Manchester United v Leicester City: Ranieri aiming for Hollywood ending to title push
Leicester City head to Manchester United on Sunday on the brink of securing a historic Premier League title and Claudio Ranieri hopes his players get an "American movie" ending.
Having narrowly escaped relegation from the top flight last season by winning seven of their final nine outings, the dramatic turnaround continued into 2015-16 and has seen Leicester set the pace at the top of the table.
Tottenham's failure to beat West Brom on Monday means Leicester, who are seven points clear and nine matches unbeaten, require just three points from their three remaining games in order to be crowned champions.
The first opportunity to secure a maiden top-flight title comes when Ranieri's side travel to Old Trafford, home of the Premier League's most-successful club.
The Italian is confident Leicester will be able to complete the job, but wants to see a defining performance against United.
"It is important for us to make a perfect game. The best away performance of the season, we have to do it," Ranieri said.
"It is good we are doing something special. And of course I am very proud for everybody in Leicester, for our community.
"There is a good feeling about this story, but it is important to finish the story like an American movie. Always in the final it is okay, a happy ending.
"I feel it is very important to be concentrated 100 per cent. The story of football is fantastic but you have to be focused on the match. I don't tell my players to stay calm, I say, 'stay hungry'."
United, though, are desperate to remain in the hunt for Champions League qualification and will be brimming with confidence after booking an FA Cup final place with a last-gasp Anthony Martial winner against Everton at Wembley last weekend.
Beating the leaders could play an important role in boosting their chances, with Manchester City and Arsenal, third and fourth respectively and five points clear, still to face each another.
But former Barcelona coach Louis van Gaal expects a typically difficult match against Ranieri, citing his previous encounters with the Italian during his tenure at Valencia.
"It was never easy to beat his teams," said the Dutchman.
"Valencia and Barcelona is also more or less a derby so it is a difficult match. He has always organised his teams very good."
Leicester's only absentee is talismanic striker Jamie Vardy, who serves the final game of his two-match ban for improper conduct.
Van Gaal has no new injury concerns to contend with, though Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw will not be fit to feature.
Key Opta stats:
- After winning nine Premier League games in a row against Leicester City, Manchester United have now won just one of their last three against the Foxes (D1 L1).
- If they win this match, Leicester will become the first team to win their first top-flight league title in England since Nottingham Forest in 1977-78.
- Wayne Rooney has currently scored 99 Premier League goals at Old Trafford – the only player to have scored 100+ at a single ground in the competition is Thierry Henry at Highbury (114).
- United need to win five points in their remaining four league games to equal their lowest points tally in a Premier League campaign (64 in 2013-14).
- Claudio Ranieri has won just two of his previous nine Premier League matches as a manager against Manchester United (W2 D5 L2); these coming in December 2001 and November 2003 as Chelsea boss.