Manchester United’s top four hopes suffered a blow despite coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with Leicester City at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils lacked creativity and urgency as they struggled to offer a real goal threat in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo through illness.
It was Leicester who carved out the better openings in a tepid first half but the visitors failed to register a shot on target to trouble David De Gea, while United’s one big chance saw Kasper Schmeichel deny Bruno Fernandes with an outstretched boot.
The game opened up following the break and the Foxes stole in front on 63 minutes when Kelechi Iheanacho headed home James Maddison’s superb cross.
The United faithful feared the worst but their side levelled just four minutes later when Fred lashed home a rebound after Schmeichel had parried a Fernandes shot into his path.
Leicester had big chances to restore their lead but Iheanacho fired over before De Gea produced a superb stop to keep out Wesley Fofana’s thumping header.
The visitors then had what looked like being a winning goal from Maddison ruled out by VAR following a foul in the build-up.
The result sees United stay sixth, four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal having played two games more. Leicester climb up to ninth.
Man United will now turn their focus on a trip to Everton on Saturday while the Foxes host PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League Conference quarter final on Thursday.
Leicester will rue VAR. Brendan Rodgers and his side will feel they should have taken the three points and completed the league double over United. The hosts pressed late on but over the 90 minutes the Foxes had the better of it.
There will be two moments Leicester may lament. The first came just inside the second half when Scott McTominay lunged into a late and slightly high challenge on Maddison. The visiting players surrounded the referee, Andre Marriner demanding a red card, but it was only deemed a booking and VAR did not seem fit to overturn the decision despite replays showing that it did not look too pretty.
The second was when Maddison netted 10 minutes from time, only to have what would have been the winner ruled out for a foul by Iheanacho on Raphael Varane in the build up.
The Foxes will be quietly thinking they can end the season on the front foot with the return of important members of the defence from injury, but you wonder what now for United. The top four looks a big ask and this summer just seems more and more crucial in terms of making the right decisions for the club’s short and long-term future.
MAN OF THE MATCH
James Maddison (Leicester City). Excellent on the ball and his invention was particularly threatening in the second half. Created the opener and was perhaps unfortunate not to cap his performance with a winning goal.
MAN UTD: De Gea 8, Dalot 6, Maguire 7, Varane 7, Shaw 6, Fred 8, McTominay 5, Pogba 6, Fernandes 6, Sancho 6, Elanga 7. Subs: Telles 6, Rashford 6, Matic 6.
LEICESTER CITY: Schmeichel 7, Castagne 7, Fofana 7, Evans 7, Justin 7, Mendy 7, Dewsbury-Hall 7, Maddison 8, Tielemans 7, Barnes 7, Iheanacho 7. Subs: Amartey 6, Daka n/a, Choudhury n/a.
27’ – MAN UTD CHANCE! Fernandes is sent clear but sees his low effort brilliantly diverted away by the outstretched boot of Schmeichel.
31’ – LEICESTER CITY CHANCE! A brilliant move down the right ends with Iheanacho firing well off target despite having plenty of time to set himself on the edge of the area.
63’ – GOAL! – Man Utd 0-1 Leicester City. Iheanacho arrives at the far post to guide a header back across goal and into the corner from Maddison’s sumptuous left-wing cross.
67’ – GOAL! – Man Utd 1-1 Leicester City. Schmeichel can only parry Fernandes’ low strike into the path of Fred who lashes it high into the net.
73’ – LEICESTER CITY CHANCES! Iheanacho latches on to a poor back pass but contrives to scoop his shot over the bar from a wide angle on the right side of the area. The Foxes come again and Fofana meets a right-wing cross with a brilliant header but is miraculously denied by a sprawling save from De Gea.
82’ – LEICESTER CITY GOAL RULED OUT! Maddison rifles a low shot beyond De Gea at his near post after Iheanacho had battled his way into the area to leave the hosts vulnerable – but the away side’s joy is short-lived as the referee goes to the monitor via VAR and disallows the goal for a foul on Varane in the build up.