Manchester United vs Leicester match report: Robin van Persie sets up revenge

Manchester United 3 Leicester 1: Van Persie appeared to be offside for his opening goal but Falcao's effort and an error from Chris Morgan sealed the victory

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The Independent Football

Revenge is supposedly a dish best served cold, although the temperatures in Manchester were so low that even the foot-long hot-dogs, a speciality of some Old Trafford catering establishments, would have come with a dusting of frost.

Nevertheless, payment was duly exacted for the 5-3 defeat Leicester had inflicted four months ago, an afternoon Louis van Gaal described as the “worst I have had in my job as manager of Manchester United”.

The result was, he added, a mystery, one of the two strangest of his managerial career. At Barcelona, he could remember losing 4-3 to Valencia after leading 3-0 with a quarter of an hour remaining and then there was the King Power Stadium in September when Manchester United were leading 3-1 with time sliding away.

With 10 minutes remaining at Old Trafford, Marcin Wasilewski’s close-range header meant the score was once more 3-1 to United but, apart from a vicious curling shot from Marc Albrighton, there was no suggestion of a repetition.

 

A cricket match between Essex and Cambridge University was once abandoned because of the cold and Manchester United appeared to have declared at half-time.

“At half-time [when United were three up] I asked them to kill the game which we did not do in the first match at Leicester,” Van Gaal said. “The problem was that they killed it too much.”

Van Gaal added that Darren Fletcher’s transfer to West Ham had collapsed. The London club had asked for a loan rather than a straight transfer for the midfielder – a proposal Fletcher rejected.

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Radamel Falcao stretches to score United's second

There was no mystery about this match. The outcome was as glacially clear as the skies above Old Trafford. Even in their pomp under Sir Alex Ferguson, it is hard to imagine Manchester United have brought to bear as much firepower as they did here. The combination of Wayne Rooney, Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria and Robin van Persie would have been too much for most clubs, let alone the one at the bottom of the Premier League.

In a prime example of how to tempt fate, one newspaper, inspired by United’s failure to break through Cambridge’s defence in the FA Cup, published a large picture of a goal, asking Van Gaal if he knew what it was for.

These kinds of stunts rarely work. In 1997, The Sun presented Australia’s cricket captain, Mark Taylor, who was struggling for runs, with a giant bat. Taylor finished the series with the Ashes and more runs than his England counterpart, Mike Atherton.

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Wayne Rooney celebrates with Radamel Falcao

Nevertheless, before the game, Van Persie had admitted to uncertainty about his immediate and long-term future at Old Trafford, the kind of doubt that comes from not having scored since Boxing Day.

He scored now, finishing beautifully an over-the-top ball from Daley Blind, who had caught Andrej Kramaric in possession. The Leicester back-four froze thinking – correctly as it turned out – that Van Persie was offside as he ran to take the ball on the volley.

“It was an honest mistake,” said Nigel Pearson, the Leicester manager, reflecting on the linesman’s call. “But it would be wrong to highlight one decision against a side that played exceptionally well.”

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Wes Morgan heads into his own net for United's third goal

Manchester United’s second was also down to an error, although Pearson conceded the mistake was Leicester’s. Van Persie’s goal had sent Leicester lumbering forward in search of an equaliser that left them horribly exposed to the counter-attack. A wonderful switched pass from Van Persie sent Di Maria through and, while Mark Schwarzer parried his shot, a combination of Falcao and Wasilewski bundled the ball over the line.

The third was even more unfortunate. Rooney’s corner was flicked on at the near post by Blind and sent crashing into his own net by Wes Morgan, who much like the side he captains, finished the half on his knees.

Line-ups:

Manchester United: (4-3-3) De Gea; Valencia (Mata, 77), Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Rooney, Blind, Januzaj; Di Maria, Van Persie (McNair, 68), Falcao (Wilson, 80).

Leicester City: (4-4-2) Schwarzer; Simpson, Wasilewski, Morgan, De Laet; Vardy (Cambiasso, h-t), King, Drinkwater, Schlupp; Kamaric (Albrighton, 62), Ulloa (Nugent, 62). 

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

Match rating: 6/10

Man of the match: Blind (Manchester United)

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