Leeds United fell to a 6-2 defeat at Old Trafford on Sunday as a Scott McTominay double in the first three minutes of the game set the precedent for a sobering evening for the Whites.
Leeds came into the game looking to build on a positive result against Steve Bruce’s Newcastle in midweek. It was the first time that this famous rivalry would be played out in league football for 16 years and Marcelo Bielsa made no changes to his side.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær did, however, alter his side after a narrow 3-2 victory against Sheffield United on Thursday, Luke Shaw came in for Alex Telles, Dan James came in for Mason Greenwood and there was a complete overhaul of the midfield as Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba made way for Fred and Scott McTominay.
It was that man McTominay that started the night off right for Manchester United, both times losing Mateusz Klich and putting a fine finish into the back of the Leeds net. The first was a ferocious strike from the edge of the box, the second a weak-footed finish after a delicate first touch had set him free in the box.
Leeds, immediately on the back foot, tried to respond quickly. Jack Harrison’s cross was nearly turned in by Raphina only a minute after conceding the second goal, then Bamford really should have done better after he sliced the ball wide from inside the box.
It looked as though the travelling team did have their goal after Bamford had turned and finished well inside the area, only for the striker to be flagged offside/ One minute later, Manchester United had extended their lead, this time through Bruno Fernandes. The ball was moved forward well and it was an incredibly clinical finish from the Manchester United talisman who somehow squeezed the ball through the legs of Luke Ayling
Leeds again pushed forward, trying to find a way back into the game, Bamford’s head was found by an inch-perfect Mateusz Klich cross, but he couldn’t keep his effort under the bar. Stuart Dallas then won the ball inside the Manchester United box and tried to square it to the advancing Bamford. It was a poor cross though and was cut out easily. From a corner, Raphinha then unleashed an aggressive volley that De Gea saved well from.
Leeds United then conceded a corner and, obviously conceded from it. A flick-on from Martial found Lindelof all alone in the Leeds six-yard box and the Swedish defender couldn’t miss. 4-0.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men did manage to get their goal before half-time. Liam Cooper with a very nice header beyond David De Gea giving his side the faintest glimmer of hope, before almost immediately being called into action at the other end of the pitch to block well from a Marcus Rashford shot. There was not a lot of positivity as the teams left the pitch at the break and Bielsa made two substitutes to try and change the shape of the game, off went Mateusz Klich, who was at fault for the first two goals, and Kalvin Phillips, who seemed to be trying too hard to impose himself on the game, with Jamie Shackleton and Pascal Struijik taking their place.
If there was hope that things would be different in the second period, this was immediately dispelled by Anthony Martial having a golden opportunity to make it five after only two minutes. Only the pressure from Luke Ayling and Jamie Shackleton saved Leeds from conceding again.
The lads from Yorkshire tried once again to get back in the game. De Gea with an unbelievable save to stop a point-blank Raphinha shot from going in after the Brazilian was set-up perfectly by a great cross from Rodrigo. Raphinha then forced another save from De Gea, this time with a volley from the edge of the box. Then the worst happened.
Manchester United countered, Scott McTominay tried to find Bruno Fernandes, but Dan James picked up the loose ball, sent Luke Ayling the wrong way with his first touch and stroked the ball through the legs of Illan Meslier for five. Things went from bad to worse for Leeds, Pascal Struijik, who’s been good since his introduction, was penalised for a foul on Anthony Martial inside the area. Bruno Fernandes converted and that was absolutely game over as if it hadn’t been over after the third minute.
Just to make sure that Leeds United’s suffering wasn’t restricted to the night, club captain Liam Cooper, who had been one of the most dedicated performers on the night for his side, was forced from the pitch with an injury, leaving Marcelo Bielsa with zero fit senior centre-backs. 20-year-old left-back Leif Davis was the man who came on in his place.
In typical Bielsa fashion, Leeds’ players didn’t stop testing the opposition goal. Stuart Dallas scored a worldie from the edge of the area to reduce the scoreline, Harry Maguire was called into action to block a goalbound Jack Harrison strike, Luke Ayling headed over from a corner which saw him all alone in the Manchester United area and Jack Harrison missed a brilliant chance to put the scoreline to 6-3 in the last minute but flashed his shot wide.
A devastating result for Leeds United, but not one that will define the season, it is games like those against Burnley, Brighton and West Brom, all of whom Leeds face in the next few weeks, that will show us if Leeds United have a good chance of staying in the Premier League. Let’s all agree to just move on.
Illan Meslier: 6
Would have been a five if not for some brilliant saves in the last few minutes from Cavani, James, Fred and Telles. Needed to do better with their fifth and distribution wasn’t the best we have seen.
Stuart Dallas: 4
Loose touches, loose passes. Was better second half and his goal was exceptional, but he seems to struggle on the right side of the defence.
Luke Ayling: 5
He’s not a centre-back. Did alright carrying the ball out of defence, should have scored and lost his man a few too many times.
Liam Cooper: 6
Most committed defender, when Ayling was struggling with Rashford, Cooper was always there to help out and make the block. Great goal as well. Hope his injury isn’t too serious.
Ezjan Alioski: 4
Lost his man too much, attacking play was solid but committed himself too early at points and isn’t the most natural defender. Not his best game.
Kalvin Phillips: 5
He gets credit for trying, what Sky failed to mention is that one more yellow card would have seen him miss the Burnley game. Lost his man for their fourth goal. Seemed to be trying too hard to impose himself on the game.
Never stopped pushing the team forward. Needed to be more clinical at points, but a solid enough performance, though he gave the ball away in the build-up to one of their goals.
Mateusz Klich: 3
I love the man, but he’s the reason we lost this game today. Let McTominay get away from him twice in the first three minutes and we conceded twice as a result. Tried to get back into the game but was in the same situation as Kalvin re. yellow cards. Correctly taken off at half-time.
I rarely give half points, but he was much better in the second period than the first, Still not quite at the races defensively, and gave the ball away in the build-up to an opposition goal, but seems to be improving all the time. Big few games for him if he wants to nail down his place.
Would be a seven if he’d scored either of his golden chances. Same as Raphinha. Pushed us forward at all times, some dangerous deliveries and good effort from the winger. He’s one lump of composure away from being a genuinely top player. Seemed to benefit from the switch to the right-hand side, and Raphinha was solid on the left, I’m interested to see whether this continues.
Should have scored at least two. Did his job off the ball, build-up play was solid but could have put us back into the game at 2-0 and missed his chances on the day. Not his best.
Pascal Struijik: 5
Yes, he gave away a penalty but he came on in adverse conditions and did an admirable job in the centre of the park. Expect to see him against Burnley if Liam Cooper is out for an extended period,
Jamie Shackleton: 6
Never fails to impress me going forward, but this time it was his defensive output which was impressive. Rashford had been destroying Dallas in the first half but from Shackleton’s arrival in the right0back position, the Manchester United winger didn’t have a sniff. A performance that will go under the radar.
Leif Davis: 7
This is completely my personal bias towards the player who should be our starting left-back. Replacing the last fit centre-back in the club, at 6-2 down against a top-four side. Did brilliantly to recover some balls, made some important tackles and tried to progress the ball up the pitch. A great performance given the circumstances.