UNITED KINGDOM, May 1 – Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City must wait to complete their fairytale Premier League title quest after being held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The Foxes needed three points to win the league for the first time, but with thousands of fans back in Leicester and millions of new converts around the world watching on television, they had to make do with one after Wes Morgan cancelled out Anthony Martial’s opener for United.
Leicester, who lost Danny Drinkwater to a late red card, will be crowned champions unless second-place Tottenham Hotspur win at Chelsea on Monday, but if Spurs do prevail, Ranieri’s men will be left requiring two points from their final games, at home to Everton and away to Chelsea.
It would still take a monumental collapse for Leicester not to claim the title, but their players, staff and anxious supporters must wait a few more hours, if not days, before their place in sporting history can be confirmed.
While Leicester’s title destiny remains in their own hands, it was a damaging result for Louis van Gaal’s United, who were left four points below the Champions League places with only three games to play.
Leicester have turned winning with minimal possession into an art form this season, but United’s early dominance here was to prove the precursor to a soft opener.
Antonio Valencia, preferred to 18-year-old Timothy Fosu-Mensah at right-back, was allowed to cut inside Christian Fuchs and trundle a cross to the back post, where Martial exploited Danny Simpson’s errant positioning to slot his 15th goal of the season past Kasper Schmeichel.
Back at the ground where his father, Peter, made his name, Schmeichel then produced a sharp one-handed save to thwart Jesse Lingard after Marouane Fellaini had chested down a cross from Marcos Rojo.
– Simpson survives –
Shortly after Schmeichel’s save, visiting captain Morgan outmuscled the floundering Rojo to meet Drinkwater’s arcing free-kick with a headed 17th-minute equaliser.
The game was now an intense, robust encounter and Fellaini was guilty of a wild elbow to Robert Huth’s chin, after the German had provoked him by yanking his hair, that could earn the Belgian a retrospective ban.
Referee Michael Oliver did not spot Fellaini’s infringement and he was also involved in two incidents prior to half-time that could have had major ramifications for either side.
In the first, Lingard intercepted a pass from Simpson, a former United player, on halfway and raced towards goal, only to go to ground as Simpson leant into him.
It would have been a red card if Oliver had called it a foul, but he saw no wrongdoing and it was the same story moments later — albeit perhaps more contentiously — when Riyad Mahrez crashed to the turf after being caught by Rojo inside the United box.
The teams continued to exchange chances in the second half, with Martial shooting over and Lingard curling straight at Schmeichel for United, while Leonardo Ulloa, once again deputising for the suspended Jamie Vardy, twice threatened for the visitors.
Mahrez, the Player of the Year, had been a peripheral presence, but with 19 minutes remaining he wriggled past three players before stinging David de Gea’s palms from the edge of the box.
The closing stages belonged to United, however, with Chris Smalling’s header clipping the post before Drinkwater, another Old Trafford old boy, saw red after receiving a second yellow card for hauling back substitute Memphis Depay right on the edge of the box.