When Leicester City beat Manchester United 5-3 in a Premier League match back in mid-September, it was claimed that Leicester had served notice that they would be difficult team to beat in the top flight and another troubled season was awaiting Louis Van Gaal’s squad. Leonardo Ulloa netted twice that day for City to add to three previous goals in earlier matches and he was being mentioned as one of the better purchases of the summer transfer window. How times can change in just a few months.
Since that memorable win by Leicester, they have failed to record a single victory and have lost seven of their nine matches with just five goals scored. Ulloa has yet to add to the five goals he had netted for the season following the Manchester United game but he did claim an assist during the weekend 3-1 home defeat by Liverpool when his shot entered the net via a post and then ‘keeper Simon Mignolet’s head.
All five away matches since the end of September have been lost by Leicester but it was an argument between manager Nigel Pearson and a group of supporters at the close of the weekend match which probably epitomised current frustrations at the King Power Stadium. The Foxes are currently one point adrift at the foot of the Premier League.
Contrast their fortunes since that Manchester United victory with those of their opponents that day. A 1-0 defeat at neighbours Manchester City apart, United are unbeaten in all other games following that 5-3 loss and there are signs of a winning mentality returning at Old Trafford with six league victories already registered at the Stadium this campaign. Van Gaal would be the first to admit that his team is still evolving after several costly purchases during the summer but a defence which was so heavily criticised in that high scoring defeat has conceded just three goals since the beginning of November.
Injuries are still a concern for Manchester United but four successive recent victories have raised morale in the camp with several pundits claiming that the Red Devils could still challenge Chelsea for the Premier League. That may be a shade optimistic but Van Gaal has targeted Champions League qualification and a decent FA Cup performance as attainable and reasonable goals for the season.
Manchester United had only won one of four previous Premier League matches prior to facing Leicester and had also been defeated 4-0 by MK Dons in the Capital One Cup. Gone now is the defeatist talk in contrast to events at Leicester where Nigel Pearson is facing calls to apologise to fans amid uncertainty concerning his short term prospects in the Leicester hot seat.
Football can certainly be a strange game and that 5-3 epic match in September appears to be a turning point in the season for both teams with the victors faring so much worse.