HOW ironic that Manchester United’s perfect away day record should fall to a sucker punch on Boxing Day.
Yet that’s exactly what happened here today, as Jamie Vardy’s scuffed swipe KO’d their bid for a seventh away win of the season – and a record-equalling 11 in all.
Just when they looked to have finally broken the back of a Leicester side which had pushed them all the way, up popped Vardy to level it.
Although even the Foxes striker himself admitted his 82nd minute effort was probably heading wide before it clipped Axel Tuanzebe and flew past David De Gea.
Cruel luck on United, and an end to their impressive run of league wins on their travels.
But for all they were eventually denied by a cruel slice of bad luck, the fact they aren’t sitting behind only Liverpool is down to their own shocking finishing as much as anything.
Not even Marcus Rashford – despite his clinical strike putting them ahead initially – will be able to tell you how he missed the early chance that was easier to score than miss.
And Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial also had their moments, which would have made Vardy’s late show nothing more than a minor irritation.
Less than 90 seconds had gone when Bruno Fernandes dinked another special cross into the box and Rashford somehow headed over from bang in front, with no defender around.
Martial did actually put the ball away in the second half, with the scores level for the first time, but had set off too early and was offside.
And Fernandes also headed over a first half opening when he would surely have scored if his timing had been better.
Throw in a couple of defensive clangers as well, and even though United didn’t leave here as losers, deep down Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will almost feel that way.
The first of those backline blunders saw keeper De Gea taking too long to clear and nearly gifting Leicester a goal, and if Fred hadn’t slid in to clear, quoite probably would have done.
The season of goodwill it may be, but that was taking it to ridiculous levels by the Spanish stopper.
So what a huge sigh of relief came from the United dugout when Rashford finally managed to put them in front and atone for his previous cock-up.
To be fair, Dan James’ pass to Fernandes was too far ahead of his team-mate, who had to slide to get anywhere near it.
When he did, that was enough to take James Justin out of the equation, and this time Rashford buried it in the bottom corner.
Mind you, it wasn’t half as stunning a finish as the one which dragged Leicester level – and once more it went down as a catalogue of defensive clangers.
First Harry Maguire slipped and made a hurried clearance to Fernandes, who then gave the ball away by trying to be to deliberate when he should really have simply got rid.
Harvey Barnes wasn’t about to debate the issue when James Maddison fed him 25 yards out, and his thumping shot flew past De Gea.
It is moments like that at the back for United which leave you questioning whether those who believe they are genuine title challengers this season have had one too many.
Certainly there is still much work to be done before they can possibly be mentioned in the same breath as Liverpool or even City, for all their neighbours have not been at their best.
Still, you know what they say about poor sides being able to drag out a victory when they aren’t at 100 per cent.
And even though United were just about the better side here, they were anything but at their best.
You sensed they needed an injection off the bench to get the job done – and of course no-one knows more about that than their manager,
Yet when Solskjaer threw on Edinson Cavani not even he could have hoped for such an immediate impact.
The Uruguayan had already given Kasper Schmeichel one hairy moment when he slid the perfectly weighted ball through for Fernandes.
And he lapped up the chance by burying it in the corner for what we all thought would be the winner.
But if one sub had done the job for United, another of the replacements in red did the opposite.
Twice Paul Pogba, himself a second half replacement, was caught on his heels in the build up to the second equaliser.
That saw Ayoze Perez drill in a superb ball, Vardy swung a leg and it flew in off Tuanzebe.
Fortunate it may have been, heartbreaking – for the men in red – it most definitely was, and not even Vardy, who hadn’t scored in six previous Boxing Day attempts for Leicester, could claim that.
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