Manchester United stumbled their way to a 2-0 win against Leicester City at King Power Stadium on Sunday, securing a place in next season’s Champions League at the expense of their opponents.
With a lucrative top-four spot on offer, both sides showed clear signs of nerves in a first half littered with missed chances and misplaced passes.
With just 20 minutes left on the clock United took the lead, with Jonny Evans and Wes Morgan both clumsily taking down Anthony Martial when through on goal, leaving referee Martin Atkinson no choice but to point to the spot; Bruno Fernandes tucking away the resulting penalty.
Brendan Rodgers’ side pushed hard late on but they were unable to unlock a resolute United defence, with Evans sent off late on to compile Leicester’s misery after a poor challenge on Scott McTominay, and Jesse Lingard pouncing on a Kasper Schmeichel error late on to secure the win.
Key Talking Point
Having looked nailed on for a place in Europe’s premier competition next year – sitting 14 points above United as recently as January – Rodgers’ side have buckled late on.
Ultimately, a lack of squad depth has done for the Foxes, and that’s something they’ll be looking to address in the summer if they do want to continue their progression.
Despite the last collapse, it shouldn’t be overlooked what a fantastic season this has been for Leicester. European football has still been booked for next season in the form of the Europa League, and with some solid transfer dealings in the summer they can yet again be challenging for a place in the top four.
Starting XI: Schmeichel (6); Justin (8*), Morgan (6), Evans (7), Thomas (6); Albrighton (7), Ndidi (6), Choudhury (6), Tielemans (6); Vardy (7), Iheanacho (6).
Subs: Perez (5), Gray (6), Barnes (6), Praet (6), Hirst (N/A)
Injuries and suspensions have seen Leicester stripped to the bare bones at the end of this season, with a number of the Premier League winning stalwarts and youngsters asked to step in.
One of those tasked with filling the void of an injured senior player has been James Justin. Signed from Luton Town last summer, the 22-year-old has acquitted himself brilliantly since filling in for Ricardo Pereira, and his performance against United was the stand out one of the afternoon.
Providing both a threat offensively and looking defensively sound in the first half from a wing back role, the youngster moved into a back three in the second and looked equally at home.
Leicester’s lack of squad depth has undoubtedly been their downfall this season, having looked certainties for the Champions League early on. However, in Justin they have an adequate replacement for Pereira and someone who should challenge his place in the first team next season.
Key Talking Point
Having looked dead and buried in terms of Champions League qualification earlier this season, Solskjaer’s men have defied the odds and even managed to secure third place in the Premier League.
Despite the Red Devils securing a top-four finish, Solskjaer won’t be happy with his side’s performance at Leicester.
Both Marcus Rashford and Fernandes had arguably their poorest games of the season, with both misplacing simple passes.
If Solskjaer was under any illusion that the hard work was done having secured Champions League football, then this was a stark reminder to him that things are far from perfect. United are a long way off challenging the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, and summer reinforcements are still required.
Starting XI: De Gea (5), Wan-Bissaka (7), Lindelof (7), Maguire (5), Williams (7*); Matic (5), Pogba (6), Fernandes (4); Greenwood (6), Martial (6), Rashford (4).
Subs: Lingard (6), McTominay (6), Fosu-Mensah (N/A), Ighalo (N/A).
In a United performance where a number of individuals failed to really produce, youngster Williams was one of the few who emerged with any credit.
The left-back was full of endeavour and showed a desire to get forward wherever possible, with many of his teammates seeming happy to hold out for a draw.
Solskjaer’s use of Aaron Wan-Bissaka this season seems to suggest he is looking for more adventure from his full-backs, and if that is the case then Williams could have a huge part to play at Old Trafford next season.