Manchester United suffered another blow in the battle for a Champions League spot as they were held by Leicester at Old Trafford.
The damage could have been even worse for Ralf Rangnick’s men as Leicester were denied a potential winner 10 minutes from time when referee Andre Marriner was sent to the screen by the video assistant referee, with Marriner overturning James Maddison’s effort for a foul on Raphael Varane in the build-up.
United could count themselves fortunate to get a point.
After a drab opening period, Kelechi Iheanacho scored a superb 63rd-minute opener when he met superb Maddison’s left-wing cross with a fine diving header, which sent the ball back into the far corner.
The Foxes’ advantage lasted just three minutes, with Brazilian midfielder Fred on hand to convert the rebound after Bruno Fernandes’ shot had been pushed into his path by Kasper Schmeichel.
It was a disappointing outcome for the hosts, who are now three points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, having played two games more and with a trip to the Gunners, plus encounters with Liverpool and Chelsea, still to come.
It says everything about the kind of season Marcus Rashford has had that even with the ill Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood missing this game completely, the England man was only given a seat on the bench.
Rashford’s future has been debated long and hard over the last few weeks.
With a contract that is due to expire next year, although there is an option to extend to 2024, a decision over Rashford will be one of the new manager’s first tasks when he takes over.
The theory is a proper break, followed by an intense pre-season and a chance to play regularly in his best position, on the left, would correct many of Rashford’s problems.
At the moment though, he just needs to deliver. And, asked to occupy the number nine position when he was introduced for the final 35 minutes, Rashford continued to look ill at ease.
Rangnick provided detailed instructions as Rashford waited to come on and then, together with technical director Darren Fletcher, offered more as the game entered its final 20 minutes.
Fleetingly, it looked like Rashford’s world would turn. Deep into stoppage time, he picked the ball up just outside the box and drove at the Leicester defence. But just as space opened up to shoot, an offside Anthony Elanga got in his way and the chance was gone.
Leicester come close to landmark win
Given Leicester’s only hope of salvaging something tangible out of this injury-ravaged campaign comes through the Europa Conference League, starting with Thursday’s quarter-final first leg with PSV Eindhoven, they could be forgiven their listless start.
Brendan Rodgers was buoyed by the return of Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana, who started together in defence for the first time since last May’s FA Cup final.
Given the paucity of what the home side presented them with, Leicester grew in confidence and Iheanacho should really have put them in front before the break when he screwed a shot from the edge of the area wide after the Nigerian had been left totally unmarked.
Victory would have been the first time Leicester had won successive away games at Old Trafford and the disappointment from Rodgers’ perspective would be that his team did not hold on to their lead long enough.
Yet, even after United’s equaliser, they carried the greater threat. Iheanacho chipped over from an acute angle after Jadon Sancho’s stray backpass had sent him through before Fofana brought a superb save out of David de Gea with a header that was bound for the top corner.
Rodgers thought Maddison had won it and questioned fourth official Martin Atkinson when the goal was ruled out. He was still unconvinced even after the decision had been explained.