Manchester United needlessly dropped two points away to Leicester City, allowing them to equalize with the last kick of the game, while having come from behind to lead. Jamie Vardy had finished off a classic Leicester City counter-attack to put the Foxes in front, but a Juan Mata double led to United taking the lead. The Red Devils wasted a number of chances to seal the game, leading to Harry Maguire sliding in behind the injured Chris Smalling to level things right at the death.
The following are some of the key talking points from the game:
United’s lack of game management costs them dear
Jose Mourinho lambasted his players after the match, stating that “Some players have childish decisions and time helps them to have maturity and to decide better. But some other players stay with a childish decision until the end of their career. You know it depends on what is inside and the way they learn or they don’t learn.” United’s lack of nous and killer instinct cost them dearly, as a lack of experience was made evident. One can scarcely imagine such panicked decision-making if the likes of Michael Carrick were on the pitch; yet, in Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Nemanja Matic, David de Gea, Ashley Young and Paul Pogba, United’s lineup had enough title-winning experience, both in England and abroad, to know when to slow the game down and not take risks. United had the game in the bag after Leicester were reduced to ten men, and yet it felt like United were the team with a man down. There was a shocking lack of maturity, as the players tried to go for the killer pass time and time again instead of keeping the ball and running the clock down. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford both had brilliant opportunities to put the game to bed, but poor decision-making let them down, while the Smalling injury fiasco was a nightmare. Given that Mourinho had used all three subs, an injured Smalling should have gone off the pitch, or gone up front; he should have been nowhere near his penalty area to defend a Leicester aerial barrage. It was Smalling who ended up failing to mark Harry Maguire as he slid in to score Leicester’s equalizer, and this lack of game management made United pay a heavy price.
Leicester throwback to their title win
The Foxes have enjoyed a decent run of form since Claude Puel’s appointment, proving that relegation fears were perhaps a little premature. The Frenchman’s undeserved reputation for unattractive football had put off many of the Leicester faithful prior to his appointment; now, one suspects that there would be far fewer dissenters. Leicester have been quite entertaining to watch in recent games, and their opening goal here was a perfect reminder of the tactics that took them to the title two years ago. It took seconds for Leicester to storm up the pitch once a United attack had broken down; Jamie Vardy laid the ball off to Wilfried Ndidi inside his own half, who smashed a long ball behind an absent United defence for Riyad Mahrez to pick up. The Algerian moved inside, waited for the onrushing Vardy to catch up and played a perfectly-weighted pass to him, and once he was one-on-one, there was only going to be one outcome. Leicester were a lot more effective whenever they went to a more direct, counter-attacking style in this game, and with players like Vardy and Mahrez, there is no doubt that this strategy will prove to be an effective one in the future as well.
Lukaku toils but is let down by teammates
Romelu Lukaku had probably his best game in a United shirt. He may not have scored or assisted, but his work rate was evident, as was a significant improvement in his link-up play. The Belgian was constantly running the channels, dropping off to combine with Lingard, Mata, and Martial, or occupying the centre-backs to create space in front of them. Lukaku will feel aggrieved at his teammates’ profligacy; he should have arguably got two assists on the night. A brilliant through ball to leave Martial one-on-one was wasted as the Frenchman blasted over the bar, while another similar pass led to Lingard rounding Kasper Schmeichel but only managing to hit the post. While there will be frustration at the result, United fans can take a glimmer of hope from the fact that their #9 looks much better integrated into the side, and better finishing is all that is needed to take advantage.