King Power Stadium a scene for optimism again

Saturday 26 December 2020 15:12

As I made the trip down a largely deserted motorway to Leicester, it was natural that memories of my only previous excursion to the King Power Stadium came to mind.

It felt like Christmas time then, as I'm pretty sure there were Santa outfits on display in the window of the club shop, but a quick check has revealed it was actually in late November. Inconceivably, it was five years ago - 2015 - and something special was brewing for the Foxes.

Those were the days; thousands of fans entering the stadium eagerly awaiting a footballing spectacle, among them my father and nephew, who were fortunate enough in the ballot to get what is always one of the hottest tickets in town - a cherished spot in the United away end. And a place in history was on the line too, for home favourite Jamie Vardy.

Leicester City 2 United 2


Two of the top sides in the division contest an absorbing Boxing Day draw at the King Power Stadium.

Now, my view on Vardy was not a positive one, at the time. It was tainted by what felt like the most ridiculous of goals against United in the 5-3 match a season earlier. It looked like he had blatantly fouled Rafael and then made the most of minimal contact in retribution, when the Brazilian caught him up inside the box.

I had begrudging respect, though not at the time, when he burst through in the 24th minute to slam past David De Gea and score for the 11th successive Premier League match. It was a record held by our own Ruud van Nistelrooy, as the travelling Reds had constantly been reminding the Foxes forward. His response to the goal was to goad the away fans and you now what? He went up in my estimation - this is what football is all about. Give and take.

Bastian Schweinsteiger equalised in first-half stoppage time and it finished 1-1, with both teams missing the chance to go top.

I don't remember too much else about what happened on the pitch but I was impressed seeing Vardy at close quarters afterwards, brushing aside his achievement and showing a down-to-earth side you want to see in footballers behind the scenes. It all seemed a bit of a chore to be the man in demand for every post-match interview but, once the cameras were rolling, he did them all diligently - even if he was having to repeat himself about the emotions he felt breaking the record.

Since then, I've listened to the audiobook version of his autobiography and his is truly a remarkable story. It probably helps that he often scores against the top sides but I certainly respect him and he was always going to be the main danger on this occasion, providing a high-octane approach to a traditionally sleepy time for everybody.

Talking Points: A Boxing Day draw


We round up the main topics for discussion from United's festive trip to the King Power Stadium.

Yet there was something bigger in the air that November day in 2015. One of optimism. You could sense it, the Leicester fans were buying into the belief that they could achieve something special. From the orchestrated pre-match build-up to this strange sense that they were on the brink of writing a miraculous story.

Of course, they did just that. Leicester winning the title sent shockwaves through the world and the Premier League was undeniably better for it.

This time, in 2020, I hoped the optimism was with United. It was something that was hard to judge, with no supporters present, but I wondered if the Reds who would have travelled here to provide noisy and boisterous support would have been wonderfully defiant and brimming with enthusiasm.

They would have witnessed an exciting encounter between two teams that deserve to be towards the top of the table.

Solskjaer provides an update on Lindelof's injury


Read the latest news on Victor after the defender was forced off during the 2-2 draw with Leicester City.

Leicester buy well in the transfer market and have quality within their ranks - former Red Jonny Evans was excellent at the back, as was James Justin, while Vardy is a constant menace, even if his equaliser went down as an Axel Tuanzebe own-goal.

As for United, it felt like two points lost but only given the context of being pegged back twice and the second one coming so late in the proceedings. Nonetheless, there were many positives to take from another impressive display on the road. Quite simply, the Reds look a good side and the optimism that has been rising and rising of late should justifiably be maintained as the games keep coming thick and fast.

Are we going to be good enough to close the gap on Liverpool at the top? Time will tell but, despite the 2-2 draw, this felt like another step in the right direction. One thing, in my mind, that is for certain is, although the outcome was the same, this side, and squad, is superior to the one I watched here five years ago. And that represents progress in my book, with the expectation of more to come in 2021.

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