United spot on
Third place for Solskjaer
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
80 60 40
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,