The time has arrived. The moment all Leicester’s fans have perhaps thought could occur since Easter but might still not feel completely real.
Leicester City are three points away from winning the Premier League.
This is a team who everyone thought would struggle this season (including myself), had just appointed a manager that seemed a bizarre choice (I certainly did), seemed destined to be facing a relegation battle to stay in the Premier League (YEP STILL ME HERE). And now Sunday could see the final sentences written of a truly remarkable season with Claudio Ranieri transcending into the realms of immortality.
Jamie Vardy is once more missing for this fixture but unlike last week where the focus on any match preview would have been concerned with how Leicester was going to cope with Vardy firing in the goals, a 4-0 defeat of Swansea clearly demonstrated that Leicester are a little more than Plan Vardy. Yes Leicester were playing Swansea who since securing the magical 40th point have been nothing more than lethargic, to the point where even Newcastle United gave them a bit of a seeing too and yes, Manchester United is a different kettle of fish but this Leicester side has more strings to its bow seemingly than we all first thought.
Leonardo Ulloa is a player who seems to love the pressure of the big moments. When looking back on this season, for all of Vardy’s goals, Ulloa was the player who scored the penalty against West Ham to secure the one point that kept the wheels rolling on the Vardy party bus and against Swansea the Argentine once more stepped up to the plate with the brace.
The Swansea game also saw Mahrez get on the score sheet once more. Whilst his goal may well of occurred due to Ashley William’s rushed clearance, any goal for Mahrez could now see the newly appointed PFA Player of the Year finish the season with a flourish. Mahrez’s win in the PFA’s seems totally justified. The Algerian has been awesome this year and whilst Ranieri was able to shuffle the pack without Vardy, what Mahrez is to Leicester going forward and creatively could almost be irreplaceable. He has simply been stunning this year.
It is an unusual position for Manchester United to be in. All eyes on the Red Devils but no one necessarily paying attention to how they are playing. Yet Manchester United have it all to play for this weekend. With Top Four a prospect, it is an occasion like Sunday’s that might see United put in a performance where if it were more frequent, Champions League football would already be confirmed.
With a game in hand over Arsenal and Manchester City, with both clubs to play each other once more this season, United sit five points off of potentially 3rd place in the Premier League. For all of the Van Gaal’s detractors (and there certainly is a high number of them), in recent months he certainly has kept United in with a shout of returning to Europe’s big table for another season. Anything but a win at Old Trafford though on Sunday will certainly put to bed those aspirations for another season. In that case scenario, will the FA Cup be Van Gaal’s parting gift? That is for a different time…
This game certainly could be a rip roaring affair, especially if Leicester take an early lead. Fans of the Foxes will be travelling north in numbers for the trip and in a stadium at times which has been a tad quiet whilst watching the motions of LVG’s philosophy, Leicester’s ‘12th man’ could help push their side over the line.
Manchester United: de Gea, Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Carrick, Herrera, Lingard, Rooney, Martial, Rashford
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez, Kanté, Drinkwater, Schlupp, Ulloa, Okazaki
Predicted Result : Manchester United 2-1 Leicester City
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog