Manchester United’s title hopes are now dead, as they sit 13 points off of first place in the Premier League after a very late equalizer from Harry Maguire denied the Reds a victory at Leicester City. A brace from Juan Mata had appeared to be enough to secure the win after an opener from racist abuser Jamie Vardy, but continued wastefulness and a failure to control the final minutes cost United a vital three points.
United started brightly, intent on taking the game to the Foxes. Within the first few minutes, a Chris Smalling header had floated just wide of the mark, and only a sharp Kasper Schmeichel save kept out Jesse Lingard’s long range effort. The Reds continued to do most of the attacking in the opening quarter of the match, only to be undone by a lightning counter attack in the 27th minute.
Wilfred Ndidi launched a long ball from inside his own half, and found Riyad Mahrez with only Smalling to beat. Although Smalling temporarily held up the Algerian, Mahrez, cleverly played in an onrushing Jamie Vardy who finished past David at the far post.
United were undeterred by going behind, however, and continued to pour forward. Their approach eventually paid dividends in the 40th minute, after some patient buildup play at the edge of the box. Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, and Lingard exchanged passes around the top of the box before Mata placed a delicate finish past Schmeichel to draw United level.
By the end of the first half, the game had become stretched, with Leicester having grown in confidence as well. Perhaps sensing United’s vulnerability at the back, the Foxes were creating chances of their own in an end-to-end series of exchanges before the break.
Much to Jose Mourinho’s likely chagrin, the second half continued to be an open affair. Only a goal-line clearance from Paul Pogba prevented Leicester from regaining the lead ten minutes after the restart. Immediately after, United launched a counter-attack that should have ended a goal. Romelu Lukaku played in Martial brilliantly, but despite a good first touch, the Frenchman blazed over from the edge of the box with only the ‘keeper to beat.
Right on the hour mark, Mata struck yet again. Martial - United’s most consistent attacking threat - won a free kick at the edge of the box in a promising position for a left-footed strike. Mata stepped up and curled a beauty over the wall and past Leicester’s goalkeeper. As good as the strike was, Kasper Schmeichel - son of former Manchester City ‘keeper, Peter - would have been expected to at least get a hand to it.
With United now ahead, neither team chose to take their foot off the gas. Lukaku yet again set up a teammate with an excellent through ball, but it was now Lingard’s turn to spurn an inviting chance. The forward rounded the goalkeeper, but could only hit his shot against the post.
Some worry was now beginning to creep in that United would be made to pay for their profligacy, but Mourinho’s men were handed a boost courtesy of a self-inflicted wound by the home team. Only on the pitch for 16 minutes as a substitute, Daniel Amartey picked up two quick yellow cards to reduce Leicester to 10 men. Mourinho took the opportunity to try to put the clamps on, and sent on Ander Herrera not long after to replace Lingard.
The Reds weren’t done wasting chances, however, stubbornly refusing to put the game to bed. Around the 80th minute, Pogba played a sumptuous curling ball into the path of the substitute Marcus Rashford. Yet again, with only the keeper to beat, a player in Red failed to score as Rashford could not get a shot off in time. A handful of half chances followed, but United continued to neither score nor - crucially - take time off the clock by keeping possession.
United effectively went down to 10 men as well towards the end of the match, as Chris Smalling limped through the final few minutes. The decision to keep him on the pitch however, proved costly. In the last moments of stoppage time, Harry Maguire got in front of an immobile Smalling to get on the end of a cross and poke the ball past De Gea.