of handballing the football following a cross really summed up his contribution to the tie.
Wayne Rooney’s move to midfield is beneficial to the player, who no longer has that burst of acceleration that made him such a danger earlier in his career as a number 9. Rooney, for me, is still better deeper and playing with pacy players. His contribution today was far greater than what he produced earlier in the campaign, especially in the 1-0 victory over Aston Villa. Despite looking nailed on to surpasses Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals this season, he will be lucky next season to match it having last scored for United in the 3-0 victory over Stoke City at the start of April.
Leicester City started nervously due to what was at stake for a side that has never won a league title in their 132 year history. However, following Wes Morgan’s equaliser, the visitors grew in confidence and looked far more composed. If United started very brightly in the first half, it was Leicester City who were more likely to score in the second half. Riyad Mahrez, who has had an exceptional season and his signing from Le Havre must be one of the best buys of all time, was unlucky not to get a penalty after a clumsy challenge from Marcos Rojo. Leicester City’s title party is on hold, but there is no doubt they will be Champions of England for 2015/16. Their fans will be looking forward to Champions League football, competing with the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona – whilst United look as if they will miss out.
Marocs Rojo is becoming a liability
Luke Shaw’s return from a broken leg can not come soon enough for United. The youngster, who started the season so brightly, is looking to play some part in the remaining three games for United this season. He will of course slot in at left back, in place of Marcos Rojo – who despite being able to whip in some decent crosses really struggles with the defensive responsibilities of playing left back.
Having been out jumped by Toby Alderweireld in the 3-0 defeat away at Tottenham earlier in the month, it was the Argentine who failed again to thwart Morgan, who headed home the equaliser. Rojo struggled throughout the match, losing Morgan on multiple occasions from set pieces. He also couldn’t get close enough to Marhez and was lucky not to concede a penalty in the first half. Still, at least he got meet Eric Cantona after the game! Despite being an aggressive and passionate defender, Rojo will never be anything more than a squad player for united – of course with everyone fit.
Eric Cantona returns to Old Trafford
Former Manchester United captain was there to watch United’s 1-1 draw with Leicester City, with former red Peter Schmeichel, current United midfielder Ander Herrera and Bastian Schweinsteiger all having their picture taken with Sir Alex Ferguson’s talisman for so many years.
Cantona’s final game against Leicester City in the 1996/97 season when United drew 2-2 at Filbert Street – with strike partner Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scoring a brace. United would go on to win the title, with Cantona retiring at the end of the campaign. The signing of Cantona proved to be the final piece of Ferguson’s jigsaw, as United would go on to win four titles in five years – whilst Cantona was at the club. If Anthony Martial is the current favourite Frenchman amongst the United faithful, he has a long way to go until he reaches the heights of Le Roi – Eric Cantona.