Top-four race ends with dejection, elation, and vindication
The measure of what it means to reach the Champions League was played out in a simple scene after Man United cemented their place in next season’s competition at Leicester’s expense.
Manchester United along with their staff celebrated at the final whistle blow for the 2-0 win that confirmed qualification in the top-four Champions League position.
Jadon Madison, Leicester’s key player sat with his hands on his head, dejected after spending the entire season kicking every ball and battling for every decision despite being out injured.
The Champions League encompasses high finance and also high football ambition. It is the place where elite players want to be and Maddison witnessed the dream evaporate in front of his eyes.
In sharp contrast, Leicester players looked close to tears at the final whistle. However, Maddison, it seems certain, will be at the club next term to give it another try.
As for Manchester United, a domestic season that looked on course for mediocrity ends in the success of sort after the arrival of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon.
This is a measure of vindication for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who has achieved a giant institution’s minimum requirement of a return to the Champions League.
Solskjaer, who was wreathed in smiles as he conducted his post-match media briefing looked an unlikely target when they dipped into the transfer market to bring Fernandes.
This elegant creator from Portugal has been a talisman and a catalyst for United winning nine and drawing five of the 14 league games he has been involved in.
Fernandes has been the central figure in overhauling what was, as its worst a 14 gap between United and Leicester City.
The turnaround was completed at the King Power Stadium and emotions could not have been more contrasting as United’s goalkeeper, David de Gea ran the length of the field to join in the celebrations for Jesse Lingard’s injury-time goal.
As United’s players gathered in a corner in a jubilant huddle, many of Leicester’s counterparts were on their knees.
At Stamford Bridge, there were celebrations too. Chelsea’s season of renewal under the Englishman Frank Lampard ended with a place in the top-four as they thrashed the tough Wolverhampton 2-0.