Stubborn Leeds ensure winless end to stormy week for Manchester United
Another game, another result for Leeds United against a European Super League team.
After denting Liverpool’s top-four hopes last week, Marcelo Bielsa’s team earned a draw against Manchester United and made sure their glimmer of hope in the Premier League title race has almost vanished. Defeat next weekend could see the champagne opened at Manchester City.
These ESL teams are discovering how difficult it will be going forward as pariahs of English football. Chelsea have also dropped points this week, while Tottenham and City have fallen behind to pumped-up opponents looking to upset the so-called “Big Six”.
Leeds are a fine example of how everything must be earned in the Premier League. They were playing in the Championship at this stage last season but have earned four positive results against ESL rebels during their run of six unbeaten matches.
The highlight of this stalemate was hearing Harry Maguire yelling his displeasure at Fred not running with Leeds players, using industrial language to emphasise his point. “F***ing idiot”, was the sign-off from the visitors’ captain.
“We have got a group that demands a lot of each other,” said Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “The standard is high both in training and a game, it is not just about being a nice guy and cajoling. We demand maximum effort.”
Solskajer insists his team will not let the ESL debacle overshadow their season but that is difficult to see. There is little talk about his team almost going through the entire campaign unbeaten away from home and being crowned Kings Of The Road. Opponents are doubling their efforts and supporters remain unhappy.
Fans stormed the training ground at Carrington last week to protest against the club’s Glazer family owners but it is not the end of the resentment towards the Americans, with a plane flown over Elland Road with a banner reading ‘2bn stolen – Glazers out’.
In the directors’ box, Leeds chief executive Angus Kinnear wore the white rose of Yorkshire and used his programme notes to denounce the “seditious” move by clubs he branded as playground bullies.
“I wasn’t aware (of the banner) and I don’t think any of the boys had seen it,” said Solskjaer. “We have focused on the game, of course it was a difficult week but I am really happy with the boys’ focus, they have such a determination to finish the season strong.”
With both teams stuck in second gear, some of the best action was away from the pitch. Bielsa was a fascinating figure as his booming voice rang around the empty stadium. “No foul” he yelled when opponents approached the penalty area, his manner never anything but stern. “Anticipate!” was the instruction from dead-ball situations.
When the visitors had the only goalmouth action of the first half, Bielsa was telling his players in the defensive wall not to move. Marcus Rashford cleared the Leeds players but Illan Meslier showed his athleticism to palm the ball away.
Gareth Southgate had made the short trip from his home in Harrogate to watch the match and was writing away in his notebook. He saw Rashford start on the left this weekend, while Mason Greenwood played at centre-forward. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Ayling have not been in his plans this season but showed they are solid options in that well-stocked right-back position.
He would have been impressed with Kalvin Phillips sitting in front of Leeds’ back four but breaking forward and popping up all over the pitch. He also seemed to be man-marking Bruno Fernandes to good effect when he did not have the ball.
“To be aggressive and not violent is very difficult and Kalvin managed it very well,” said Bielsa. “He was very important for us.”
Leeds felt they could have been awarded a penalty in the first half when Jack Harrison led a counter-attack and his cross touched the arm of Luke Shaw as the England full-back leaned into the ball.
“Defensively we were solid but we just couldn’t find that cutting edge. The tempo was there and the intensity, both teams were trying to play the right way but it just lacked that little bit of quality in the final third, where it matters whether it is a set-play or a moment of brilliance from our attackers,” said Maguire.
Solskjaer’s team are now trips to Aston Villa and Wolves from going through the Premier League campaign unbeaten away from home.
“It is a good achievement no matter if there are fans or not, 23 or 24 games without a defeat, the players have prepared well for these games, the work by the coaches is really good, it is planned down to a tee and we hope it continues because we have got big games coming up,” Solskjaer said.
Shaw tries a cross but that’s easy for Meslier. Get the sense that these could play for another 90 minutes and not produce a moment of class. Ref maybe feels the same – he’s put this match out of its misery!
Well a veritable raft of substitutions, none of them having any dramatic effect. Cavani is on. MU have a corner, but that’s dealt with okay. Leeds go up the other end but fail to fashion an opening. And now it’s Man U again, but the pattern continues with undeniable desire and effort not really being matched by any quality.
Leeds have two shots in quick succession. First Klich:excellent run but a terrible shot. And now Ayling tries his luck out of nowhere. Good hit but easy enough for Henderson, who is continuing to look a solid presence in that MUFC goal.
Shaw with a corner. Bruno is down in the box after a minor brush with Alioski, and he makes a passionate plea for justice. VAR tells him to get up and stop moaning. I wish. VAR just checks that it wasn’t a foul.
Maguire pumps it forward. It’s a race between Ayling and Marcus Rashford… the Leeds man slips and clatters the MU forward. Ayling is making his case that he slipped on this iffy surface… but the ref isn’t buying it.
It is to the credit of the young Englishman Kalvin Phillips that he is giving his opposite number, the brilliant Bruno Fernandes, a real tough examination here. He robs the United man, and it sets up a chance for Dallas.
Ah, the old failing with Leeds: that man marking system works great until someone fails to… mark their man. Jack Harrison loses his man and Fernandes is played in, had his touch not him down that would have been a great chance.
MUFC’s chance to have a freekick. Good whipped ball in and who should it find but the mighty SPAMHEAD. He cannot get the right body position to make a useful contact on it. Had that dropped to someone other than a Maguire type that would have been a handy chance.
The matchday printed thing, I mean. Their chairman has gone in two-footed on MUFC.
Here’s that man Ben Rumsby.
The managing director of Leeds United has launched a ferocious attack on Manchester United and their fellow Super League plotters ahead of the pair’s first Premier League meeting at Elland Road for more than 17 years.Angus Kinnear used his programme notes for Sunday’s game to accuse United and other members of the so-called ‘Dirty Dozen’ of the “deeply cynical” exploitation of the coronavirus crisis to create “a sporting cartel” in what was “a betrayal of every true football supporter”.
Man Utd: Henderson, Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, James, Rashford. Subs: de Gea, Bailly, Pogba, Cavani, Mata, Alex Telles, Matic, van de Beek, Tuanzebe.
The match kicks off at 2pm, and the team news for Leeds United vs Manchester United should be with us at 1pm. I’ll get to that right away: in the meantime, here is m’coll Mike McGrath to set the scene for you.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had been hoping for a first clear midweek at Carrington in two seasons before, as he describes it, the bomb was dropped last Sunday afternoon.
The Manchester United manager had not enjoyed an entire whole week working at the club’s HQ since August 2019. The only spare week they had saw his squad jump on a plane to Marbella for warm-weather work.
He was not expecting a midweek where he was confronting supporters who stormed United’s training facilities in protest at the club attempting to join the European Super League before its embarrassing collapse.
Instead of coming up with a plan to defeat Marcelo Bielsa’s team today at Elland Road he has been explaining his own sporting principles and how he could never have backed his club’s plans of joining a competition where qualification was automatic every season.
The fallout has seen him lose an ally in Ed Woodward, who stands down as vice-chairman at the end of the year. Woodward has strongly supported the Norwegian in his two years as permanent manager, putting in place a change of approach to the Galactico years when United targeted marquee signings such as Paul Pogba.
Solskjaer will give his advice if asked about a successor but says there can be no room for sentiment when it comes to appoint the person who runs United and makes the decisions for their Glazer family owners.
Edwin van Sar looks an obvious candidate after assuming a similar role at Ajax but there will be several interested parties and candidates for one of the biggest jobs in football.
“If they ask my opinion and it comes to that, I’ll voice my opinion on what we need,” said Solskjaer. “But I’m sure the club is capable of moving forward.
“It’s important we employ the right man – we can’t employ on sentiment but to have Manchester United’s best interests at heart, that’s one of the criteria of course. But I’m not the one who writes the job description so – of course my job now is to take care of results but whoever [comes in] I’m hopeful I can have a good working relationship with and I can provide results.”
The short-term challenge will be for ESL clubs to face being the hate-figures of the Premier League. Leeds pinched a point off Liverpool on Monday after proving a point with their pre-match T-shirts, which carried the message that Champions League football should be earned rather than given.
You can bet Leeds will be out again to make another statement today against their bitter rivals.