Sat 15th Aug
Man Utd 2 v 2 Leicester
Sheringham, Beckham                     Heskey, Cottee

By David Anderson, PA Sport

David Beckham scored a free-kick special three minutes into stoppage time to rescue Manchester United at Old Trafford. The former champions were heading for defeat against Leicester when they trailed 2-0 with only 12 minutes remaining. But substitute Teddy Sheringham pulled one back with a glancing header from Beckham's shot before the controversial England star scored a glorious equaliser with a sweetly-struck 25-yard free-kick which gave Pegguy Arphexad no chance.

It was a tremendous finale for the England midfielder, who has just signed a new five-year contract at Old Trafford. He was booed and cheered simultaneously every time he touched the ball, but he ensured he had the final word with that terrific strike.

United's defending was shocking at times and after six minutes the visitors, who won here 1-0 in January, took the lead through Emile Heskey. Muzzy Izzet was allowed to run along the deadball line before pulling the ball back for Heskey to poke it home from close range off the underside of the bar.

Leicester almost had a second when former Red Robbie Savage's curled cross came off Jaap Stam and went over the bar after Tony Cottee had missed it.

United's defence was in disarray and the Foxes carved out another chance, this time down the left on 16 minutes, but Cottee carelessly shot over from Steve Guppy's cross. Then Izzet pounced on a misplaced pass, charged into the box and crossed towards Heskey only for Denis Irwin to head clear.

United finally managed to fashion an opening after 27 minutes when Andy Cole nodded the ball down on the edge of the area for Paul Scholes to miskick. Beckham brought a diving save from Kasey Keller with a long-range drive.

Irwin then flashed a drive wide from just outside the box before a Giggs cross was just centimetres too high for Cole's head. Keller finally had something to do and he saved one point-blank effort from Roy Keane before he held another shot straight at him from Ronny Johnsen.

Stam, who had been given the run around by Cottee in the first half, was replaced by Henning Berg. Cottee should have doubled Leicester's lead when he shot straight at Schmeichel from close range and the reaction of his manager Martin O'Neill made it clear that he should have done better.

Leicester were forced to reorganise at the back on the hour when Keller was injured challenging Cole and had to be replaced by Arphexad. On 75 minutes Leicester doubled their advantage when Cottee, who scored the only goal here in January, popped up unmarked in the middle of the United defence to head home Savage's right-wing cross.

United tried to fight back and Arphexad pushed Cole's shot into the side netting after the striker had rounded the goalkeeper. In the 78th minute United clawed themselves back into the match when Sheringham, who had only replaced Gary Neville a minute earlier, got his head to Beckham's shot.

In a frantic finale, Leicester could have had a third only for Schmeichel to deny Heskey with a point-blank save. But in the end United were not to be denied as Beckham produced another piece of magic for his scrapbook.


Manchester United: Schmeichel, G Neville, Stam, Johnsen, Irwin, Beckham, Scholes, Butt, Giggs, Scholes, Cole. Subs: Scorers: Sheringham (79), Beckham (90)

Leicester: Keller, Savage, Guppy, Sinclair, Elliot, Walsh, Izzet, Lennon, Zagorakis, Cottee, Heskey. Subs: Scorers: Heskey (7), Cottee (76)


Attendance: 55,052

From: Red Devil Marcus <lionel@POP.JARING.MY>

Well, what can I say? David Beckham deserved that goal, and what a goal it was. United looked very much lost in the sunshine this afternoon, and they can't afford to depend on injury time equalisers against second rate opposition if they are to make a serious bid for the league title (or any title in that case).

Jaap Stam made a few errors early in the game, claiming he couldn't see with the sun in his face. He got injured at half time (a groin strain) and was replaced by Henning Berg who didn't really have as much to do. Emile Heskey was a constant menace.. he's bloody fast for a 6'4'' player isn't he? Even Johnsen and Stam couldn't cope with him.

The first goal came (deservedly) after a long period of shameful defending by the United backline. A great dribble along the line by Izzet (was it?) was finished off most superbly by Heskey. The United defence was a laughing stock and Fergie has his work cut out for him.

Leicester pretty much put 10 men behind the ball after that and every United shot seemed to have 3/4 defenders throwing themselves before it to get a deflection. Andy Cole cannot be blamed for his lack of chances, he worked his heart out and he really needs a strike partner to play alongside him. Paul Scholes is more of a playmaker and he's rarely forward enough anyway. Ryan Giggs started off promisingly, but melted away in the sun and was scarcely seen in the second half. He stuck too much in the middle for my liking (isn't he supposed to wait for Jeppe to be fit?) and left a huge hole down the left wing almost throughout the game, which was constantly used by Rob Savage to his advantage.

Keano and Butt in the middle seemed to lose out too often to Neil Lennon and I don't think Keano is quite at 100% as yet. Butt put in a few tasty tackles to win the ball in midfield -- a real terrier. Irwin put in a good showing, but lacked support down that left wing due to the disappearance of Giggs. Gaz Neville had an okay game, but was too often exposed at the back and his crosses weren't top quality either. Schmikes? Well he had a few howlers today, and was lucky not to be punished.. doesn't seem to be quite the personification of confidence he used be eh?

And then there was Beckham. Ohh. He gave a brilliant, brilliant performance today and was quite easily (okay, Cole was close as well) the best United man on the pitch. Ruthless in winning the ball, supremely skillfull in dribbling across the pitch and peerless in his distribution. He set up the first goal for Sheringham (who incidentally played quite well too) quite brilliantly with a driven pass into the box. Sheri stooped down to guide it into the net with his first touch of the ball and Old Trafford exploded.

And then of course, there was the freekick. Absolutely brilliant. The pressure was on him, 5 minutes into injury time, United 2-1 down and an expectant Old Trafford held it's breath. The boy David curled a flawless, dipping freekick down to the keepers right to the euphoria (relief?) of the thousands at Old Trafford. That should shut a few people up eh?

It was rather embarassing for me to hear Becks getting boo-ed at home. I would expect the United supporters to roar support and easily drown out the minority of away supporters. The atmosphere at OT is quite disgraceful really, and most fans seem to be content with sitting quietly in their seats and moaning and groaning when things aren't going their way. The Theatre Of Dreams? Surely not. They only seem to make noise on certain occasions -- a bad foul, Cole coming close to scoring, a Keano tackle, and of course a goal. Other than that, I thought we were playing at Filbert Street.

All in all, United had a great escape today, and they owe it mostly to David Beckham - my man of the match.


Schmikes (6/10) Irwin (8/10) Neville (6/10) Stam (7/10) Johnsen (8/10) Berg (7/10) Keane (8/10) Butt (8.5/10) Giggs (6/10) Beckham (10/10) Scholes (9/10) Cole (9.5/10) Sheringham (8/10)

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