MANCHESTER: Three years ago Leicester burst into the world healines when the long-lost bones of King Richard III were discovered in an archaeological site buried deep beneath a car park in the centre of the city.
Richard was the last English king to die in battle, killed in 1485. His image was terrible, portrayed as a villainous king by Shakespeare. But his effect on Leicester has been nothing but positive. His tomb has become a great attraction for tourists and now the local football club has benefited from the ‘magic spell.’
Confirmation has been evident in a remarkable season which has lifted Leicester City to the brink of their first English league title, just 12 months after the Foxes were scrapping their way off the bottom of the table.
Sunday afternoon saw them fail to achieve the win they needed at Old Trafford, the 1-1 draw leaving them just short of glory.
But if Tottenham fail to beat Chelsea on Monday night then the crown is theirs. Or, even if Spurs win, the Foxes should beat a poor Everton next weekend.
Ironically, Old Trafford was the venue for Ranieri’s first match in English football when he took the reins at Chelsea 16 years ago.
This return was a strange with United, record champions of England and FA Cup Finalists, playing a supporting-act role to the star names from the East Midlands.
The goals action came early. United led after eight minutes when Anthony Martial, their Cup semi-final match-winner a week earlier, converted a cross from Antonio Valencia. Leicester levelled nine minutes later as Wes Morgan headed home a free-kick from Danny Drinkwater.
Tension appeared to affect both teams with Marouane Fellaini fortunate to escape punishment for laying into Robert Huth. In the circumstances a red card was no surprise though it did not come until the 86th minute when Drinkwater was sent off for a second yellow.
Ranieri appreciated the effect of the tension and was pleased with the outcome in all the circumstances.
He said: “The performance was good after the first 15 minutes, when we were a little scared. United started well but, after the goal we played better and I think the draw is the right result. I wasn’t worried because we have very good heart and I knew we would react. For us it was important to show our mentality.”
Leicester’s manager will not be watching Tottenham’s match because he will be flying back to Italy at time. He may land to a very happy homecoming.
Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have five games in which to secure the encouragement of a place back in European competition next season which is the minimum requirement for Jurgen Klopp.
The 3-1 defeat by Swansea means they remain within striking distance of fifth or sixth place and a return to the Europa League with three Premier games remaining; on Thursday they can reach the Europa League final by overturning their 1-0 midweek defeat in Villarreal.
Liverpool’s team selection and tactics in Spain surprised fans. Klopp clearly remains sceptical about the ability of centre-forward Daniel Sturridge to withstand his physical demands. Hence Klopp played in Spain without a recognised striker.
Sturridge was then recalled against Swansea in a line-up which was more predictable in featuring eight changes to bring in a string of reserves and rest the main players. Equally predictably, they were beaten comfortably, apart from a brief flurry after half-time which brought a goal for Christian Benteke.
By that time they were already two goals behind to first-half strikes from Andre Ayew and Jack Cork. Ayew restored Swansea’s two-goal cushion and Liverpool lost any last hope of another late comeback when defender Brad Smith was sent off for a second yellow card.
Liverpool will field a different team again against Villarreal. Klopp will hope for a different performance.