Manchester United frustrated league leaders and champions-elect Leicester City to ensure that the Foxes’ wait for their first title will go on for at least another day.
Claudio Ranieri’s side arrived at Old Trafford knowing that three points would secure the Premier League trophy and allow them to make history in the most unpredictable title race in a generation.
Having survived relegation to the Championship last season with a terrific run of seven wins in their last nine games, the club began this season as firm favourites to drop out of the top flight. That opinion was only strengthened by the departure of Nigel Pearson and the arrival of Ranieri, who brought with him a large number of doubters.
However, rather than watching a season of struggle, the Leicester fans have enjoyed a remarkable season of success and travelled to Manchester with the title in their sights.
Louis Van Gaal’s United had their own agenda though, with a top four place still up for grabs, and started the game in impressive fashion, passing with intent and threatening a backline that has been so resolute in recent weeks, keeping six clean sheets in seven games.
Perhaps there were some nerves in the away camp – after all, the majority of the Leicester players have never experienced a title challenge – but United struck first when the impressive Anthony Martial turned in Antonio Valencia’s cross at the Stretford End in the eighth minute of the game.
Such is the spirit and belief flowing through the Leicester squad though, that they were level just nine minutes later. Michael Carrick fouled Jeffrey Schlupp and, from the resulting free kick, former United player Danny Drinkwater floated the ball into the area and captain Wes Morgan rose highest to head home.
United continued to dominate possession but their visitors grew in confidence as the game went on, causing worry for David de Gea and co with several quick counter attacks. It became apparent, however, that Leicester were badly missing the pace and energy of suspended striker and their top scorer Jamie Vardy, with his deputy Leonardo Ulloa running himself ragged in an attempt to get on to the end of every loose ball.
Newly crowned Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez and the tenacious N’Golo Kanté were unable to provide the extra spark needed, but their efforts were vital in securing what could be an important point.
There was a contentious moment late on when Drinkwater brought down substitute Memphis Depay on the edge of the area. Referee Michael Oliver adjudged that the foul was outside the box, despite desperate appeals for a penalty, but Drinkwater still received his marching orders for a second bookable offence. Drinkwater was a product of the youth academy at Old Trafford and the red card at his former club was the first of his career.
Despite Leicester being reduced to ten men, Van Gaal’s men couldn’t find the winner, with Wayne Rooney – operating in a deeper midfield role – being denied by Kasper Schmeichel, and Memphis seeing a free kick blocked by the Leicester wall.
This time last year, Foxes fans would not have been disappointed with a point away to United but the fact they were left ruing a missed opportunity is testament to how far they have come under the Tinkerman that is Ranieri.
They could still be crowned champions by the time they play again, with second placed Tottenham needing a win at last season’s champions Chelsea to keep the title race alive, but even if Spurs manage to prolong the wait it seems that fate is on the side of everybody’s favourite underdogs and that the title going to the King Power stadium this season is an inevitability.
The story goes on, and it looks like having a perfect ending for the East Midlands club. The fans packed into Old Trafford belted out “now you’re gonna believe us, we’re going to win the league,” and even the biggest doubters must surely be believers now.