City moves 13 points back of Liverpool, who have two matches-in-hand, while the host Blades are seventh with 33 points.
Man City out-attempted the Blades by an 18-4 margin, produced three big chances to United’s one.
Three things we learned
1. Aguero rescues win and improves Golden Boot credentials: The Argentine might turn 32 in June, but is showing no signs of slowing down. Sure his run and back post tap-in weren’t the most scintillating of his goals, but he’s onto 16 league goals. That’s one shy of Jamie Vardy‘s league lead, and right now you’d bet on him to snare a second Premier League Golden Boot.
2. Henderson aided by VAR:Gabriel Jesus‘ penalty was abject, but it certainly helped Dean Henderson that he was off his line early in the run-up to save. Video Assistant Referee somehow missed the offense, or there’s an explanation beyond our understanding. Pep Guardiola sure is livid.
3. De Bruyne continues record pursuit: Man City’s playmaker assisted Aguero’s goal was a terrific cross to give him 15 league assists this season. He needs six in the final 14 league outings of the season to break Thierry Henry’s Premier League record of 20.
Man of the Match: We’ll give it to Aymeric Laporte, whose fifth appearance of the league season was his first since Aug. 31. The long injury absence stung City deeply; With Laporte on the pitch, City improves to 4W-1D with three clean sheets.
Fernandinho cut out an early Blades challenge, and the next notable moment came as Muhamed Besic bladed the newly-returned Aymeric Laporte to only a yellow card.
Burnley climbs to 27 points on goals from Ashley Westwood and Chris Wood, with Pope’s save of Vardy the moment of the match. The point total is good enough for 14th on the table, five points ahead of the drop zone.
Three things we learned
1. Barnes roasts Mee twice, but Pope offers clemency: Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope had a strong day between the sticks, and the performance was required stuff as center back Ben Mee opened the door twice. Pope could do nothing about Barnes’ first goal, which came with Mee far too slow to react to a dribble. The second came when Mee hauled down Barnes, and Jamie Vardy came to the spot for what looked to be a surefire penalty winner. No, sir, as Pope guessed correctly to stop one of the better penalty takers in the leader.
Mee also could’ve conceded a penalty (see our third thing) on an uncharacteristically poor day.
2. Burnley as pesky as ever: The Clarets play scrappy football. They don’t care much for the ball and manager Sean Dyche demands fight in the air and on the ground. Burnley has let him down with poor defending this season, but the players remain feisty when following his plan of finding his forwards on the counter and through set pieces. The problem? Those opportunities are conditional, and the Clarets have not been finding them enough.
Of course, they did that twice on Sunday. Ashley Westwood’s long corner did not find Kasper Schmeichel at his best, and Westwood then scored when Jonny Evans also made an uncharacteristic error.
3. Leicester’s luck leaves them: The Foxes probably should’ve had a penalty. As far as we know, VAR did not have a closer look at Mee jutting his elbow out to block a shot late in the second half. Replays begged a penalty, but no review was signalled via television or referee.
Moments later the Foxes cringed as Evans, a decent enough defender, made a careless error to allow Westwood to thump home from close range.
Not only that, but Praet appeared to be fouled in the build-up to the opening goal. VAR didn’t find anything.
Man of the Match: Pope. He was fantastic, left for dead on Barnes’ opener but able to stop Vardy from the spot and then again point blank in the 78th minute.
Harvey Barnes fired a shot to Nick Pope from 10 yards within 35 seconds of the opening kickoff.
It was predictably all Leicester early, the Clarets again content to hemorrhage possesion in favor of counter attacking danger.
Barnes put the Foxes in front with a run down the gut of the Burnley back line, Ben Mee barely presenting an obstacle on the route to Pope’s doorstep.
Pope made a great save on Dennis Praet within two minutes of restart, then collecting a stray through ball before Jamie Vardy could reach it.
Wood leveled it with a typical Burnley goal, Mee nodding down a corner into the six for the Kiwi to prod over the line.
Mee was in the mix again as Leicester City took control back. Barnes roasted the center back to draw a penalty. Vardy doesn’t miss many of those, but Pope was there to stop the Premier League’s leading goal scorer from the spot.
Mee’s awful day should’ve gotten worse when he leaned to block a shot with his arm, but VAR didn’t see an error and the Clarets raced down the pitch to score soon after.r
It was Westwood, one of the league’s unsung contributors, who pounced on a Jonny Evans error in the 79th minute.
Southampton have won six of their last nine Premier League games and in that period only Liverpool have won more points than them, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side have totally transformed their season. Ings scoring over 50 percent of their goals has, obviously, played a huge part in that as he’s scored winners against Tottenham and Leicester in shock back-to-back victories.
The red-hot Saints host Wolverhampton Wanderers this Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) hoping to make it six wins in seven in all competitions as their amazing run of form has coincided with Ings being in the form of his life. With that in mind we went along to Southampton’s training ground in England’s New Forest National Park to speak to the man who sits second in the Premier League’s goalscoring charts.
Full disclosure, this is not the first time I’ve met or spoken to Danny Ings. Back in 2015 I was working on a longform story detailing his rise to Liverpool, via Burnley and Bournemouth, as he’d just made his England debut after breaking into Liverpool’s first team as a regular. I visited his dad Shayne and his partner Sue, and spoke to his family and others close to him as he was set to be the next big thing in English soccer at the age of 23.
Ings then ruptured his ACL in Jurgen Klopp‘s first training session as Liverpool boss. And then did it again two years later. He moved to his hometown club Southampton on an initial loan in 2018 and the $26 million deal became permanent last summer. It is the best deal Southampton have made in some time.
With 16 goals to his name in all competitions this season, and 10 in his last 11 appearances in the Premier League, he’s in the form of his life in front of his family and friends. He is dubbed “King of the Scummers” by Saints fans who revel in his two goals in a 4-0 win away at League One Portsmouth, their bitter rivals, in the League Cup earlier this season and he admitted that game, and becoming even more of a local hero, kickstarted his season.
As he smiles widely while rubbing his heavily tattooed hand across his chin, Ings is thriving on the pressure placed on him at St Mary’s, Saints’ home stadium which is only a couple of miles away from where he grew up. The pressure to deliver match tickets each week for friends is one thing, but scoring goals as the No. 9 is on another level altogether.
“I think when I knew when I was coming here, I was inviting a lot of pressure on myself,” Ings said. “To wear the number nine shirt in front of your hometown, there is a lot or pressure in that alone. But for me, because I was playing at Liverpool before that among lots of world class players who I’ve looked up to and tried to learn from, those were the guys who had more questions than I did after back-to-back knee operations. The craving of having that pressure on myself is something that I wanted for so long and coming here excites me to have that pressure because I know if I come off the pitch and I have scored a goal, it means a lot more to me.”
Not content with just scoring goals for his hometown, Ings is also one of very few players who is working hard in the classroom too. He is currently completing an economics degree and is learning to play the guitar when he switches off from being the man of the moment. Add into that his tireless work in the community with the “Danny Ings Disability Sports Project” charity he set up to help children with disabilities, and he’s doing all he can off the pitch.
On the pitch, Hasenhuttl, his boss at Saints, has labelled Ings ‘outrageous’ among other superlatives and recently said that the form of Ings is “due to him working his ass off” every day. Even on his off days. Ings spent his time off in the summer doing one thing: working his ass off.
He was in Portugal and Los Angeles and Miami training with nutritionists and performance coaches, Alex Parsons and Nicky Holender, who worked on building up his core strength ahead of what was a hugely important season.
After three serious knee injuries spread across his time at Burnley and Liverpool, is he making up for lost time?
“For me, I’m just having fun now, my mindset in my career right now is that if I put the work in Monday to Friday, and I know I’ve done everything I’ve done to prepare for the game ahead, I know I can go out and have fun at the weekend,” Ings smiled. “I feel like people are really seeing that in my performances now, I am playing the game, I am smiling, I am happy. When I’m getting the chance I am trying to be as clinical as I can be. I’m not going to score every week, that’s normal. But if I give myself the best chance of getting into those positions, I know that I can score more goals and there are plenty more games still to come in the season.”
His return to form and fitness has led to calls for him to be called up by Gareth Southgate for the English national team in March. Ings is playing it cool when asked about a call up, but his former managers, current teammates and pundits are rallying behind the widely-loved striker who has been through tough times but has shown incredible mental strength to come out of it a better player.
“I would say we are all kind of different players in the way we play for our clubs and the way we have been over the course of our careers, really. Gareth will want a certain striker playing a certain way for him and it is all about what he wants,” Ings said. “The way I am in the system here at the club, it is all about pressing, running behind, not having too many touches on the ball. If that is something that is different to the other lads and how Gareth wants to set his team up, then yeah, I’d say it is definitely a different way for me.”
Playing for Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, Sean Dyche at Burnley, Brendan Rodgers and Klopp at Liverpool and now Hasenhuttl at Saints, the managers Ings have played for are very different and he thanks them all for developing his understanding of the game and all asking him to do different things. But the thing he has always done well is score goals. By the boatload.
Can he explain this glut of goals which has already culminated in his best-ever goalscoring season with 16 games of the season still to go? He has scored plenty of goals this season by sniffing around defenders, pouncing on mistakes and leading Saints’ now famed press under Hasenhuttl.
“It is hard to put my finger on that. Every game I want to try and create as many chances as I can and be in the right positions when the lads are providing. I go back to the momentum, momentum is key,” Ings said. “Any striker will tell you that when you are on a goal run you find yourself ending up in better positions to score goals, your focus is a lot stronger because you have the bug for scoring goals and trying to do the best you can for the team. That is the mindset I’ve been in this season. I am finding myself in great positions because the momentum is there and it is a hunger that we all have as goalscorers.”
Ings is in lethal form at the moment and you will not find one person across the Premier League who is unhappy about it. From his high-pressing to his finishing, plenty of the PL’s big boys will keep sniffing around Ings but he is keen to point out he is very happy at Southampton and isn’t thinking about anything else.
What is achievable for the rest of the season with Saints, a team who had just two wins on the board heading into late November but are now just three points off possible European qualification?
“For every club you want to achieve the maximum you can. We’ve put ourselves in a position now where we have gone further away from where we were and we are edging closer to the teams in and around those [European] places. For us, I feel like it is important we maintain our momentum,” Ings said. “Every game is so tough in the Premier League, you never know what’s going to happen. If we start thinking too far ahead, we might lose a little bit of the focus in the game that is coming at the weekend. You can see how hard the lads are working now to be the best team we can be. You can see how it is clicking and that is the way moving forward. If you look too far ahead you might lose a bit of focus and it is important we don’t do that.”
With Southampton’s fans signing his name loud and proud and hailing him as “one of our own” Ings is a happy man. Back at home, everybody wants to speak with him, everyone wants photos and everyone in the biggest city on England’s South Coast wants tickets to watch him play.
His goals and smiles have been one of the stories of the Premier League season so far as he pushes for the Golden Boot in the final months of the campaign. After his injuries and heartache in recent years, seeing Danny Ings back smiling, and scoring, is a beautiful sight for anybody who loves the beautiful game.
The fact he can now celebrate with his family by jumping on a boat and going fishing in Southampton Water hours after being the hero on the banks of the River Itchen is an added bonus. And one he clearly loves.
Saints had a penalty kick chalked off by VAR and Kelechi Iheanacho and Johnny Evans were both denied goals by the technology as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s warm embrace with Brendan Rodgers at the final whistle showed a man who has come back from the brink.
With the win, their sixth in their last nine games, Saints remain in 12th but are on 28 points and just three points off seventh. Leicester sit in second but could slip down to third by the end of the weekend.
3 things we learned
1. Redemption for Southampton: This victory will be sweet for every single person connected with Saints. They were humiliated 9-0 by Leicester earlier this season and Hasenhuttl’s side dominated this game throughout. They should have won easily but dug in and showed amazing character, just like they have done since that mauling, to keep their amazing recent run going.
2. Leicester running out of steam: The Foxes have now lost three of their last five games and the wheels are starting to come off a little. They missed the injured Wilfried Ndidi badly and Vardy and Maddison only showed flashes of their quality. The Foxes would have to have a dramatic collapse to finish outside the top four, but it looks like a top two finish could be out of the question.
3 Unlucky Ings strikes again: He hit the bar twice in the first half within 30 seconds and was denied brilliantly twice by Kasper Schmeichel and it looked like it wouldn’t be his day. But he delivered late on to take his amazing run to 10 goals in his last 11 games. Ings is on fire and so are Southampton and he will be called up by England in March. A gutsy display by Ings who could barely run in the final moments.
Man of the Match: Danny Ings – Scotsman Stuart Armstrong put in an amazing shift in midfield and probably deserved this award, but the work Ings put in and the way he kept going summed up his, and Southampton’s, superb return to form in recent months. What a story.
Saints should have taken the lead early on as Harvey Barnes gave the ball away and Ings was clean through on goal but Kasper Schmeichel denied him twice.
Leicester made the most of that reprieve as Ayoze Perez’s quick free kick found Jamie Vardy who crossed for Praet to finish at the back post.
But Southampton, much to their credit, kept plugging away and hit back in the first half as Armstrong’s shot took a big deflection off James Maddison and snuck in to make it 1-1.
Ings then came so close to scoring twice for Saints as he first hit the crossbar with a flicked effort at the near post, then moments later smashed the bar from distance as Leicester were pinned back.
Caglar Soyuncu then cleared off the line from Jack Stephens as Saints continued to look the more dangerous side.
Armstrong smashed over the bar and then a big movement of controversy arrived. Long was played in and was clean through but Caglar Soyuncu brought him down.
However, VAR intervened as Long was slightly offside when he was played in so the penalty was not given.
Che Adams came on and set up Ings to make it 2-1 as he nutmegged Kasper Schmeichel amid wild celebrations from the away fans.
The in-form striker should have wrapped it up again as Nathan Redmond played him in but Ings had a good effort which was brilliantly tipped wide by Schmeichel.
Demarai Gray was then denied by Alex McCarthy and Leicester thought they had grabbed a point when Johnny Evans nodded home in the 90th minute but VAR was used, again, and the goal was chalked not given as he was offside.