Leicester's Cinderella ball merely delayed by draw, says Neil Humphreys
Leicester can count on Chelsea to end Spurs' faint title hopes
MAN UNITED 1
(Anthony Martial 8)
LEICESTER CITY 1
(Wes Morgan 17)
Once again, the Theatre of Dreams didn't follow the script.
All season long, the iconic venue has mostly flattered to deceive, or often just deceived, and couldn't even learn its lines on the most important fixture of the campaign.
Claudio Ranieri's Cinderellas were expected to have a ball at Old Trafford, pick up the three points and prevail at the home of the serial title winners.
In the end, the football theatre didn't make or break a dream, but delayed it, maybe for a day, maybe for a week.
Leicester City's party has been postponed, but certainly not destroyed.
The 1-1 draw last night leaves Tottenham with the simplest of scenarios at Chelsea tomorrow morning (Singapore time) - win or bust.
Spurs have no margin for error now. Leicester's precious point removed the last remaining safety net at White Hart Lane.
Wes Morgan tore it to pieces. The very definition of defiance, the unbowed, immovable captain stole a header and edged his teammates closer.
A draw oiled the wheels of the bandwagon and sustained momentum, but a defeat would have asked questions in the darkest corners of Leicester's psyche.
A defeat would have galvanised Tottenham. A defeat steals a peek at despair and the Foxes could not go there, not now.
The early, one-sided exchanges at Old Trafford hinted at the uncertainty that had seeped into Leicester's camp.
A Foxes fan had smuggled a bell into the ground, but its euphoric chiming swiftly turned into a ringing alarm.
Ranieri had spoken about treating this game like any other, but it wasn't. Of course it wasn't. Even the Italian failed to sell his jolly sound-bites, coming across as edgy.
The mask had slipped. Danny Simpson needed just eight minutes to do the same.
As Antonio Valencia galloped along United's right wing, Leicester's right back allowed himself to be pulled towards the middle of the box.
Simpson had left Anthony Martial unmarked and the forward buried Valencia's cross.
Leicester stumbled back to the centre circle like traumatised crash victims. The closer the dream came to reality, the greater the risk of it becoming a nightmare.
Only Kasper Schmeichel's reflexes denied Jesse Lingard moments later, displaying an alertness that had deserted his teammates.
The side with the finest away record in the Premier League appeared overcome by the occasion and understandably so.
They were venturing into Neil Armstrong territory, one small step for 11 men, one giant leap for the EPL, trying to become the first first-time winners since Nottingham Forest in 1978, back in the old English First Division; a different time, a lost world.
But the Foxes are built in the image of their indomitable skipper, who is built in the image of a mountain.
Just nine minutes after United's opener, Morgan restored parity and a little insanity among delirious Leicester supporters.
He rose highest to nod in Danny Drinkwater's free-kick, a bearish brute showing off the nimbleness of a ballerina.
Morgan borrowed from Ali, floating and stinging like butterflies and bees and confusing the viewer once again. He doesn't look like a Premier League winner.
Few of the Leicester boys do individually. But collectively, they are a force of unnatural commitment and persistence.
The equaliser threw off any remaining shackles and any thoughts of organisation gave way to a free-for-all, like a couple of sluggers throwing haymakers in the hope that one might connect.
David de Gea punched Jeffrey Schlupp's mishit cross clear, Riyad Mahrez threw himself to the floor in search of a penalty, Marouane Fellaini threw an elbow, Robert Huth pulled his afro and Morgan might have doubled his tally, but sent his header over.
The game was fast and frenetic and in stark contrast to the usual tepid fare served at Old Trafford.
While the away end prayed for a happy ending, the home support might have drifted away on a wave of nostalgia. Games always used to be like this at United.
Chris Smalling clipped the post with a header in the 78th minute to remind the visitors that the mathematicians are not yet fully on side with the title-winning permutations.
United surged. Leicester retreated. Nerves jangled. That bell jingled. Ranieri bit his bottom lip.
And Drinkwater panicked.
The midfielder conceded a silly free-kick on the edge of his box against Memphis Depay in the 87th minute and earned a second yellow card.
Schmeichel punched Wayne Rooney's effort clear, but the exhausted 10 men trod water, kicking furiously, determined not to go under.
For four agonising minutes of stoppage time, they held on. It's the story of their unrelenting season of heroic resistance.
Now it's Tottenham's turn.
And Chelsea are primed to stomp all over what remains of their title hopes.
BY THE NUMBERS
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has enjoyed just two victories in his 10 EPL clashes with Manchester United (six draws, two defeats).
LVG gives reporter hair-raising moment
PHOTO: INTERNET SCREENSHOT
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal tugged a television reporter by the hair in a bizarre attempt to defend Marouane Fellaini's clash with Robert Huth during yesterday's 1-1 draw.
Van Gaal was quizzed on the incident which saw United midfielder Fellaini escape without punishment after elbowing Huth in the neck (above) and opted to explain why the Belgian had reacted that way by getting physical with the reporter.
Claiming Fellaini's hair had been grabbed by Leicester defender Huth in a deliberate piece of provocation, van Gaal reached out to do the same to his Sky Sports interviewer.
"It was a very difficult match for the referee - when you see what Huth is doing with Fellaini, is that not a penalty?," van Gaal said.
"When I grab your hair... Your hair is much shorter.
"Every human being who is grabbed with their hair would react."
United will now wait to see if Fellaini is retrospectively punished by the Football Association for his offence.
The draw delayed Leicester's bid to complete their fairy-tale Premier League triumph, but the leaders will still take the title if second-placed Tottenham fail to beat Chelsea tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
For United, the result was more damaging as it leaves them with only a slender hope of qualifying for the Champions League via a top-four finish.
"It is tougher when you don't win, of course it is tougher (to finish in the top four). But we are still in the race," van Gaal said.
"We played one of our best matches of the season, but it was not enough.
"Leicester deserve to win this championship. They have very good organisation, but we had a lot of chances." - AFP.