The most damning aspect for Manchester United is that they had no way of repelling opponents with slicker tactics, a smarter manager and a clearer identity. Ole Gunnar Solskjær had nowhere to hide after being shown up by Brendan Rodgers.
United were an utter mess from start to finish and as Solskjær stared into the distance once Patson Daka had sealed a riotous victory for Leicester it was impossible not to conclude they had lost because they employ a manager who is incapable of constructing a cohesive unit.
The harsh reality is that United, whose English league record of 29 away games unbeaten is over, do not have a way of playing. They have brilliant forwards, such as Mason Greenwood, who gave them the lead with a stunning goal, but there is no discernible philosophy under Solskjær. The approach in possession is still too basic and the worry for United, who drop to fifth after taking one point from their past three games, is there was more to this defeat than the dreadful defending that led to all four of Leicester’s goals.
They could not rely on individual quality to bail them out this time. United had Cristiano Ronaldo, but Rodgers had a plan. There was so much to admire about Leicester’s slick, intelligent display. They overwhelmed United with the aggression of their pressing, the quality of their passing and their swift combinations in attack. It was also hugely satisfying for Rodgers to see his side regain their poise after Marcus Rashford had briefly silenced the King Power Stadium by dragging the visitors level in the 82nd minute.
Leicester, who deserved their first win in the league since 28 August, did not wilt. They simply roared up the other end, broke down the left and made it 3-2 thanks to a venomous drive from Jamie Vardy, who was granted too much space to beat United’s exasperated goalkeeper, David de Gea.
United’s weaknesses had caught up with them. The tone was set by Harry Maguire allowing the ball to run out of play inside the first minute and they were fortunate not to fall behind during the early stages. There was too much space in front of the back four, which was to be expected with Paul Pogba alongside Nemanja Matic in midfield, while there were times when it was hard to see how United hoped to penetrate Leicester, who looked far more secure in a 3-4‑2-1 system.
It certainly helped that Leicester had Jonny Evans back in central defence. Evans, who has been struggling with a persistent foot problem, was a calming presence and the hosts were also boosted by some encouraging flashes from the impressive James Maddison in the No 10 role.
Leicester were superior during the opening period. Boubakary Soumaré and the magnificent Youri Tielemans established control of midfield, the wing-backs, Timothy Castagne and Ricardo Pereira, were adventurous, and Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho were full of mischief up front.
The frustration for Leicester was that they had done little wrong before a moment of genius from Greenwood in the 19th minute. The striker took a pass from Bruno Fernandes on the right and, seeing that Castagne had slightly backed off, cut inside before spanking a vicious left-foot drive past Kasper Schmeichel from 25 yards.
Leicester did not deserve to be behind, although they were indebted to the keeper when he stopped Ronaldo making it 2-0, and they kept pushing.
Vardy tested Victor Lindelöf, who did not convince in place of the injured Raphaël Varane, and the sense that Solskjær had rushed Maguire back from a calf injury too soon increased when United’s captain made the error that led to Tielemans dragging Leicester level.
It was an inexcusable goal for a top side to concede. United had a free‑kick just outside their own box and they should have played their way out of trouble. Instead, Iheanacho robbed Maguire and De Gea was caught out by a glorious chip from Tielemans.
There was no sign of United improving after the break. Rashford came on for his first appearance of the season, replacing the ineffective Jadon Sancho, but Leicester were stronger. Tielemans and Iheanacho were denied by De Gea but Leicester finally took the lead when a corner reached Daka. The substitute’s shot was saved and Soyuncu scored the rebound.
United, who had spent most of the second half botching counterattacks and conceding free-kicks, had to respond. They did so out of nothing, Lindelöf releasing Rashford to lift his shot over Schmeichel.
Was a comeback on the cards? Not this time. Aaron Wan-Bissaka sold himself with a ludicrous challenge and Ayoze Pérez teed up Vardy, whose rising shot shattered the notion of United as credible title challengers.
United soon fell apart again. Tielemans sent in a free-kick from the left and the cross somehow reached Daka, who was free to complete United’s humiliation.