Manchester United-Leicester City Preview
There are approximately £55.68 million reasons why Leicester City and Manchester United will be going for a win in their season-finale showdown at King Power Stadium on Sunday.
That sum is the difference for a club winning the Champions League (£75.13 million) versus winning the Europa League (£19.45 million). The winners of this match will finish no worse than fourth in the table and potentially third depending on the result of Chelsea's match against Wolverhampton - regardless of finish, both spots award passage through to the group stage of Champions League.
The losers of this contest would finish fifth and enter Europe's second-tier tournament. In the event of a draw, Leicester City (18-8-11) would need the Pensioners to lose to the Wolves, which would give Brendan Rodgers' side fourth on superior goal difference. The only time the Foxes have finished above Manchester United (17-12-8) over the last 46 years was during their magical title-winning season in 2015-16.
"If we'd have been offered this in pre-season, we'd have taken it, 100 per cent," Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel told the club's official website. "These are the games that you want to play in. "When you look at our form over the whole season, we're a young squad, there's going to be inconsistencies, but we're in an unbelievable situation.
"We can't use form from previously to dictate what one game's going to be. It's basically a cup final for us. Look at the possibilities for us. That's all we could possibly ask for. We don't have the size and the finances to compete, on paper, with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea.
"But we are - so that's a massive positive."
That spotty form Schmeichel referred to has been evident throughout Project Restart, during which Leicester City are 2-3-3. Injuries have played a part - they will again be without left back Ben Chilwell, right back Ricardo Pereira, and midfielder James Maddison - as have suspensions with centre back Caglar Soyuncu completing his three-match ban for his red mist moment versus Bournemouth.
The Foxes, though, also looked completely outclassed last Sunday in their 3-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Hary Kane ran them ragged in the first half, bagging a brace after an own goal by James Justin, and the second half was little more than a training ground exercise with Spurs happy to cede possession and stay in a disciplined shell.
Rodgers did note Marc Albrighton could be in line for selection after a two-game absence due to injury. Given Maddison's absence, any sort of midfield help would be welcome service for Jamie Vardy, who has a two-goal lead in the race for the Premier League's Golden Boot with 23 on the season.
Vardy has had some measure of success versus United with five goals in 11 lifetime matchups, including three in five at home.
United put themselves in the pole position for one of the two Champions League spots with a 1-1 draw at home versus West Ham United on Wednesday. A moment of folly by Paul Pogba, who inexplicably put his hands up in self-defence on a shot taken by Declan Rice and created a handball, gifted the Irons the lead before halftime, but Mason Greenwood continued his scintillating form to find the equaliser and lift Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side up to third.
"We're looking forward to the game; we've given ourselves a good chance of being in the Champions League next year," Solskjaer told reporters via a video call on Friday. "We can't go into a game thinking about what the outcome could be. We just have to go and perform, and perform to a high enough level for us to get a result.
"We want to go there and dominate the game - we wanted to get to this position, having to go Leicester to need to beat them. We're not going to change our approach. We want to go there to try to win the game."
The emergence of the 18-year-old Greenwood has been a tipping point in United vying for a top-four spot. He is third on the team with 17 goals in all competitions, but it has been cool finishing - adept with either foot - that has been remarkable and a key component of United entering this contest unbeaten in their last 13 (8-5-0) in league play.
"I think Cardiff City, last game of last season, was his first start and he was our best player in that game and he's just grown and grown in confidence and belief and he trusts himself. His talents, his qualities, his attributes, they actually were at the highest level," Solskjaer said.
Though Greenwood has just five road goals in 21 road matches overall, two have come in his last three contests outside Old Trafford.
United were 1-0 winners in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, riding an eighth-minute penalty by Marcus Rashford to victory. They are unbeaten in their last 11 (8-3-0) versus Leicester City in all competitions since a 5-3 defeat in the Midlands in September 2014 in which Vardy had a goal.
That is just one of two Leicester City victories in 28 matches (2-7-19) in all contests in the Premier League era, with the other a 1-0 triumph at Old Trafford in 1998 on a goal by Tony Cottee.
Updated July 25, 2020