United spot on

Third place for Sol­sk­jaer

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Jason Burt CHIEF FOOT­BALL CORRESPOND­ENT

Le­ices­ter City Manch­ester United Fer­nan­des 71 pen, Lin­gard 90+8

Given the trans­for­ma­tive im­pact he has made since his ar­rival in Jan­uary, it was ap­pro­pri­ate that Bruno Fer­nan­des should score the cru­cial goal that helped con­firm Manch­ester United will be back in the Cham­pi­ons League next sea­son.

When Fer­nan­des was signed, fin­ish­ing ahead of Le­ices­ter City ap­peared im­pos­si­ble, but Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer’s side have clawed back a 14-point deficit, and ben­e­fited from Le­ices­ter’s col­lapse, to also edge ahead of Chelsea and end up in an ad­mit­tedly dis­tant third place.

In fact they have not lost in the league since the mid­fielder signed from Sport­ing Lis­bon, a run of 14 matches from the dispir­it­ing home de­feat by Burn­ley that raised the pres­sure on Sol­sk­jaer and forced his hand in the trans­fer mar­ket to do a deal that had dragged on for so long.

It has been whis­pered at Old Traf­ford that no mid-sea­son sign­ing has had such an ef­fect at the club since Eric Can­tona in 1992-93 and, while achiev­ing just 66 points and end­ing up on two-thirds of the to­tal gained by the cham­pi­ons Liver­pool is hardly a cause for cel­e­bra­tion, they can cer­tainly de­light in the con­tri­bu­tion made by Fer­nan­des and the hope he brings.

Lav­ish spend­ing has been a fea­ture of the post-Ferguson years, but the ini­tial £47mil­lion paid for the 25-year-old has been the sound­est of in­vest­ments and, while that will rise with sub­stan­tial add-ons, such as Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion, it will be dwarfed by the rev­enue United can en­joy and that which they can pro­tect, such as the kit deal with Adi­das, which will now not face a penalty.

It was a penalty of another kind, the 14th awarded to United in the Premier League this sea­son – a record – that helped ban­ish the fear that they would lose. Know­ing a draw was enough was not enough and they were per­haps for­tu­nate not to be be­hind, espe­cially in a slug­gish first half, be­fore Jamie Vardy clipped the cor­ner of cross­bar and post with a flicked back­ward header af­ter the break.

The penalty came from a Le­ices­ter mis­take, as did United’s sec­ond

Points week by week af­ter Bren­dan Rodgers signed new con­tract on Dec 8 Manch­ester United Le­ices­ter City

Points

80 60 40

Lock­down 20

Games 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 goal in in­jury time, and there was a sense they brought about their own un­do­ing in the sec­ond half of a cam­paign that promised so much. In­juries and a sus­pen­sion have hit hard of late, with man­ager Bren­dan Rodgers de­prived of three-quar­ters of his first-choice de­fence, with the only re­main­ing mem­ber, Jonny Evans, sent off deep into in­jury time here. The former United de­fender re­ceived a straight red card, hav­ing al­ready been booked, for a lunge at sub­sti­tute Scott McTom­i­nay.

At the fi­nal whis­tle, in the di­rec­tors’ box, James Mad­di­son, also in­jured, sat with head in hands and how Le­ices­ter needed his cre­ativ­ity. United’s own play­maker,

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