Manchester United secured Champions League football and a third-place Premier League finish on Sunday, courtesy of a nervy 2-0 win away at Leicester City on the final day of the league season. It was a tired, sloppy performance from Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men, though a second half penalty from Bruno Fernandes and a late tap-in by Jesse Lingard secured all three points.
United headed into the game needing only a point to guarantee a top four finish, while Leicester knew that unless Chelsea suffered a shock defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, they needed a win. The first half was noticeably nervy, as both sides felt their way into a fractious affair.
United saw the lion’s share of early possession, but were never able to exert sustained pressure on a disciplined Leicester. The visitors’ best early chance came from nothing, when a long, raking Marcus Rashford pass found Mason Greenwood, though the striker was never able to get above the ball and headed over the bar.
The next two opportunities were Leicester’s, and they should’ve done better. A clumsy touch from Nemanja Matić gifted Wilfried Ndidi a shooting chance from the edge of the box, though his effort cleared the crossbar. Minutes later the Foxes found themselves through three-on-two, though Kelechi Iheanacho selfishly scuffed a shot straight at David de Gea with his teammate James Justin clean through to his right.
United thought they’d opened the scoring when Bruno Fernandes slotted past Kasper Schmeichel from close range, though he was correctly adjudged to have been in an offside position when Paul Pogba played a brilliant ball over the top. Another piece of creative genius from the Frenchman caused chaos a few minutes later, though Rashford fired over after Pogba’s backspinning ball deceived defender Justin.
A quiet Anthony Martial might have broken the deadlock before halftime, though his low shot was deflected behind. Rashford was handed a half-chance on the ensuing corner, though his powerful shot was from a tight angle, and Schmeichel was able to beat it away at the near post.
With Chelsea two up against Wolves, Leicester knew they needed to win. A patient start to the second half almost paid dividends just short of the hour, when Jamie Vardy’s glancing header on a Youri Tielemans free-kick looped onto the United crossbar. The visitors looked increasingly leggy, and Leicester soon settled into a spell of possession.
However, the Foxes were left kicking themselves after a catastrophic defensive mistake midway through the second half, when Rashford caught Hamza Choudhury napping deep in his own half. He quickly slipped Martial through, who was caught in the area between Wes Morgan and Jonny Evans. After a VAR review, a penalty was awarded, and Bruno Fernandes stepped up to convert with characteristic aplomb.
Leicester might have immediately hit back, when Demarai Gray found fellow substitute Harvey Barnes in the box. He fired goalwards on the turn, but his close-range shot was at a comfortable height for a grateful de Gea, and United maintained their advantage. Solskjær subsequently moved to shore things up, introducing Jesse Lingard in place of Greenwood, and then Scott McTominay for Fernandes.
It was an uncomfortable final quarter for United, who were certainly on the back foot, but they held onto their clean sheet. Leicester’s disappointment was compounded in stoppage time, when former United man Evans was given a straight red for a dangerous lunge at McTominay. Things went from bad to worse for the hosts a few minutes later, when Jesse Lingard charged down Foxes keeper Schmeichel, nicked the ball, and rolled it home for 2-0 with practically the last kick of the game.