On a grey, wet and dreary afternoon in Manchester, United were facing Champions elect Leicester in the fight to try and finish in the top four in the table.
Once again, Fellaini and Carrick were starting in midfield together, with more creative players like Mata and Herrera sitting on the bench. Rashford and Martial started up front with Captain Rooney just behind them.
United started very well in this game, and deservedly went ahead after just eight minutes when Anthony Martial turned a Valencia cross past the near-post and into the net. Unfortunately our lead and joy didn’t last as less than ten minutes later Leicester skipper Wes Morgan showed strength and power to outmuscle a poor Rojo and make it 1-1 with less than twenty minutes gone. From then on the game was quite balanced, though United were still slightly better than their opponents.
In the second half none of the teams pressed with much intent, and while United still created the better chances, they were few and far between. ‘Mike’ Smalling did hit the post with a header from a Rooney cross, and United could have (should have?) won a penalty when substitute Memphis was brought down by Danny Drinkwater with five minutes left to play, but there wasn’t much to shout about as both United and Leicester seemed happy enough with not losing at Old Trafford, which seems to be part of Van Gaal’s ‘philoshophy’ to try and not lose rather than try to win.
When the final whistle went both sets of supporters seemed quite content with the draw, with Leicester fans obviously seeming happier as this point pushed them closer to becoming Champions for the first time ever, while it left United dangling in fifth place with still a slight chance to win the fourth place trophy.
It was a nice touch by the United fans who stayed behind to applaud Leicester players off the pitch (yes, I was one of them). Not that we were happy that the Foxes were going to win the league, but them doing so meant that bigger rivals like City, L’pool, Arsenal and Chelsea weren’t going to and it seemed like a much smaller blow than if any of the others had won it instead.
On the day, Valencia, Blind and Martial had a good one (at least compared to this season’s standards), while more was expected from players like Captain Rooney and Rashford, who was quiet throughout the game. As for Marcos Rojo, this was definitely one of his worst games for the club, and he’s had quite a few bad ones this season. It was baffling to see that the one time that Van Gaal needed to take a full-back off, he didn’t, and left Rojo on to plod along to the ire of many of the fans watching the game.
In other games from the Premier League, Tottenham threw away a two goal half-time lead to draw 2-2 at Chelsea and confirm Leicester as Champions of England with two games still to play; Arsenal got closer to finishing above their usual fourth place by beating relegation strugglers Norwich 1-0; City rested players for their trip to Southampton and it showed as they lost 4-2; Sixth placed West Ham won 3-0 at West Brom; Klopp’s L’pool fell down to eight as they were defeated 3-1 at Swansea; Stoke and Sunderland drew 1-1; Everton won their first game in eight in the league by beating Bournemouth 2-1; Watford beat Championship side Villa 3-2 with two goals in injury-time; and Newcastle climbed out of the bottom three with a 1-0 win at home to Pardew’s Palace.
Looking at some news coming out from these games, Fellaini and Leicester’s Huth have been charged with violent conduct by the FA after an off the ball clash. Fellaini was seen to elbow (what’s new?) Huth after the German defender pulled the Belgian’s hair. Now far from us wanting to defend the bushy-haired ‘destroyer’, but most of us would probably act in a similar way if we had our hair pulled by anyone (unless in cases that Van Gaal mentioned when asked about it, but let’s not go there!).
On a similar note, both Chelsea and Tottenham have also been charged by the FA for failing to control their players and officials during Monday’s game. Twelve yellow cards were shown and two mass brawls broke out in a heated derby in which Spurs’ Dembele was also charged with an alleged act of violent conduct after poking Diego Costa in his eye.
In the Champions League we have an all-Spanish final again as Atletico will be meeting Real in an all-Madrid derby in Milan after they both knocked out Bayern Munich and Manchester City respectively (and thankfully).
Back to United, the club held their annual awards night on Monday evening, in which Marcus Rashford deservedly won the U/18 player of the year award, Borthwick-Jackson won the U/21 award, ‘Mike’ Smalling won the Players’ player of the year award, and David de Gea won the Sir Matt Busby player of the year award for the third time in a row, making him the first player to win it in three consecutive years. While our keeper deserves all the awards he wins, this goes to show how poor United’s outfield players have been for the past three seasons as none of them have come close to challenging De Gea in being the club’s best player since our last title win.
Looking ahead, United have two games coming up in the next week, both away from home. They first visit Norwich on Saturday (12:45pm UK time) before travelling to London to face West Ham in the last game they’ll ever play at Upton Park on Tuesday (7:45pm UK time). We doubt any of these games will be easy, but here’s hoping United do win both to keep fighting for that fourth-place trophy… COME ON UNITED!!!