LONDON • Jamie Vardy, who four years ago this weekend was equalising for Fleetwood Town in front of 768 people, added another chapter to his fairy tale by becoming the first player to score in 11 successive Premier League matches.
And it could not have been more fitting that Manchester United were Leicester City's opponents in the game that finished 1-1 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
Vardy's first Premier League goal came against Louis van Gaal's side in a 5-3 victory here 14 months ago, and Ruud van Nistelrooy was playing for United when he scored in 10 consecutive games in 2003 to set the record that the striker had equalled the week before.
Roy Hodgson was in the stands to witness the moment and the England manager was unable to suppress a smile as Vardy, who was first called up to the senior squad in May, drilled an angled shot across David de Gea in the 24th minute.
United manager Louis van Gaal was not as amused, but gave credit to the man of the moment.
"The goal he scored is also amazing because it is not so easy. I can say our organisation is bad but he is provoking that also," he said after watching his side finish with 69 per cent possession and limiting the hosts to three shots on target.
"It is a fantastic record to have, 11 matches in a row. Not many players will do that."
Pre-game, the Dutchman spoke of the threat that the pacy Foxes would have on the counter-attack. Of Vardy's first 13 league goals this season, only five were the result of a build-up with more than one pass.
To contain Vardy and limit his penetrative running, van Gaal opted for a 3-5-2 formation, although Marcos Rojo's injury may have also been a factor in reverting to a back three. Yet the opener was a textbook Leicester goal.
From a United corner, Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel claimed the ball in the home side's area and sent Christian Fuchs on the break. The left-back charged down the right wing, covering a good 50m, and played the ball in behind the United defence. Vardy did the rest, rifling a shot past de Gea.
Fourteen seconds after the ball left Schmeichel's gloves, de Gea's were used to pick it in his net.
The Leicester fans erupted as Vardy, wearing golden boots, sprinted off shouting: "I am the man." Few would disagree.
United levelled the score before half-time when Bastian Schweinsteiger headed home a Daley Blind corner. It was the German's first United goal but all the focus - understandably - was on Vardy's milestone.
"We have come straight from a corner. It was unbelievable," said Vardy, who earned just £30 (S$63) a week playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels in 2010. "I think I got a bit carried away with myself!"
The 28-year-old has also now scored the most goals (14) by a Leicester player in a single Premier League season.
"We had two objectives," revealed Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri. "To win the match and try to help Vardy break the record.
"Jamie made the record, it is fantastic for us. Five years ago, he played in non-league, it is difficult to grow up so quickly and this fantastic man is not only our goalscorer but he presses, he works hard, he is important."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS