Manchester United missed their chance to go second in the Premier League table as they drew 2-2 away at Leicester City on Boxing Day. In a tight game, United twice took the lead, courtesy of goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, though were pegged back by their tenacious hosts.
United should’ve been ahead inside two minutes, when a dinked cross from Fernandes landed square on the forehead of an unmarked Rashford, though he missed from close range. Leicester responded in kind, with an early cross from the right swung in towards Jamie Vardy, though he volleyed wide under pressure from Eric Bailly.
Leicester started with a high-pressing game, and caught United off-guard when David de Gea struggled to bring a backpass under control. The Foxes nicked the ball deep in their visitors’ half, though Bailly swooped in to snuff out the danger at the last.
The game was finely poised when United broke the deadlock midway through the first period. The opener came as play was bunched up for a United throw-in deep in the Leicester half. Daniel James worked some space to fire a low pass in towards Fernandes, whose prodded pass found Rashford lurking free at the back post. Unmarked, Rashford finished with characteristic cool, rolling the ball across Kaspar Schmeichel and inside the post.
United had brought a frantic game under control when Leicester equalised from nothing just past the half-hour. Winger Harvey Barnes found a pocket of space on the edge of the box, and curled a powerful shot past de Gea to level things up. With some better positioning, the Spaniard might have saved it.
For the remainder of the half, United saw plenty of possession but most of it between the two centre-halves, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire. Having started with an intense pressing game, Leicester increasingly dropped into a compact defensive block, and the absence of dynamic movement from United’s midfielders restricted them to hopeful long balls. There was one remaining chance in the first half, but it came from a set piece, when Fernandes glanced a venomous free-kick wide.
Despite the early introduction of Paul Pogba for Dan James, the second half showed little discernible improvement. That was until the hour mark, when United twice caught Leicester on the counter in quick succession. At the first attempt, Rashford was denied by a strong Schmeichel save; at the second, Martial had a goal ruled out for offside.
The game looked at risk of petering out into a draw, but with just over 10 minutes left, United edged ahead. Substitute Edinson Cavani dropped into a pocket of space between Leicester’s lines, turned, and slipped Bruno Fernandes in behind the last man. He made no mistake in the one-on-one, stroking past Schmeichel for 2-1.
Leicester, alas, weren’t done there. With five minutes left, Vardy turned a low Ayoze Pérez cross goalwards, with the ball ricocheting off the legs of Axel Tuanzebe before nestling in the bottom corner of De Gea’s goal. It salvaged a point for the Foxes, and, for now, at least, second place in the table. On the balance of play, it was probably a fair result.