Rejoice, Leicester City fans – it looks like you've turned a corner.

A run of two wins in nine games in all competitions had led to all sorts of head-scratching, not to mention a few worried mumblings about Brendan Rodgers and whether he might think fifth place, an FA Cup and a Community Shield was as much as he could realistically achieve at the King Power Stadium.

Things have looked a little less scary in the Hallowe'en season, though. That emphatic 4-2 win over Manchester United kick-started a run of four consecutive victories (well, three, plus a shoot-out defeat of Brighton and Hove Albion in the EFL Cup). OK, they conceded eight goals in those four games, but one thing at a time.

Ironically, perhaps the biggest concern for Leicester right now is the major positive of their season: the form of Youri Tielemans. The Belgium international is being linked with new clubs with every passing man-of-the-match display amid little obvious progress in talks to extend his contract, which expires at the end of next season.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich are just some of the sides said to be interested in the midfielder, described by Rodgers as both "a really gifted young player" and "a really respectful guy".

It's tricky to back up the latter with numbers, so we'll take Rodgers' word on that. As for being a talented footballer, there can be little argument. Not only is Tielemans Leicester's stand-out performer, but he has also been arguably the finest midfielder in England in 2021-22.

Youri-n good company

Signed initially on loan from Monaco in January 2019, Tielemans has come to define the Rodgers era at Leicester as much as the manager himself. After all, he's only missed seven out of 126 matches in all competitions since the former Liverpool boss took charge of his first game, shortly after Tielemans had made the move from Monte Carlo.

Since his debut against Tottenham on February 10 two years ago, Tielemans has played more Premier League games (97) than any other midfielder. He is one of just three midfielders, along with Declan Rice and Matt Ritchie, to play in every minute of 2021-22, and his 65 consecutive appearances represent the longest active such streak in England's top flight (James Ward-Prowse's 102-game run came to an end on October 16).

Among Premier League midfielders, only Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (780) has had more touches of the ball this season than Tielemans (707), while only the Tottenham man (626) and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson (565) have attempted more passes than Leicester's Mr Reliable (542).

Hand at the Tiel-ler

The most obvious – and visually striking – aspect of Tielemans' play is his long-range shooting. He has a real knack for kicking the ball into the opposition goal from a long way away, and at particularly important moments.

This year alone, there was the FA Cup final rocket against Chelsea, the thunderbolt in the 2-1 win at Brentford and that impudent curler against Manchester United (one that may or may not have been an attempted cross). Four of Tielemans' goals in 2021 have come from outside the box, which is a tally no Premier League player can surpass.

Still, Tielemans' midfield role at Leicester is hardly of the free-scoring Frank Lampard ilk. The best of his attacking output comes in creating openings for others. Since his Premier League debut, only Bruno Fernandes (127), Jack Grealish (166) and Kevin De Bruyne (190) have created more chances from open play than Tielemans (115). It's a figure that's helped Leicester to 171 league goals in his time at the club, a tally only bettered by Liverpool (210) and Manchester City (232).

Although Leicester's early-season form fell short, Tielemans seemed to embrace the burden of expectation. There are just four midfielders this term to create more chances from open play than him, and all of them tend to inhabit more advanced roles in their sides.

What's more, only Raphinha (24) and Fernandes (23) rank higher when it comes to the number of involvements in open-play sequences when their only action was to take a shot. Similarly, just Fernandes (22) has had more involvements than Tielemans (12) in sequences where their sole contribution was to create a chance.

Tielemans, then, has grown increasingly effective in the decisive moments of a period of possession, the kind where more advanced playmakers tend to thrive. But in Leicester's 3-4-1-2 system, where he sits at the heart of midfield, he is expected to contribute much more – and does.

As can be seen in his high touch and pass count, Tielemans is at the centre of Leicester's efforts in possession. Among Premier League midfielders this season, he has been involved in the most unique open-play sequences (458), defined as a passage of play that belongs to one team and is ended by defensive actions, stoppages in play or a shot. In such sequences to end in a shot, only West Ham's Said Benrahma (53) and that man Fernandes (68) have had more involvements than Tielemans (51).

This is balanced by his work without the ball. Of those five top-ranked players for open-play chances created in 2021-22, Tielemans has won by far the most tackles (11) and possession in the middle third of the pitch (33). He is a combative as well as creative force, and nowhere was that more apparent than in Leicester's defeat of United this month.

Bedevilled

Alongside the improving Boubakary Soumare, Tielemans was the best player on the pitch against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils. He had the most shots (four) and created the most chances (three) of any Leicester player and, level with Soumare, won possession the most for his side (seven times). Meanwhile, his 66 completed passes, 41 of which were in the United half, and 96 touches were the most of anyone in the game.

Simple offloads of the ball are to be expected from central midfielders, of course, but this was not an exercise in mere sideways passing. The variety of his distribution, the commitment to breaking lines and advancing play into the United half was clear. This was a performance worthy of capturing the interest of some of Europe's grandest clubs, as well as a bit of leeway when it comes to judging whether he meant that goal.

Tielemans has come to represent the best things about Rodgers' Leicester: talent, tenacity, and tactical acumen. He's a player who has won admiring glances from across the continent and one who faces a big decision in the months to come over his future.

For now, Leicester fans, he's yours to enjoy.

Leicester City came from behind to beat Manchester United 4-2 in a thriller on Saturday and end the Red Devils' long unbeaten away run in the Premier League.

It looked as though United's English league record of 29 games without defeat on the road would continue when Mason Greenwood opened the scoring with a stunning strike.

However, Leicester levelled through Youri Tielemans following an error from the returning Harry Maguire, and Caglar Soyuncu prodded home to put the hosts ahead with 12 minutes to go.

In a frantic finale, Marcus Rashford marked his first appearance of the season with an equaliser before Leicester restored their lead from kick-off, Jamie Vardy blasting home from Ayoze Perez's cut-back.

Patson Daka added a fourth in injury time as United lost for the fourth time in seven matches.

Youri Tielemans has not yet committed his long-term future to Leicester City.

Tielemans is only contracted with the Foxes until the end of the 2022-23 season.

And Leicester may consider selling their FA Cup final hero at the end of this season if they cannot strike a new deal.

 

TOP STORY – SPANISH GIANTS KEEN ON TIELEMANS

Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are circling for Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, reports The Athletic.

The 24-year-old Belgium international publicly said he is "keeping his options open" as he negotiates a new Leicester deal.

Barcelona and Madrid would be interested in Tielemans, who has also been linked with Liverpool, should he become available next off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

– Football Insider reports Tottenham are still planning to sell Dele Alli, although they will wait until the end of this season. Spurs are hoping Alli's value will rise throughout the season to land a significant transfer fee.

– Everton are considering moves for Real Madrid pair Isco and Luka Jovic in January on six-month loan deals, according to Defensa Central.

– Liverpool are keeping an eye on Porto's Colombian star Luis Diaz, reports The Independent, with the two sides having met in the Champions League on Tuesday.

– Juventus have joined Chelsea in showing interest in Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, claims the Daily Mail.

– Newcastle attacker Allan Saint-Maximin has interest from Chelsea and Liverpool, according to the Express.

Are Barcelona set to make a splash in 2022?

After losing Lionel Messi on a free transfer due to their crippling debt, Barca are busy planning for next season.

Franck Kessie and Youri Tielemans are believed to be on the radar at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING PAIR

Barcelona are targeting Milan star Franck Kessie and Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, according to reports.

Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and he is yet to re-sign at Milan amid links with Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Mundo Deportivo claims LaLiga giants Barca are considering a move for the Ivory Coast international, as well as Tielemans – who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fichajes says Premier League champions Manchester City are plotting a bid for Leeds United and England star Kalvin Phillips.

Real Madrid are interested in Lyon's Rayan Cherki as a long-term replacement for Karim Benzema, per Fichajes. It comes as Madrid continue to pursue PSG's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are considering a move for Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy.

United are ready to rival Barca, Juve and Bayern Munich for RB Leipzig attacker Dani Olmo, according to Marca.

Borussia Dortmund's England international Jude Bellingham has been in Germany more than 12 months.

He has regularly been linked with moves back to England, having impressed in the Bundesliga.

Liverpool had a quiet transfer period, with only French defender Ibrahima Konate signed.

TOP STORY - LIVERPOOL TO LAUNCH RECORD BELLINGHAM DEAL

Liverpool will launch a record £80million (€93m) deal to secure central midfielder Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund claims the Daily Star.

The report says the England international is Reds manager Jurgen Klopp's top transfer target.

Theproposed deal would make 18-year-old Bellingham the club's most expensive ever signing.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid have joined Manchester United and Barcelona in the race to sign Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans according to AS. The current contract of the 24-year-old Belgium international expires in 2023.

- Leicester City's Senegal midfielder Nampalys Mendy will join Istanbul giants Galatasaray on loan before the Turkish transfer window closes, reports Foot Mercato. Mendy, who has been on international duty, will rush to Turkey to complete the deal.

- Le10Sport reports that veteran Brazilian free agent David Luiz is set to ignore options with Marseille and Salernitana and instead return to his homeland.

- Roma will make another move for Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria in January after missing out on him during the most recent transfer window reports Corriere dello Sport.

Brendan Rodgers is confident James Maddison will remain a Leicester City player, despite speculation linking him with Arsenal.

Having already brought in Ben White and Albert Sambi Lokonga, Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in the Leicester midfielder, though Rodgers dismissed those reports on Thursday.

Leicester, who are preparing for the Community Shield on Saturday, won the FA Cup last season before falling at the final hurdle for Champions League qualification, with Maddison playing an integral role.

"Yes, I believe so," Rodgers said when asked whether Maddison would remain at the King Power Stadium. "I haven't been told anything to say he won't be.

"He's happy in training, he's working very hard and he's just recently become a father so he has responsibility off the pitch as well.

"There's obviously gossip and speculation that goes around, especially this time of year, but James is a very important member of our squad.

"He's a very talented player. His season was disrupted last year by injury but hopefully this season he can go and show what a top player he is.”

Maddison, whose 13 goal involvements in 31 games last term represented his best return in the Premier League, led Leicester's charts for chances created with 51, despite playing seven games fewer than second-placed Youri Tielemans.

The England midfielder's 788 passes inside the opposition half were the second most among Rodgers' players, yet Maddison still ranked fourth with 81.22 per cent of those balls finding a team-mate.

While Rodgers will have reason to celebrate if he can keep a hold of playmaker Maddison, Wednesday's friendly against Villarreal led to concerning issues at the back.

Wesley Fofana, who was just one of two defenders to attempt at least 50 tackles, make 50 interceptions and produce 50 headed clearances last season, suffered a broken leg against the LaLiga outfit, leaving Leicester short for centre-backs.

Rodgers admitted he was "not overly happy with the way the game was officiated" and concluded it was "disappointing for something like that to happen in a pre-season friendly".

Already without the injured Jonny Evans, Leicester have just Caglar Soyuncu left as a first-choice centre-half and could be forced to push Wilfred Ndidi back into defence for Saturday's clash with Manchester City.

Rodgers now faces a race against the clock to fill the defensive void as he noted the shock 2015-16 Premier League winners are "definitely light in that area."

Youri Tielemans has identified what makes absent Belgium teammate Kevin De Bruyne such a "special player" ahead of their Euro 2020 quarterfinal against Italy on Friday.

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez declared that Manchester City midfielder De Bruyne will miss the quarter after sustaining an ankle knock in their last-16 win over Portugal. De Bruyne was also absent from training on Wednesday.

De Bruyne, who missed Belgium's opening 3-0 win over Russia with a facial injury, has scored one goal and provided two assists during Euro 2020, helping the Red Devils win all four games, meaning Martinez has a difficult job replacing him.

"Kevin is a special player because in my opinion, he always makes the right decision, even if you think he misplaces a pass, it’s not," Tielemans said during a news conference ahead of the quarterfinals.

"Always does something in his mind, always makes the right decision, very efficient, has a lot of assists or goals, that helps our team a lot."

He added: "As a team we have to create more options on the ball, move more, and make the right choices.

"Maybe we were under pressure a little bit, second half against Portugal, they had a lot of offensive options on the pitch, made it difficult for us to get out of there, as a team we have to find those solutions."

De Bruyne was replaced early in the second half against Portugal due to injury, before Belgium survived a barrage of pressure, with the 2016 European champions ending with 23-6 shots.

Belgium, who finished third at the 2018 World Cup and lost in the quarters at the 2016 Euros, ground out the win in a sign of maturity according to Tielemans.

"We learnt lessons from 2018, we’re more realistic, we play nice football, certain matches we have a lot of possession, create chances," the Leicester City midfielder said.

"Like you saw against Portugal there’s moments you have to suffer as a team, you might not get many opportunities, you have to score them, that’s where we learned from Russia, to be efficient, decisive in the right moment, when we have an opportunity to score we remember that from 2018."

Forward Dries Mertens is one candidate to come into the Belgium XI to replace De Bruyne against Italy, having replaced him against Portugal.

Mertens plays his club football with Napoli in Serie A, and added that quarterfinal opponents Italy appeared full of confidence.

"I’ve seen they have a lot more confidence now, they’ve played many matches and won a lot without giving goals away," he said.

"It gives confidence, experienced players but also young players, the way they celebrate when they win, many people didn’t expect that, it gives them a lot of confidence."

The 34-year-old also added there was no thought about Euro 2020 being his or this generation of Belgian players' last chance to win a trophy.

"No, not really," he said. "We do need to be realistic, realise we’re here now, we have a chance, you don’t get chances with a national team to win, every two years you have one chance to win one trophy, its very little.

"We’ve been doing well for a few years now, this is a chance we need to take, we have great facilities, we have great staff, people who know where we want to go.

"Those are important moments, I believe in the future of the Belgium team. This is a chance we have to take."

Belgium and Leicester City star Youri Tielemans dismissed speculation linking him with a move to Premier League giants Liverpool.

Tielemans, who scored the winner for Leicester City in last month's FA Cup final, has been continually linked with Liverpool following the departure of Georginio Wijnaldum to Paris Saint-Germain.

The 24-year-old Tielemans has two years remaining on his current Leicester contract and would not be drawn on the speculation when speaking to the media ahead of Belgium's Euro 2020 clash with Denmark on Friday.   

"I don't look at that, I just focus on this tournament," Tielemans, who joined Leicester in 2019, told reporters. "I've said that several times.

"Whatever happens after, we'll see. I just want to focus on the tournament, that's it."

It has been reported Tielemans is valued at £ 68million, which the former Monaco and Anderlecht midfielder brushed off.

"That does nothing [for me]. It's nice for journalists and for the internet," said Tielemans, who has been linked with Manchester United previously.

"I'm just focused on the Euros and making the most of it. That is all."

 

Zinedine Zidane's career as head coach of Real Madrid looks set to come to an end after a trophy-less 2020-21 season.

Madrid finished as runners-up in LaLiga, while they were knocked out in the Champions League semi-finals and exited in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.

Zidane returned to take charge of Los Blancos in 2019, after a previous stint from 2016 to 2018 where they won Europe's continental crown three times in a row.

 

TOP STORY - ZIDANE STEPS DOWN AT MADRID

Spanish outlets AS and Marca both are reporting Zinedine Zidane will step down as Real Madrid head coach.

The former France international has reportedly informed the club of his final decision following weeks of speculation around his post.

Zidane had requested a few days to consider his options and has now made his final decision and contacted his players individually, the reports say.

 

ROUND-UP

- Het Nieuwsblad reports that Belgium international and Leicester City's FA Cup final hero Youri Tielemans is among Liverpool's targets as they seek to replace Georginio Wijnaldum.

- Liverpool have also reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate, according to ESPN.

- The Mirror reports that Leicester City may offer a deal to Schalke defender Ozan Kabak after he spent the second half of the season on loan at Liverpool.

- Kicker reports that Bayer Leverkusen are pondering an off-season swoop for Arsenal defender William Saliba.

- Le10Sport claims that French champions Lille are ready to replace the departed Christophe Galtier with Thiago Motta at the helm.

Youri Tielemans has been tipped to sign a new contract at Leicester City by Andy King after writing his name in the club's folklore with his stunning FA Cup final winner.

The Belgium international scored the only goal of Saturday's showdown with Chelsea in front of 21,000 supporters with a right-foot drive into the top-left corner from 25 yards.

Leicester survived a nervy finale to win their first ever FA Cup at the fifth attempt, making it one of the most famous days in the Foxes' history.

Match-winner Tielemans - the third Belgian to score in the showpiece after Eden Hazard in 2018 and Kevin de Bruyne a year later - was rightly acclaimed after the match.

The 24-year-old has impressed throughout the season for Leicester, who will now switch focus to trying to nail down a top-four finish and Champions League football when they face Chelsea again on Tuesday.

Despite rumoured interest from other Premier League heavyweights, former Leicester midfielder King believes Tielemans can achieve all his career aims by staying on at the King Power Stadium.

"It's important Leicester keep him. Only he will be able to tell you whether it's going to be difficult to keep him because you never know what certain players' ambitions are, but days like Saturday certainly help," King told Stats Perform.

"He knows he can win trophies at Leicester and he knows he can play in the Champions League - that's what all the top players want.

"So, you never know, especially with players who aren't from the UK, if they want to play in another country or try something new.

"But from what I've heard, read and seen, he is really, really happy here, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him sign some sort of new contract in the not-too-distant future. I'm not saying I know he's doing it, but it just seems the right fit.

"He's probably been Leicester's Player of the Season this year – he has been absolutely outstanding. He's got everything, and for someone so young to score the match-winning goal in an FA Cup final is amazing."

That stunning Wembley strike took Tielemans' goal tally for the season to nine in all competitions – six of those in the Premier League – and he has also chipped in with four assists.

The former Monaco midfielder, who has two years to run on his existing deal, is third behind Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (2,615) and Rodri (2,683) for passes attempted among Premier League midfielders this term with 2,355.

He also ranks ninth in the division for tackles by midfielders (74), joint-10th for tackles won (39) and joint-11th in terms of chances created (44), underlining his all-round ability in the middle of the park.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has been credited with getting the most out of Tielemans, who arrived for a reported club-record fee of £40million in July 2019, and King feels the former Liverpool boss can also play a part in keeping the player at the club.

"He really likes the manager," said King, who won the League One, Championship and Premier League titles during his time with the Foxes. "The manager really likes him as well and he's now playing the best football of his career.

"He's just won a trophy and [can still get] into the Champions League, so I don't think he will be in any sort of rush to get out of the situation he's in at the moment.

"The way Leicester are going now, with one of the best training grounds in Europe, plans to extend the stadium, he's going to enjoy all that. 

"He's young and has plenty of years ahead of him, so hopefully he can sign that new contract and carry on playing the way he is."

While Tielemans' strike will long live in the memory of Leicester supporters, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel also cemented his status as one of the Foxes' all-time greats with some big saves against Chelsea.

Schmeichel turned Ben Chilwell's header on to the post and then somehow kept out Mason Mount's powerful shot en route to becoming the first goalkeeper to captain the winning side in an FA Cup final since David Seaman with Arsenal in 2003.

"Kasper is someone who is made for big moments," King said of his former team-mate. "He is driven to improve himself every day and improve those around him to make sure standards don't slip.

"He's vocal in the dressing room, and the best thing for us is that he really does love and care for the club. He cares about the owner and the supporters and will do anything to make sure Leicester win a game.

"He thrives off the big occasion and that save off Mason Mount is world class, an unbelievable save.

"I was sat right behind the shot, and just the sheer power on it, you think he might get a hand to it, but he's not going to be able to keep it out. He's a world-class goalkeeper."

Brendan Rodgers hailed Youri Tielemans' instant FA Cup classic after the midfielder spectacularly gave Leicester glory with a 1-0 final win over Chelsea at Wembley.

The Belgium international took aim from 25 yards in the 63rd minute to spark bedlam among the Leicester supporters in a 21,000 crowd at England's national stadium – the largest attendance for a sporting event in the UK since the coronavirus lockdown last March.

Leicester needed heroics from goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and VAR spared another of the favourites from their Premier League success five years ago.

Substitute Wes Morgan turned a ricocheted shot from Ben Chilwell into his own net to apparently herald extra time, but replays showed the ex-Leicester left-back was offside.

Delirious celebrations, with fans and players as one, greeted the full-time whistle and Tielemens was deservedly named man of the match

"Youri's goal was like an old school FA Cup-winning goal but also Kasper Schmeichel's save, those are the special moments you need in games," Rodgers told BBC Sport.

"Overall I thought we were the better team, we pressed the game really well, super-aggressive tactically. We were always a threat with the ball.

"Chelsea are an amazing team, that's why they're in a Champions League final but I thought we deserved it."

As was the case when Schmeichel, Morgan, Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton starred in Leicester's 2015-16 Premier League title win, this was a maiden triumph in the FA Cup.

"It's an amazing feeling, I wasn't aware before I came to Leicester that they'd never won the FA Cup, they'd lost in four finals previously," said the former Liverpool boss.

"So, to be able to give that to the supporters and the owners, so special.

"I'm so proud. It's a real collective effort at Leicester City - the board, the players, staff, supporters, an amazing day for the city. I'm just so proud for everyone."

Rodgers added: "I've been lucky enough to be in six finals [with Celtic] before and lucky enough to win them. Today being the seventh was truly special.

"It's the FA Cup and as a British coach it means so much to us. I'm so proud, but happier for everyone else."

Kasper Schmeichel lauded Leicester City's "undescribable" FA Cup final triumph as a 1-0 win over Chelsea gave them the trophy for the first time.

Youri Tielemans hit the only goal in the rain at Wembley on Saturday, allowing the Foxes to celebrate with their returning fans under the arch.

That was Leicester's only shot on target, though, and the rest of the drama was reserved for the opposite end of the pitch in the closing stages.

A Wes Morgan own goal was ruled out by the VAR as Ben Chilwell strayed offside, but Schmeichel had twice brilliantly denied Chelsea before that incident.

The Leicester goalkeeper made only three saves yet crucially lunged after a downward Chilwell header and then denied Mason Mount.

Schmeichel became the first keeper since Arsenal's David Seaman in 2003 to captain a side to an FA Cup win, Leicester's first at the fifth time of asking.

"Amazing, undescribable," he told BBC Sport of the victory. "It's what dreams are made of. I've dreamt of this since I was a child.

"We've talked about wanting to win trophies, and the performance today... the determination. I'm so, so proud of everybody.

"Everybody's contributed. To get to the final, everybody's played, everybody's been sensational, all the team behind the team, the medical staff, everybody, all amazing.

"That's why when you work together, you do things properly, you have an eternal belief, that's what you can achieve."

Schmeichel dedicated the win to late Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in a helicopter crash following a match in 2018.

"It's exactly that. None of you will be able to see – on the inside of our shirts, we have a picture of him, so he's always with us, Khun Vichai," he said.

"And obviously, for Top [Vichai's son Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha], this is what we dreamt of, this is what we talked about for so many years.

"Today, for the fans, look at it, it's amazing."

This was Leicester's first FA Cup win over Chelsea in 10 attempts, but they must now quickly rally and defeat the same opposition again in the Premier League on Tuesday.

A win in that match would secure Leicester's place in the Champions League for next season, potentially at Chelsea's expense.

"Today is a great day and we'll enjoy it thoroughly, but we play them again on Tuesday in a massive game again," Schmeichel added.

"Today we enjoy it, tomorrow we have to dust ourselves down and can't really think about it again. They're a top class side, they're going to want revenge."

Schmeichel was part of the Foxes team that remarkably won the Premier League in 2015-16, but fellow final hero Tielemans, who created two chances and supplied two tackles as well as scoring, was a subsequent signing.

The Belgium international said: "I think the start was when they won the league. That was when something special started.

"We are just building that up. Hopefully we can continue. We have a very important game on Tuesday. If we win, we are hopefully in the Champions League.

"We just have to go again. Now we will enjoy and celebrate, but we will think about Tuesday later on."

The most notable element of a disjointed goalless first half in Saturday's FA Cup final was the organic soundtrack.

At the Leicester end of the 21,000-strong crowd, there was a throaty collective roar when Kasper Schmeichel completed a routine catch from a right-wing corner. Referee Michael Oliver had plenty of unflattering appraisals of his work and a wildly off-target drive from Chelsea forward Timo Werner drew hearty guffaws.

There aren't really buttons on a fake crowd noise soundboard for any of that stuff.

The most significant crowd any of these footballers had played in front of for 14 months also seemed to have an impact on some adrenaline levels and resulting performances.

Leicester great Gary Lineker, so poignantly emotional after his boyhood club closed out an unforgettable 1-0 win, has enjoyed an enduring post-career link up with Walkers. The Foxes' current main goal threat, Kelechi Iheanacho, played like a punter who'd collected 10 crisp packets and won the chance to try playing at Wembley.

Iheanacho entered the game as the joint top scorer in this season's FA Cup and with 13 goals in his past 12 outings across all competitions. It counted for nothing, the Nigeria international's touch as heavy as his legs, while muddled decision making did nothing to lengthen the short leash Antonio Rudiger kept him on.

Werner draws another blank

Werner would give plenty for some of Iheanacho's prolific form, the type he enjoyed only last season at RB Leipzig. Here, we again witnessed the Chelsea version – tireless probing running to push the opposition defence deep and prescribe Jonny Evans a swift return to the treatment table.

But Werner snatched at his shots, inadvertently touched a goalscoring chance away from captain Cesar Azpilicueta and then saw Wesley Fofana hurl himself into back-to-back blocks. When the ball broke clear, Werner threw himself at Luke Thomas with the same gusto but none of the expertise to be booked.

The occasion was encouraging commitment, anxiety and a dearth of quality, with the notable exception of Mason Mount.

Chelsea's playmaker pirouetting under a high ball to stun a volleyed pass into Azpilicueta's path was easily the most beautiful piece of play before the interval. His shot from the return ball was deflected wide by Fofana, who seemed to take any attempt to test Schmeichel as a personal affront.

 

Azpilicueta found himself forward so often because he featured at wing-back, with the more naturally attacking Reece James on the right of Chelsea's back three.

The Blues began their run to the final with a victory over Morecambe and, to paraphrase the Lancashire town's favourite son, it felt like Thomas Tuchel had selected all the correct right-sided defenders but not necessarily in the right order.

In reality, however, the move came to look inspired, at least defensively as James effectively shackled Jamie Vardy's livewire running.

Youri's glory

The opening stages of the second half, Leicester finally managed to peg their opponents back. James still dealt with everything in immaculate fashion until, well, he didn't.

The 21-year-old botched a routine pass, hitting it at Ayoze Perez. Thomas snaffled the loose ball and Youri Tielemans straightened his run towards the Chelsea box.

Like Evans earlier, Thiago Silva's combination of old head and old legs persuaded him to let his opponent advance towards goal. Unlike Werner, though, Tielemans is a supreme technician at the top of his game.

The Belgium midfielder unleashed an unerring 25-yard firecracker into the top corner. Some thunder to go with the Wembley rain. Behind the goal, bedlam. Limbs. A cup final goal for the ages.

Tuchel decided to act and a pair of double substitutions followed, including former Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell's introduction. His every touch was booed, until he got his head to a cross from N'Golo Kante – the Foxes' 2015-16 title-winning hero, who endured no barracking.

That moment was one for a sharp intake of breath but Schmeichel plunged to his right for a stunning save. His later stop from Mount was even better.

 

Captain Morgan's VAR cocktail

The dying minutes meant time for another of Claudio Ranieri's old stagers as Wes Morgan came on for his first action since December, immediately barking instructions. The band, or what remains of it, were back together.

When he hoisted the Premier League trophy aloft five years ago, Morgan or none of the rest of us lived in the altered reality of VAR. But it saved him here after Chilwell tore off in villainous celebration, his attempt having cannoned in off his old captain after Caglar Soyuncu had tried to hack it clear. The replays showed a tight but obvious offside.

Morgan, Schmeichel and Vardy have a first FA Cup to go with their club's first league title. They are sporting immortals of the east midlands.

The Leicester faithful also have a new trophy-winning hero in Tielemans after his majestic man-of-the-match showing. Following Eden Hazard in 2018 and Kevin De Bruyne in 2019, another Belgium playmaker scored in an FA Cup final victory. A niche and far more palatable new normal.

And that was the best thing about the rash tackles, the blocks, the screamer, the bedlam, the shredded nerves, the drama, the villains and the heroes. The wonderful atmosphere in which it unfolded was all so instantly and beautifully normal.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pinned the blame for Manchester United's limp FA Cup exit on his side's hectic schedule as they suffered a 3-1 quarter-final loss at Leicester City.

United were beaten by a double from in-form Kelechi Iheanacho and one from Youri Tielemans at the King Power Stadium as the Foxes secured just a second victory over the Red Devils in 26 meetings in all competitions.

Mason Greenwood's first-half leveller – his first goal in 16 games – ended up being a mere consolation for the visitors as Brendan Rodgers marked his 100th game in charge by leading Leicester to their first FA Cup semi-final since 1982.

For United, it was a first away defeat in domestic competition since January 19 last year, with manager Solskjaer citing a busy fixture list that has recently included a tough two-legged Europa League tie with Milan.

"We didn't have the spark, but it's understandable," he told BBC Sport. "This team have been fantastic in the last three or four months. We played every three days and have been on a great run. It just caught up with us, all the games and travel.

"Thursday night in Milan was a big night and took a lot of out of us physically. We didn't have the extra zip, authority and confidence.

"We tried to get on the front foot and start well because sometimes you can get that adrenaline boost and confidence if you get a goal and that can carry you over the line.

"We've got too many players that have played too many games and too many that haven't really had much football; Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek, Paul Pogba and others are trying to get in who haven't had enough football. We didn't have enough against a tough team."

The first goal came about after a woeful mistake from Fred, whose attempted pass back to Dean Henderson gifted former Manchester City striker Iheanacho a simple finish.

But the Norwegian refused to point the finger at any individuals, insisting such mistakes come with the territory of playing out from deep.

"We want to build from the back and want the players to be confident," he said. "Sometimes it doesn't work and that's one time it didn't.

"When we win, we win together, and when we lose, we lose together. We're not pointing fingers and blaming.

"The second one is a good goal by the boy but maybe with a zip of energy we could've got to him and wouldn't have been done as easily in the middle.

"That's been one of our strengths, keeping clean sheets and being dogged, but we didn't have the opportunity."

Solskjaer is now looking ahead to what remains of United's season, which still holds the prospect of continental silverware and a shot at sealing second spot in the Premier League.

"We've got the Europa League and Premier League to concentrate on," he said. "Yes, we would've liked to go to Wembley, but now all the focus is on the games we do have.

"We're in a good position in the league and we want to keep improving; of course, Leicester are just behind us, so it won't be easy, but we want to keep going and get as far as possible in the Europa as well."

Leicester City reached the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1982 after a 3-1 win over Manchester United in Sunday's quarter-final clash.

Two goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and one from Youri Tielemans were enough to give the Foxes only a second victory over the Red Devils in 26 meetings in all competitions.

United, who levelled in the first half through Mason Greenwood before Tielemans' fine winner, looked well short of their best for much of a contest for which they made five changes from their Europa League win in Milan three days earlier.

Iheanacho headed in a third 13 minutes from time to make certain of victory as United lost an away match in domestic competition for the first time since January 19 last year.

Fred had twice lost possession in United's half before his dreadful backpass to goalkeeper Dean Henderson gifted Iheanacho an easy finish.

Despite their changes, United played like a team struggling with fatigue in the first half, as Leicester pressed them into errors without managing to take full advantage.

It was therefore something of a surprise when the visitors levelled seven minutes before the break. Pogba's low cross from the left was dummied superbly by Donny van de Beek, giving Greenwood the chance to smash home his first goal in 16 appearances.

Leicester regained their lead in prompt fashion in the second half, though, Tielemans drilling a fine shot beyond the reach of Henderson after drifting easily away from Nemanja Matic and Fred.

Jamie Vardy should have made it 3-1, skipping beyond Harry Maguire only to drag a shot wide of the left-hand post with only Henderson to beat, prompting Solskjaer to make four changes to breathe life into United's display.

It was one of those substitutes, Scott McTominay, who conceded a cheap free-kick near the box and then allowed Iheanacho to drift behind him to nod home Marcus Albrighton's delivery.

 

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