LEICESTER, United Kingdom: All eyes will be on Leicester striker Jamie Vardy on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) when he tries to become the first player to score in 11 consecutive Premier League games in a top-of-the-table showdown with Manchester United.
Vardy equalled the record held since 2003 by former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy when he took his scoring streak into double figures with one of Leicester’s goals in their 3-0 win at Newcastle last Saturday.
Fittingly, England international Vardy, 28, who joined Leicester from Fleetwood Town in 2012, will set the new mark if he scores against United when his league leaders host second-placed United at the King Power Stadium.
While Vardy can’t stop scoring, with 13 goals in the league so far this season, United are struggling to find the net.
Their 19 goals in 13 league games is the lowest total in the top seven and their struggles in front of goal are threatening to undermine their hopes of winning a first trophy since 2013.
United’s failure to score against Championship side Middlesbrough saw Louis van Gaal’s side go out of the League Cup on penalties last month and, potentially more seriously, another blank on Wednesday against PSV Eindhoven could prove costly to their Champions League prospects.
Victory over the Dutch champions would have taken United into the last 16, but following a 0-0 draw, their fourth such result in seven matches, they must now win their final Group B game away to Wolfsburg to guarantee going through.
“Of course I am worried,” admitted van Gaal about United’s lack of potency in front of goal.
United captain Wayne Rooney, the club’s leading scorer with six goals, of which only two have come in the Premier League, is equally concerned and he added: “I think we need to score more goals as a team.”
Lack of potency
United could not point to injuries as an excuse for their latest low-key performance in midweek as Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marouane Fellaini all returned from missing last weekend’s 2-1 Premier League win at Watford which took them up to second place.
Van Gaal’s perceived style of play, lacking tempo and a creative edge, has come in for criticism from supporters and pundits.
But a victory at Leicester, who have lost just once at home this season, would ease some of the tension by taking United above Claudio Ranieri’s side to the top of the league.
United winger Ashley Young is confident of a positive result to ease the disappointment of failing to advance in Europe.
“Leicester are the leaders, so this is a top-of-the-table clash. We’ll be looking to keep up the good form we’ve shown in the league over the last few weeks, and hopefully get the three points,” Young said.
“We’ve just got to pick ourselves up now and go again at the weekend.”
Vardy was Leicester’s only injury concern but he has shaken off a persistent hip problem and is expected to start against United as he looks to break the record.
His form has seen him linked with January transfers to a host of big teams including United, but Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri says his club plan to challenge regularly for silverware in the coming years and can match Vardy’s ambitions.
“If you go to a big team and stay on the bench, do you feel good or not?” said Ranieri.
“Now they are the kings here. In another side would they be the king or something else?
“That is important. I want ambitious men but it is also important they understand where Leicester is going.
“I understand if somebody wants to go but I believe in the next years Leicester, slowly, can grow up and battle at the top.
“This is our project. I spoke to the owners in July about it. People believe in me – I believe in me too.” AFP