Louis van Gaal was at a loss to explain this and few of the 31,784 in the crowd could comprehend it either. Leading 3-1 on the hour mark, it looked like being the afternoon where Manchester United followed up their 4-0 win over QPR with another performance that suggested they may be in with a shout of the Premier League title.
Angel Di Maria had scored an early contender for goal of the season, but while the attacking prowess had initially masked the defensive shortcomings, van Gaal was in for a late shock.
Leicester scored four in a 21-minute period to bring United to their knees as Jamie Vardy, who three years ago this week was sent off playing for Fleetwood against Kidderminster in non-league, ran them ragged. It left van Gaal furious. He said: “How is it possible to give this game away? We have given the game away.
“Leicester has proven already in four games they have a strong character and when they are 3-1 down, you can play all the game with more possession but you cannot do these kind of things.
“I think also we created a lot of chances and made superb goals, but a game lasts 90 minutes, you have to do that for 90 minutes, not 60 minutes. I think they didn’t create many chances, Leicester City. They have, I think, shot five times on the goal, two penalties and a header and then two shots. These five goals were existing after errors in ball possession.”
Completing a bad day defensively Jonny Evans left the ground on crutches after injuring his ankle, while Tyler Blackett was sent off after conceding a late penalty. It had all looked so good for United early on. They took a 13th minute lead as Radamel Falcao, making his full debut, crossed for Robin van Persie who headed in via a deflection off Liam Moore.
Then three minutes later Angel Di Maria showed the class that makes him an international superstar. He took on Wayne Rooney’s pass before scooping the ball over Kasper Schmeichel from 15 yards in a goal reminiscent of Karel Poborsky for Czech Republic against Portugal in Euro 96.
Leicester are nothing but determined though. They pulled one back within 40 seconds with the express pace of Vardy helping him beat the bye-line to cross for Leonardo Ulloa who headed home despite the ball being behind him.
They matched up United’s diamond formation in midfield but it appeared as if Van Gaal’s side had made their mark early in the second-half. Falcao hit the bar and then they made it 3-1 as Ander Herrera’s cheeky flick from Di Maria’s shot beat Kasper Schmeichel.
Just occasionally in football, spectacular things happen though and the Leicester comeback in the final third was very special indeed.
It was Vardy who was the catalyst. Raw pace he handed United’s beleaguered backline a nightmare as Leicester’s desire to attack paid off.
They reduced the arrears from the penalty spot on 62 minutes as Rafael was harshly adjudged to have fouled the Leicester number nine and David Nugent thumped the penalty down the middle.
Within two minutes, the hosts were level as Esteban Cambiasso fired home his first goal in English football after Vardy had laid off Dean Hammond’s shot following a poor ball by Rooney.
In the end, Leicester wanted it more and Vardy put them 4-3 in front on 79 minutes as he burst through from Ritchie De Laet’s pass after Juan Mata had given the ball away.
A fifth was to arrive seven minutes from time as livewire Vardy was brought down by Blackett, prompting a red card for the United youngster. Ulloa coolly converted a second penalty into the bottom corner to make it five goals in five games for his new club and leave Vardy, nicknamed “Cannon” to digest the greatest game of his life.
“That final run did my legs in completely,” he admitted. “To score one and make four is not bad is it?
“I’m a bit of a nutjob in the changing room. Someone has to be. The atmosphere at the training ground is brilliant. Every single one of us is a good mate and that’s how it should be.
“We’ll always go to win every game. That’s the only way we know how to play. There is a lot of work behind the scenes working on their strengths and weaknesses.. Every chance has gone in the back of the net.”
LEICESTER CITY (4-3-1-2): Schmeichel 6; De Laet 7, Moore 7, Morgan 7, Konchesky 7; Cambiasso 8 (King 71, 6), Hammond 7, Drinkwater 6; Nugent 7 (James 75, 6); Ulloa 7, Vardy 9 (Schlupp 85).
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-3-1-2): De Gea 6; Rafael 5, Evans 6 (Smalling 30, 5), Blackett 5, Rojo 5; Herrera 6, Blind 6, De Maria 8 (Mata 76); Rooney 6; Van Persie 6, Falcao 7 (Januzaj 71, 6).
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (County Durham)