Manchester United were held to a draw by Leicester City in their Boxing Day fixture on Saturday afternoon. Goals from Rashford and Bruno Fernandes were canceled out by Barnes’ strike, and Tuanzebe’s own goal. Despite going ahead twice, United gave away goals to the Foxes and failed to solidify second place on the table.
David de Gea returned as goalkeeper for the league games, as Maguire and Eric Bailly were the center backs. Luke Shaw was on the left, while Victor Lindelof made an outing playing right back. Fred and McTominay were the holding midfielders behind Bruno, James, Rashford, and Martial. Pogba, Cavani, Tuanzebe, Telles, and van de Beek were among those on the bench.
Leicester City came out of the gates hungry and threatening. Although United had a clear chance in the second minute, Rashford’s poor finishing gave the Foxes a lifeline. As Leicester looked to find the opener, Manchester United managed to draw first blood on the other end. A squared pass from James was poked into Rashford’s path by Bruno. Rashford finished promptly past Schmeichel to make it 1-0 in the 23rd minute.
Unfortunately, the lead lasted only for a short time as Leicester City equalized soon after. A giveaway from Bruno Fernandes gifted Barnes with the ball who took a few touches and unleashed a scorcher from outside the box to make it 1-1. While Bruno was the culprit there, questions can be asked of why McTominay did not close Barnes down, and why United get so frazzled when they are under pressure. Manchester United had another chance from a corner but Bruno’s open header went off target.
Manchester United had a great start to the second half with James and Bruno but the Leicester City defender made a great last-ditch tackle to deny them. United’s substitutes were expected to have a big impact on the result of this game. Manchester United had Cavani, Pogba, and van De Beek on their bench, giving them the upper hand. In the 54th minute, Ole pulled the trigger and brought on Paul Pogba for Daniel James. Shortly after, Manchester United fans were off their seats but had their heads in their hands. Marcus Rashford was put through one on one in a bread-and-butter chance for the forward. He lashed his shot right at Schmeichel’s hands, much to the dismay of every United fan watching. Shortly after, Axel Tuanzebe came on for a seemingly injured Victor Lindelof.
Maguire had a great chance off a corner but failed to get it on target against his former employers. In his final sub, Ole brought on Cavani to replace Martial- a statement of intent that United were going for three points. The impact was instant as he played Bruno through inside the box. The talismanic midfielder fired in the goal to make it 2-1. Jamie Vardy halted United’s victory song in the 85th minute as his shot was deflected in by Axel. In a display of poor defending and lack of presence, Perez floated in a cross to the middle of the box. None of the United defenders closed down the cross and Vardy gracefully accepted. A frustrating draw for United who were on the course to yet another victory on the road.
Despite being in a winning position twice, the Red Devils simply could not hold onto the lead and gave away two bad goals to Leicester like a Christmas present. If this team wishes to contend for the title, the defense has to improve- and looking at the transfer market in January could do just that. This game was a battle of the midfield and Fred and McTominay lacked their usual stability and confidence.
Despite having a “poor” game, Fernandes came up with a goal and an assist- breaking Lampard’s record of most involvements by a midfielder in one year. Manchester United would have loved to go close to the summit of the table but will take respite from the fact that they draw against a tough side. With Liverpool and Everton also dropping points, United will have a chance to come close to the top again if they win against Wolverhampton.