A rivalry to be played in front of a filled Elland road for the first time in 19 years. Shocking weather, both teams in need of the points with a raucous crowd from both sides. It lived up to its billing. The conditions made the first 20 minutes a hard slog. Eventually, United’s quality began to tell. A corner(!) goal. Shaw’s great delivery was nudged in by Maguire and Bruno would head in again on the stroke of half time. Leeds completed their collection of subs after an enforced first half substitution and the influence was there. Rodrigo fortunately got one back with a cross and seconds later, Raphinha, a sub, would bring them level with a tap in. Rangnick responded with two substitutions of his own and they both ended up on the scoresheet. Fred powered one in at the near post and Elanga used the slick surface to slide one in the finisher. The travelling Manchester party serenaded Yorkshire with the Elanga song as we collected the three points.

Villainous Heroes

Nobody is perfect and the same can be said of football players. It’s impossible and it is why there are managers who are supposed to eliminate these weaknesses as much as possible while elevating their strengths. Therein lies the ability to be a net negative and net positive where you have to decide if the player’s balance between the strengths and weaknesses are worth it. The problem with United that most of their best players are players that tread far too close to that line. If there were players that were just definitive positives above these players we have, then it would be much less of a problem. You saw it today with the second half.

Throughout the season, the defence has been porous. A combination of collective and individual mishaps contributes to that but what it has done is showcase the goal stopping ability that many thought had departed our resident Spaniard in goal. De Gea had two poor season and the third saw him dropped for Henderson by the Spring. He gained his place back for the showpiece event of United’s season but he would be the one to miss the penalty that would lose the team the Europa League final. This season, he has been back to his best. But since that 2017/18 season, things have emerged that have coloured the fans eyes about De Gea. Not just his ability to not claim crosses, something he has had a problem with since he came to England, but also his ability to sweep and play out the back. A further problem emerges in that his best seems to coincide with United’s defence being lax. Today, United had little to deal with and the pressure was mounting in the second half as usually happens in these derbies. A cross-cum-shot looped over his head and he should have saved it. It started the 30 second onslaught.

Bruno is another one. His ability to conjure something out of nothing is quite remarkable. The way he does it is infuriating at the best of times. When nothing is coming off, he is more of a hindrance than he is a help. The goal he got in the first half should have really taken us clear of a Leeds team that we’re always going to leave space in the second half. De Gea’s blunder meant it was closer than it should have been. The crowd was up and United need to hold the ball or play the percentages. The referee, who was ridiculously poor today, was letting a lot of things go. Bruno tried to play for a free kick on the edge of his box rather than clearing away when he had no idea what was behind him. A VAR reprieve was not going to save him either. But that’s the thing with edging that line of net positivity and negativity. The Portuguese man’s involvement in the third goal, winning the ball back on the slogged pitch and passing the ball into Fred, will not be forgotten either. His most memorable contribution though will be the beautiful flick and pass to Elanga, who would slot into the net to finish the game.

Combo Bros

With the way Leeds play, the ability to have players who can dominate their 1v1 battles is imperative. What we seen before is us going for players that can match the running power and letting our inevitable quality see us out in the end. A similar approach was taken, with the Wan Bissaka and Lingard coming in, but we saw more of the offensive domination.

Pogba against Forshaw was the 1v1 battle of the first half and it was in favour of the Frenchman. The combination of his physical and technical ability is unrivalled and Forshaw was unable to cope with it. He should have had an assist but Ronaldo was unable to tap away from 3 yards out. And the corner that led to Maguire’s opener came from Pogba pulling off a trick similar to Bruno’s that got us the fourth goal. He was quality in his own regard and the surprise came in his subduction but it was justified by the result and the contribution of the man that replaced him.

Sancho would stay on and after his stuttering start, his place in his team is affixed and the quality is shining through. The assist for Bruno’s goal was cut something and unique. He dug it out the ground like a golfer in the sand bank and it spun beautifully onto Fernandes’ head. His second was a show of the composure that a lot of the attacking players we have do not possess. He waited for the overlap and stroked it into Fred, who powered it in. A third should have been added but Elanga passed up that opportunity. More time passes and he looks much more comfortable in a United shirt.