Jamie Vardy rescued a point for Leicester City in a thrilling 2-2 draw with Manchester United in the Premier League on Boxing Day.
Marcus Rashford missed a glorious early chance but made amends almost immediately to give United the lead with a cool finish. The Foxes responded in style, though, as Wilfred Ndidi dispossessed Bruno Fernandes and Harvey Barnes’s scorching long-range shot left David De Gea helpless in goal.
The game was there for the taking in the second half, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turning to an immensely talented bench, and Edinson Cavani made an impact straight away, jinking away from Leicester’s defence and setting up Fernandes for what United seemed sure was the winner. More: Alabama lead American quarterback 2020 first team
Vardy brought an end to those premature celebrations, though, as Leicester’s pressure became overwhelming and the striker’s slightly mishit shot, courtesy of a fine ball by substitute Ayoze Perez, beat De Gea and clinched a point for Brendan Rodgers’s side.
Here are five talking points from the game:
Marcus Rashford gives United the leadReuters
Rashford shows cool after early lack of composure
Perhaps, Rashford himself was caught off guard by the glaring opportunity that presented itself almost immediately from kick-off. A delicate chip by Fernandes found the United forward completely unmarked just on the edge of the six-yard box but, without anybody to put him under pressure, Rashford inexplicably headed the ball straight over the bar from point-blank range. For a moment, it seemed to unsettle United as Leicester found openings of their own, with Vardy skewing a shot just wide, but when the next chance fell, Rashford rediscovered his familiar composure. A little flick at full stretch again saw Fernandes tee Rashford up perfectly and, with Schmeichel rushing out, he calmly side-footed his shot into the far corner.
Fernandes provides the spark once again
It was Fernandes, United’s divine source of inspiration, who once again provided the spark to ignite their attack. The assist for Rashford’s goal was not his finest, more skewed than exquisite, but the numbers alone tell of the Portuguese’s outstanding influence, now with ten goals and six assists in the league already this season. They are remarkable statistics, making him one of Europe’s most prolific playmakers, and he is absolutely fundamental to United’s every portion of success, linking the play, organising with authority, taking the bold risks others aren’t prepared to follow. His presence alone seems to enliven those around him and, despite a squad of such great depth – as evidenced by United’s heavy artillery bench today – they are more reliant on Fernandes than ever. He took United’s second sweetly and no player was so visibly frustrated as two points slipped from their grasp.
De Gea a little shaky once again
If David De Gea is short of confidence, the anxiety was most obvious in the goalkeeper’s feet. His mistimed pass came dangerously close to gifting Leicester a goal early on and that did little to inspire any sort of assurance in a makeshift defence, with Victor Lindelof filling in for the injured Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back. De Gea appeared to tweak his back in the process, with Dean Henderson forced to warm-up on the touchline, but the Spaniard played on and might have done better to prevent Barnes’s equaliser. The winger’s blistering strike from the edge of the box was terrific in its own right, but it was at a perfect height for De Gea, who might have got a finger to the ball and tipped it around the post. In his defence, he was partially unsighted and in was Scott McTominay who was most culpable, having backed off Barnes and allowed him the time and space to shoot.
Ndidi gives Leicester strength and spine
Wilfred Ndidi’s role is often understated, the unseen samaritan in front of defence, reading and recycling possession, making vital interceptions and allowing Youri Tielemans to adventure forwards. Nampalys Mendy has stepped up admirably this season but, perhaps, it was only in Ndidi’s absence that the strength and spine he offers was truly able to be seen. He is not just one of Leicester’s best players but, other than Fabinho, there is arguably nobody finer in his position in the Premier League, and it was the Nigerian’s intervention which set up Leicester’s equaliser. Telegraphing and pouncing on Fernandes’s loose pass, his quick-thinking enabled the Foxes to break and, ultimately, for Barnes to thrash his shot into the far corner. In all, Ndidi made seven tackles, more than anyone else on the pitch, and while his role might not be so headline-grabbing, it is just as indispensable.
Jamie Vardy rescues a point for LeicesterReuters
Subs source second half breakthroughs
A game that threatened to see-saw in either direction seemed as though it would United’s way in the second half, with Solskjaer shuffling his pack and finding a breakthrough. Daniel James received a show of faith from the manager but was largely anonymous and the addition of Paul Pogba strengthened United in the middle of the pitch and allowed Fernandes to roam almost into a false nine role up ahead. It was Edinson Cavani again, though, who impressed most. The striker is often painted as a slowing veteran but his movement was terrific, both in attack and defence, and his darting run and pass set up Fernandes’s would-be winner.
Instead, it was Rodgers’ response that saw Leicester leave the King Power with a deserved draw. The Foxes immediately brought on Ayoze Perez after going behind, and as they threw bodies forwards, it was the Spaniard whose ball found Vardy in the box, from where a first time finish rescued a point.