Harry Maguire celebrates with United fans after the win over Leicester in September 2019

Opinion: Important to remember how far we have come in 2020

Friday 24 July 2020 07:00

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have had Sunday 26 July – the date when Manchester United travel to Leicester City for a de-facto Champions League qualifier – ringed in his diary for some weeks now.

The boss hinted as much after the 1-1 draw with West Ham, which took the Reds above Brendan Rodgers’s side in the Premier League table for the first time since the clubs fought it out at Old Trafford, back in September.

The picture has twisted and turned in unimaginable ways - on and off the pitch - since that meeting 312 days ago, which was settled by Marcus Rashford’s early penalty.

Few inside a raucuous, red-hot Old Trafford that day would have banked on an energetic but ultimately scoreless Leicester recovering from that M16 setback to win 10 of their next 11, including a 9-0 tonking of Southampton, to briefly threaten a challenge to Liverpool at the top of the table.

Highlights: United 1 Leicester 0 Video

Highlights: United 1 Leicester 0

The restart isn't far off, so we're showing action from our 12 league wins so far. Next, it's United 1 Leicester 0...

After defeats to the Merseysiders and Manchester City put paid to any hopes of repeating that miraculous 2016 triumph, who, at the beginning of January, when United were still a distant speck in the third-placed Foxes’ rear-view mirror, could have foreseen the gradual, but relentless, closing of the chasm between the sides?

Even when the Midlanders started to rock in the early stages of 2020, how many Reds would have stuck their necks on the line and said United would head into the final-day fixture with the Foxes in the ascendancy – especially after disappointing back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Burnley?

Of course, nobody could have foreseen the strange, alien circumstances in which our trip to the King Power Stadium would be played out – in an empty, silent bowl, deep into the humid depths of July, after a global pandemic which changed almost everything.

That football got back under way at all – with an improving United, powered by the fresh force of Bruno Fernandes, fifth in the league, eight points behind Leicester and with work to do to catch up on Chelsea – is incredible in itself, when you consider the national picture in the dark months of March and April.

It’s easy to be disappointed with the recent home draws against Southampton and West Ham, which have left the Reds still needing a result against the Foxes to secure that coveted top-four spot.

Early team news for Foxes decider


A first look at the squad situation for both teams ahead of Sunday's season finale at Leicester.

But, as Solskjaer reminded reporters on Wednesday night, his side have come a long way during our 13-match unbeaten run – not only superseding Leicester’s points tally but also negating their once-mammoth goal difference advantage.

And, deep down, the Norwegian always knew that Leicester City v Manchester United would be about much more than just bringing the 2019/20 season to a close.

“We’ve had semi-finals and now it’s a final, then, and we’ve got to raise ourselves for that one,” said Ole.

“We pinpointed this one at Leicester. If we have a chance to go there, we can be delighted we’ve caught up with the points and caught up with the goal-difference and given ourselves a fantastic opportunity.

WATCH: Statman Dave's analysis of where the Leicester v United game will be won and lost.

“We know we’re playing a difficult team – they are very, very dangerous in different aspects of the game and different things tactically. We’ll enjoy the 24 hours we have to break and be ready.”

Whatever the result against a talented and highly motivated side on Sunday – even if it’s the disappointing defeat which leaves us staring at a second successive campaign in the Europa League, unless we win the tournament in Gemany – the encouraging manner in which we’ve hunted down the Foxes in the first half of 2020 provides plenty to look forward to in the months to come.

Hopefully, though, the Reds can finish the job at the weekend and really start to lay the groundwork for something special. Come on United!

The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.

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