Time was, this would have been Leicester’s cup final. Their match of the season. The big one.
They probably would have lost it, too. Still, it would have been a great occasion for the fans, the place would have been buzzing and, what the hell, it’s Manchester United. No-one was seriously expecting Leicester to win.
They are better than that, these days. Better than United, possibly, too. League titles, European qualification, the Champions League, it’s all to play for – and maybe a real cup final, at Wembley, too. They are one match from that now, but must first play Southampton in the semi-final.
It was 1982 when Leicester last reached the FA Cup’s final four, in the days when Wembley was reserved for the showpiece, only. They lost 2-0 to Tottenham at Villa Park. Gary Lineker was the centre-forward. Garth Crooks scored Tottenham’s first.
Yet nostalgia is for the birds around these parts. The Foxes, meanwhile, are running amok. This broke a sequence of five straight FA Cup quarter-final defeats and Manchester United’s run of 29 domestic away games unbeaten.
How they got to such a landmark, heaven knows. A stretch like that, which goes back to a defeat at Anfield on January 19 last season, implies a supreme force, a seriously good team, maybe even a great one. United didn’t look as good as that. Even taking into account the trip to Milan last Thursday they appeared tired and sloppy and missing a spark.
They gifted Leicester the lead, were defensively poor for their two second-half goals and their forwards were second rate. Leicester consistently enjoyed the better chances and Jamie Vardy and the brilliant Kelechi Iheanacho looked considerably livelier than what United had to offer. Quicker and better on the hustle, too. As far as Leicester were concerned, they all were.
The whole game, in fact, made one question the United revival. It just seems so random. Outstanding one week, ineffectual the next.