Caglar Soyuncu’s powerful header earned Leicester a vital win over Manchester United in their bid to secure Champions League qualification, a result which confirmed Manchester City as Premier League champions.
With United facing a run of four matches within eight days, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made 10 changes to his team for the visit of Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Luke Thomas’ exquisite volley at the back post gave the visitors the lead after 10 minutes at Old Trafford, but Mason Greenwood replied five minutes later with a superb finish in what was a quiet opening period.
David De Gea made a big save to deny Kelechi Iheanacho after the break, before Caglar Soyuncu powered in a header from a Leicester corner in the 66th minute.
Youri Tielemans was inches away from adding a third as he slid in at the back post and even though Bruno Fernandes was called upon from the bench, United could not find the goal that would have delayed City’s title celebrations.
Here are five things we learned from Old Trafford…
Leicester take their opportunity
After picking up just one point against Southampton and Newcastle in their previous two games, the pressure was on Leicester to deliver in order to avoid another late-season collapse with Champions League qualification on the line.
A run-in of United, Chelsea and Tottenham was less than ideal for Rodgers’ side, but the rescheduling of United’s fixture against Liverpool to Thursday presented Leicester with an incredible opportunity to get their top four push back on track with three points.
Up against what was effectively United’s reserves, victory at Old Trafford was the minimum expectation, and one they simply could not pass up.
It was strange, therefore, to see how passive Leicester were to begin with. Even after taking the lead at Old Trafford, Leicester failed to take the game to their opponents in the opening half – it was almost as if they were playing against the Manchester United name, badge and stadium, rather than the players in front of them.
Leicester played with much more purpose in the second half, however, forcing United back in the spell that led to Iheanacho’s chance on the hour. By the time Soyuncu met Marc Albrighton’s corner to give Leicester the lead, it was already a much improved display, with Leicester playing with an authority that was more reflective of the experience between the teams.
Greenwood thrives in senior role
Starting in a front-line comprised of three teenagers, it was striking to see how Greenwood performed like he was a senior player against Leicester.
The 19-year-old scored his eighth goal in the past 11 games and took responsibility by leading the line on his own, something he hasn’t had too much experience of so far in his United career.
His confidence was on display in how he took his first-half goal, ghosting past Soyuncu in the box and finding the right angle to squeeze the ball past Kasper Schmeichel.
With two inexperienced players starting alongside him, it was imperative Greenwood stood up and gave his side that out-ball. While the England international may be of a similar age to Diallo and Elanga, the manner of his performance gave a reminder of how quickly Greenwood has developed so early in his career.
Greenwood was removed shortly before Leicester took the lead and United missed his presence in their attack as they chased an equaliser.
Majority of United’s changes fail to impress
With the Europa League final to come in just two weeks’ time, Solskjaer’s rotation presented an opportunity for some of the players on the fringes of his plans to stake a claim for some involvement in Gdansk.
While a lot of United’s starting line-up seems set, due to their form and the consistency of Solskjaer’s selections in recent weeks, an eye-catching performance at Old Trafford could have gone a long way for some.
In midfield, neither of Nemanja Matic nor Donny van de Beek stood out. Matic was solid on the ball but his lack of mobility was exposed in Leicester’s opening goal when Youri Tielemans peeled off the back of him, while Van de Beek was anonymous throughout.
Harry Maguire’s injury could force Solskjaer to field either Eric Bailly or Axel Tuanzebe against Villareal if the United captain is not passed fit. Bailly was often sloppy in possession and neither looked as if they could fill the substantial void left by Maguire if the England defender was missing on 26 May.
Out of everyone, it was Greenwood that stood out most, and the 19-year-old was the most certain to play a part, if not start, against Villareal in two weeks’ time anyway.
Diallo and Elanga show glimpses on debut
The highlight of United’s much-changed team sheet was the presence of young forwards Anthony Elanga and Amad Diallo in the hosts’ line-up. Elanga was handed his first-team debut while Diallo was given his first Premier League start, after previously catching the eye in the Europa League this season.
While it’s far too early to judge either player, there were a number of flashes to take note of.
Diallo was bright with his movement coming in from the right flank, especially in the first half when he latched onto Juan Mata’s long pass over the top before beating Thomas to the ball and setting up Greenwood’s for United’s leveller.
Elanga’s electric pace was on display on a couple of occasions when making runs off the ball or when tracking back, but he did not get too many opportunities to dribble or take players on, and was brought off for Marcus Rashford after the hour.
Diallo was also removed in the final stages, so neither teenager lasted the 90 minutes.
Top four picture
Leicester’s win has put the Foxes on the verge of securing qualification for next season’s Champions League, while dealing what could be a final blow to Liverpool, West Ham and Tottenham’s top four hopes.
With Leicester now on 66 points, the Foxes have put the pressure back on the other contenders ahead of their remaining fixtures.
Liverpool play twice before Leicester return to Premier League action, facing United at Old Trafford on Thursday before West Brom on Sunday, and will have to take maximum points from those games in order to keep pace.
Leicester would also require just one more Premier League win, against either Chelsea or Tottenham, to confirm their spot.
For now though, attention turns to the club’s FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday – and Rodgers will be relieved his side came through tonight’s match unscathed ahead of the meeting with Thomas Tuchel’s side at Wembley.