It was a game worthy of gracing a derby match. United started both halves incredibly bad, as Gnonto and a Varane deflected effort into his own net, meant that Man Utd would have to fight their way back from behind. They did so, courtesy of another brilliant Rashford this season and Sancho gracing his return to the Premier League with a goal that would earn United a point. In the end, United could have easily grabbed a winner but it was not so. The huff and puff in the end was not enough so the teams share the points before the second part of this double header is played out in Yorkshire on Sunday.
Red Turtle vs White Hare
When we faced Arsenal, plenty of people will remember the last 20/30 mins where the Gunners laid siege on the United goal that eventually led to Nketiah’s winner. What many people won’t remember is that in the first 10 or so minutes, Arsenal were quite effective and had us on intense pressure then as well. In terms of performance, the way they come out the blocks is the best league. Second to them is Leeds United.
It doesn’t reflect in their position in the table, and thus their results, but the way they go about putting the opposition under pressure is magnificent. One remembers the game against Crystal Palace that they lost but the start of the game was Leeds haring about the pitch and they easily could have put the game to bed. Today, within 55 seconds, they were able to put themselves in that same position as they were able to pick the ball off Bruno in his own half and went off to score via Gnonto.
It was a theme throughout the game where Leeds were brilliant at controlling the counter press and spotted the right opportunities when to go together and press high up the pitch. They done it especially well in the opening minutes of the halves. Once again, the first minutes of the second half were Leeds pressure and winning the ball back off United players. This time, it was Garnacho that would suffer the ill fate of being the one culpable of losing the ball, in which it could have easily been a handball but Leeds worked it so that Varane would stick it past De Gea.
It looked a clear sign of United just not knowing their opponent. Leeds for the past 2 and half seasons have been excellent at winning the ball in those moments when the ball turns over and yet at times, they played into their hands with passes that allowed for them to crowd around the ball. As soon as the ball was won back, the passes needed to be sharp or spread out the play in order to get away from the Leeds pressure. It was a lackadaisical approach and something we saw in the Aston Villa game as well, another game in which we saw us face a team after they’ve just had a manager fired.
Another thing that we saw in that game is a Garnacho start where Rashford was on the pitch as well. Both of them like the left hand position. Usually, you see the younger player pushed into the position that they are least favoured but Ten Hag has sort to protect the Argentine by playing where he is best. What it means is that Rashford has to move to the right hand side. It is his least favourite position out of all the attacking positions and you can always see why when he plays there. The angles that he is so used to just aren’t there and it adds an extra few seconds to his decision making that would be more automatic on the left or through the middle.
And through the middle he went when Ten Hag saw that enough of Weghorst and Garnacho. On come Sancho for his first appearance in the Premier League since October and Pellistri, for only his second appearance in the Premier League. It meant Rashford through the middle, not his favourite, but somewhere where he is comfortable at least. Pellistri is most comfortable on the right and Sancho can play on either side. As soon as it happened, the United team just looked a lot more threatening. The full backs, in Dalot and Shaw, were playing with wingers that knew the movements to make and ones that dovetailed well with their game. Many might have found it odd that once Weghorst, the 6’6 striker, came off, the crosses started to fly in but it was because the full backs were able to get into the proper positions to cross. It yielded something as a lofted cross was made his by Rashford with an excellent header. The second came from a situation that Sancho loves where he is able to pick an underlapping pass into the box, this time in the shape of Rashford. The ball ricocheted back to Sancho and he was able to slot past Meslier, even though the keeper should have done better.
The lack of composure throughout the United team could be seen coursing through the team in that game. It played into Leeds hands as they play their best when the game is stretched so the lack of control was unbelievably disappointed. Of course, Fred and Sabitzer with their style perhaps played into the chaotic game more but even for their standards, the freneticism was beyond what they usually display. The same for Bruno Fernandes as well. It took Sancho coming on to get a player on the pitch to slow the game down and quicken it up again at the correct time.
Although brought in as an emergency back up, there is still more to be expected of what Wout Weghorst has given us. At times, he seems a more blunting edge in the attack than he does in helping it. Yes, he is excellent at setting the ball back first time when it is played into his feet but outside of that, he is not providing much at all. His threat in the box is non-existent at the best of times and just downright crap at the worst. It isn’t his fault and the problem up front stretches back further than this January but it has to be top of the agenda in the summer.