This was surely not what the Glazers had in mind when they loosened the purse strings at Old Trafford this summer. On an afternoon when Manchester United started for the first time with their full £150m worth of expensive new recruits, the folly of their fur coat and no knickers approach to team building was exposed by a striker who cost Leicester City £1m from Fleetwood Town.
On his first Premier League start, Jamie Vardy upstaged Radamel Falcao, the £265,000-a-week man from Monaco, as he ran United’s defenders ragged to inspire Leicester to stage an extraordinary fightback to beat United 5-3 and highlight the vulnerabilities only too evident at the heart of their top-heavy team.
United led both 2-0 and 3-1 and provided an early goal-of-the-season contender from Angel Di Maria, yet their defence was torn apart by a Leicester side just out of the Championship. In the process the erstwhile kings of the comeback lost a match for the first time in the Premier League era after holding a two-goal lead and now sit 12th in the Premier League with five points from five games – two fewer than they had time at this stage last year under David Moyes.
An unhappy Louis van Gaal admitted that United had thrown it away. “You have to know when you can pass the ball and when you have to get rid of the ball,” the manager said. “In this game, at 3-1, I felt we had played fantastic football but then you cannot make the errors we did.”
It was an afternoon when Van Gaal himself was outwitted by Nigel Pearson, his Leicester counterpart, whose team climbed to seventh with a first home league win over United since 1985. They matched United’s diamond formation and destroyed them down the flanks, where Pearson’s impressive forwards, Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa, pulled out wide and gave United’s exposed full-backs a torrid time.
Leicester City 5 Manchester United 3 player ratings
Leicester City 5 Manchester United 3 player ratings
1/22 Leicester: Kasper Schmeichel
Couldn’t be faulted for the goals, and didn’t have too many saves to make. 5
2/22 Ritchie De Laet
Never stopped working up and down the right flank and set up Jamie Vardy’s goal with a superb through ball after dispossessing Juan Mata. 7
3/22 Liam Moore
Grew into the game after an uncertain start and was a threat at set-pieces. 6
4/22 Wes Morgan 6
A commanding performance from the centre back that helped to keep Robin van Persie quiet for the most part.
5/22 Paul Konchesky
Typically industrious display, with plenty of bursts forward and crunching tackles.
6/22 Esteban Cambiasso
Thundered in the equaliser to make it 3-3, and kept things ticking over in midfield with his accurate passing.
7/22 Danny Drinkwater
Former Manchester United player showed some fantastic vision. 7
8/22 Dean Hammond
Steady in the middle for the Foxes. 6
9/22 David Nugent
Great link-up play with Vardy and Ulloa, and made no mistake from the spot. 8
10/22 Jamie Vardy
Constant source of anguish for the United defence. 9
11/22 Leonardo Ulloa
£8m striker is already up to five goals this season after his impressive double. 8
12/22 Manchester United: David De Gea
Couldn’t have done much for any of the goals, and offered no protection by his threadbare defence. 5
13/22 Marcos Rojo
Struggled against Vardy all afternoon and couldn’t get forward as much as he would have liked. Good pass into Falcao in the build-up to United’s first goal. 5
14/22 Tyler Blackett
Gave the ball away in dangerous areas, and sent off when he conceded a penalty for bringing down Vardy. A nightmare afternoon for the youngster.
15/22 Jonny Evans
Looked reasonably assured before going off injured after half an hour. 5
Lost his head when he unnecessarily fouled Jamie Vardy for the penalty that got Leicester back in the game. Often caught out of position. 5
17/22 Ander Herrera
Took his goal beautifully, but on the back foot for much of the afternoon. 5
18/22 Wayne Rooney
Beautifully weighted pass for Di Maria’s goal, but peripheral for much of the game. Booked for dissent after the Blackett sending off. 5
19/22 Angel Di Maria
Scored stunning goal, and always a threat with his pace and direct running. Taken off for the final quarter of an hour. 6
20/22 Daley Blind
Very comfortable in possession but ultimately couldn’t match the Leicester midfield's intensity. 5
21/22 Robin van Persie
Scored deflected goal early on, but did little else thereafter. 5
22/22 Radamel Falcao
Did superbly to create Robin van Persie’s goal, and so unlucky not to score with volley that hit the bar. Taken off for the final 20 minutes. 6
The tireless Vardy, in particular, was involved in every Leicester goal, though the pivotal one came after 62 minutes and provided the game’s turning point. United were seemingly cruising to victory at 3-1, but Rafael da Silva barged Vardy in the back to concede a penalty. It was “stupid” by Rafael according to Van Gaal but was fiercely contested by Wayne Rooney, in particular, given Vardy had seconds before gone unpunished for sending the right-back flying with a shoulder barge outside the box. “I don’t know if it is a penalty but we have to look to ourselves,” said Van Gaal. “We made such big errors as a team and also personally.
“It was still 3-2 at that time, there is not any problem – you can kill the game, you can keep possession.”
David Nugent blasted the penalty down the middle and less than two minutes later Leicester were level as both Chris Smalling and Rooney spurned the opportunity to clear the ball and a Dean Hammond shot deflected off Vardy to Esteban Cambiasso, who drove low past David de Gea.
United’s defensive nightmare continued as Leicester capped an amazing comeback in the closing stages. Marcos Rojo was caught high up the pitch when Ritchie de Laet beat Juan Mata on the halfway line, giving the Leicester full-back acres of space to run into before he played in Vardy to sweep a low shot past De Gea.
Tyler Blackett was then at fault for the fifth and final goal as he let Vardy nudge him off the ball as it came over the top and then responded by upending the striker as he shaped to shoot. Mark Clattenburg showed him a red card and Ulloa struck his fifth goal in as many Premier League games from the penalty spot.
The astonishing denouement seemed a million miles away in the opening quarter of an hour as United started confidently and looked poised to build on last weekend’s 4-0 win over Queen’s Park Rangers. Kasper Schmeichel had already denied Robin van Persie once when the Dutchman found the net after 13 minutes, heading in from Falcao’s cross with the help of a deflection off Liam Moore.
Then, three minutes later, Di Maria struck with a quite stunning goal. Collecting a ball from Danny Blind five yards inside his own half, he sped into Leicester territory, fed Rooney and then collected the return pass. Lesser players might have failed to dig the ball out from beneath their feet but he dinked a wonderful lob over Schmeichel. “A beautiful goal” was Van Gaal’s verdict.
Yet Leicester had come back to take points off Everton and Arsenal in their opening two home games and they had a goal back within 60 seconds as Vardy outpaced Rojo by the right corner flag and whipped over a cross that Ulloa met with a bullet header that flew past De Gea at this near post. There was a question mark over whether the ball had gone out of play before Vardy crossed, but the goal stood.
Cambiasso, enjoying an excellent full debut after his move from Internazionale, sat deep in the Leicester midfield and frustrated Rooney at the tip of United’s diamond, but the visitors still created the better chances, Rojo nodding over a Di Maria corner just before the break. Shortly after Falcao almost marked his first start with a goal as he volleyed against the crossbar.
Just before the hour, they had their third goal when Ander Herrera, with a cute backheel, flicked a Di Maria shot into the net. That looked like that but then with this United team, nothing is guaranteed.Reuse content