You see that little guy up there? That's Filbert the Fox, Leicester City's mascot. Don't worry, he's feeling great. Though his club hosted the rich and famous Manchester United today, his boys managed to take down the giants. Those aren't tears of sadness, they're tears of mockery, directed at the section of United fans that hadn't yet fled the premises in humiliation. It's basically his version of this:
To understand why exactly Filbert would take such glee in this victory, you have to understand how things stood coming into the match. United were fresh off their first great performance of the season, finally armed with all the reinforcements brought in this summer, and ready to prove that that win against QPR was but a sign of what's to come. Leicester are a newly promoted side that would be overjoyed to finish 17th in the table at the end of the season, granting them the opportunity to get plastered by the league's bluebloods for yet another year. At the end of the 90 minutes, the score was 5-3 in favor of Leicester.
You wouldn't have guessed it, the way things started. From the outset, United looked like carrying on right where they left off last weekend. We finally saw what looks to be United's preferred front three of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao up top, with Wayne Rooney sitting just behind, and the trident was combining nicely from jump. The opening goal came from a wide-set Falcao finding space down the left wing and picking the perfect cross unto the far-post run of van Persie.
Just three minutes later, Ángel Di María—who is already looking like the best player in the Premier League—charged through the center of Leicester's defense and completely froze the keeper with this marvelous chip:
Barely a quarter of an hour in, and Man U were on a rampage.
However, almost as soon as the second goal went in, Leicester struck one back against the run of play. Still, United were so in control that Leonardo Ulloa's header seemed only to mean United wouldn't be able to coast until their inevitable third goal went in.
It took until just before the hour mark for that third goal to come, but come it did. Here's Ander Herrera's deft little flick from a tame Di María shot that just managed to sneak by Leicester's keeper:
Now then, the Manchester United we're familiar with would've smacked the ball around for another half an hour, slowly sucked the life out of the stands, and maybe grabbed another late goal to really put things out of reach, right? Well, these Red Devils instead decided to imitate a past team of more recent vintage and proceeded to fuck everything up.
It wasn't entirely their fault. Two very, very questionable referee decisions on the same play completely changed the match.
Jamie Vardy and Rafael were in a footrace trying to get a ball send down Leicester's left flank. Rafael comfortably arrived first, but Vardy absolutely bowled him over. Somehow, the ref didn't call a foul, leaving Vardy acres of space to get into the box. Rafael got up and ran down Vardy, eventually catching up and resting his forearm on Vardy's back. Vardy's reaction was obvious. He flailed to the ground, and again the ref fucked up by giving Leicester a penalty.
Here's David Nugent's successful PK and the play that won it:
Down only one goal despite being completely outclassed for much of the match, Leicester's confidence soared. They were keeping possession and pinging the ball around to each other, looking more like the Man U of the first half than themselves. Just two minutes after the penalty decision, behind a rocking stadium, Esteban Cambiasso scored the equalizer:
All hell broke loose after that. United looked shell-shocked, somehow finding themselves fighting to stay in a match they had comfortably led for much of the day. The fans roared any time Leicester got even a sniff of a threatening chance, which was fairly often against what is still an extremely shaky Red Devil back line.
Instead of shoring up their attack, United brought on two attacking midfielders—Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata—to try and regain the three points they let slip away. Pushing so many men forward was always going to be a gamble considering United's sorry defenders, and sure enough Leicester broke the deadlock when just two passes gave Vardy a one-on-one against David de Gea:
The final 10 minutes of the match was a big party for both Leicester's players and their fans. By that point, no one, probably not even United's players, doubted that the Foxes were going to pull this one out. In the 83rd minute, Leicester even went ahead and scored the capper, after another (debatably iffy) penalty decision went against United. A great time was had by all.
This will most likely go down as one of the most famous victories in Leicester's history. The newly promoted side had taken the King's best shot, and fought all the way back to have the last laugh. I wonder how long these kind of results can last, though. The more Leicesters and Burnleys that nick points off of United, the less the Red Devils look like monarchs and the more they look like some off-brand royal family, still polishing the paintings of the great lords and ladies of long ago while their castle falls to ruin around them.