Manchester City are champions of England after fine goals from Justin Thomas and Caglar Soyuncu gave Leicester a crucial win over a heavily rotated Manchester United team at Old Trafford.
Leicester are now eight and nine points ahead of West Ham and Liverpool respectively, and look good for a Champions League spot after a recent wobble.
Leicester took a while to get going – surprising, given how badly they needed a result and how inexperienced United’s side was – but then on 10 minutes, Luke Thomas cushioned home a delicious volley and his first Premier League goal, following good work by Youri Tielemans. United, though, responded well, Amad Diallo baring past Thomas before finding Greenwood, who burst by Caglar Soyuncu and slid home his eighth goal in 11 games.
After half-time Leicester stepped it up, dictating against United’s one-paced midfield before, on 66 minutes, a fine corner from Tielemans picked out Soyuncu at the back post, and he escaped Marcus Rashford and Nemanja Matic to power a header past David De Gea.
United huffed and puffed thereafter, but even after sending on their best players, mustered little, so were left with the double-edged sword of handing the title to their local rivals while damaging the European prospects of their fiercest rival. Leicester, on the other hand, can now prepare for Saturday's cup final without having to depend on it to save their season.
United are now unarguably a good side, but if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to succeed in his job, they must improve again to start contesting and winning the big pots. Part of that improvement will happen organically – most of his squad are still improving – but it’s also time to tweak how his team plays.
When Paul Pogba was injured or uninterested, opponents who stopped Bruno Fernandes went a long way towards stopping United. But now Pogba is fit and buzzing, that’s no longer the case, making him a second automatic midfield choice. United’s problem is that Solskjaer doesn’t totally trust his defence, so rather than play his two creators with one sitter, he tends to go for Fred and Scott McTominay, with Pogba playing from the left. That can work well, but means that Marcus Rashford starts off the right, where he is not at his best, and means that only two of him, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani can start.
Given how well Rashford, Greenwood and Cavani are playing, that is not longer a viable or sensible option. Instead, Solskjaer must trust his back four, have McTominay – a box-to-box player really – use his athleticism and power to cover the width of the pitch in front of them – and leave it to the other side to work out how to deal with his front five. Then, in the summer, he needs to find the most physical passer available – Declan Rice looks the likeliest option – after which his team might just be ready for a title tilt.
Manchester United's Alex Telles (L) holds the ball up
Image credit: Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City) United were weak in midfield but Ndidi took full advantage, prompting well and stopping almost everything United got going.
Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on May 11, 2021 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
Image credit: Getty Images
Manchester United: De Gea 6, Williams 5, Bailly 5, Tuanzebe 7, Telles 5, Matic 7, Mata 5, Van de Beek 4, Traore 6, Greenwood 7, Elanga 6. Subs: Rashford 6, Cavani 6, Fernandes 6.
Amad Diallo setting up Mason Greenwood is the first time two teenagers have combined for a goal since Boro's David Wheater created one for Adam Johnson in May 2006.
10’ - WHAT A GOAL! Manchester United 0-1 Leicester City (Thomas) What a crucial goal this is, and how brilliantly it's conceived and despatched! Iheanacho lays back for Castagne, who sticks the ball down the line and into space, where Tielemans has run off Matic. The cross is a decent one too, but there's so much work necessary when it arrives at Thomas, who cushions a scrumptious volley right into the postage stamp.
15’ - GOAL! Manchester United 1-1 Leicester City (Greenwood) He is ridiculous. Mata humps one over the top to Amad who, on the right corner of the box, barges the ball past Thomas' weak challenge and slips inside to Greenwood, who takes into stride and past Soyuncu then, from a narrowing angle, screws a terrific low finish across the spreadeagled Schmeichel and into the far corner.
59’ - Better from Leicester, Tielemans picking up a good position in front of the United back four and slipping Iheanacho in, right side of the box. But in the time he needs to open his body to finish left-footed, De Gea closes the distance and gets into his long-barrier position, blocking the ball to safety. That's a very good save.
66’ - GOAL! Manchester United 1-2 Leicester City (Soyuncu) This is a monstrous header, Soyuncu peeling off Rashford - why on earth was he marking him - leaps all over Matic and punishes a header into the roof of the net. That's Soyuncu's first goal since November 2019.
73’ - And here come Leicester again, Iheanacho getting away down the left and crossing to the back stick, where Vardy floats a header back towards the other corner ... it's drifting wide though, so Tielemans arrives to clatter himself into the post as the ball drifts wide.
85’ - Better from United, Telles sliding Mata in down the left side of the box. He has a look and cuts back to no one, but with Cavani sniffing the ball drops to Fernandes who, on the run, lashes a slice that flies wide. He was under pressure, but you expected him to score there. ÿÿÿ