LOUIS van Gaal accused his players of failing to kill the game and committing â€œbig errors as a teamâ€ after Leicester City recovered from being 3-1 down with less than half an hour remaining to complete a remarkable turnaround and inflict a humiliating 5-3 defeat on Manchester United. It was the first time in 853 Premier League matches that United, who were 2-0 in front early in the first half, have surrendered a two-goal lead and lost.
Although the United players were furious with the referee Mark Clattenburgâ€™s decision to award Leicester the first of two penalties, when Rafael da Silva was penalised in the 62nd minute for a foul on Jamie Vardy that led to David Nugent converting from the spot and making it 3-2, Van Gaal refused to use that incident as an excuse.
The United manager suggested that Da Silva was playing with fire by making a challenge on Vardy in the area and said that, with United still ahead after Nugentâ€™s penalty, his players should have controlled possession and saw the game out. Instead Leicester ran riot, as Esteban Cambiasso equalised, Vardy added the fourth and Leonardo Ulloa, after Tyler Blackett had been sent off for a professional foul, scored from the spot.
â€œI have been 25 years in this profession, I have already thought that I have another experience like that â€“ with Barcelona we were three goals ahead with a quarter to play and we lost 3-4, so that was also with a top club,â€ Van Gaal said.
â€œYou never expect it when you are 3-1 ahead â€“ for the second time [in the game] two goals ahead â€“ then you have to kill the game and you have to keep possession. But we could not do that and then, of course, you give it away with penalties. Then you cannot win a game any more when you do that.â€
Asked about the first penalty, when Vardy was fortunate to get away with barging Da Silva seconds before Clattenburg pointed to the spot in what seemed like the turning point in an incredible match, Van Gaal said: â€œFor the first penalty it is always the referee [who you talk about] but you donâ€™t have to do that as a player. You know you are in the penalty area and you allow the referee to whistle if you make a challenge. I donâ€™t know if it is a penalty but we have to look at ourselves because we made such big errors as a team.â€
There was no sign of what was to come when United went 2-0 up after 16 minutes, following a Robin van Persie header and a delicate chip from Ãngel di MarÃa. Ulloa pulled a goal back for Leicester straight from the kick-off with a firm header, only for United to restore their two-goal advantage when Ander Herrera flicked home Di MarÃaâ€™s shot just before the hour.
There was always a sense, though, that United were vulnerable at the back, especially in the full-back positions, where Vardyâ€™s tireless running caused problems throughout. â€œWhen you say their full-backs made more than our full-backs, that is the game,â€ Van Gaal said. â€œBut I think they didnâ€™t create many chances. They have, I think, shot five times on the goal, two penalties and a header and then two shots.â€
Unitedâ€™s already limited options in defence were further exposed when Jonny Evans limped off in the first half with an ankle injury. Evans left the stadium on crutches, wearing a protective boot, with the severity of the problem unlikely to be known for 24 hours.
For Unitedâ€™s back four it was a day to forget, although Van Gaal claimed the entire team was culpable. â€œYou cannot say the defence was weak,â€ he said. â€œYou play like a team â€“ Leicester showed that. We did not play like a team in the second half and that is not only in defence. In a defensive situation the whole team is responsible, not just one defender.â€ – The Guardian