In a game of few chances, Marcus Rashford came closest with a free-kick just before half-time. But memories of a forgettable encounter on the pitch will remain because of off-field issues. A plane trailing a banner suggesting ‘2bn stolen – Glazers out’ flew over Elland Road just before kick-off but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted that had no effect on his players’ performance:
“I wasn’t aware and I don’t think any of the boys have seen that. We have focused on the game, of course, it was a difficult week.” the Norwegian told BBC Sport.
The fact the banner was not set up by any of the organised Manchester United supporter groups just underlines the strength of feeling created by this week’s European Super League conflict, fuelling an already negative view of the Glazer family.Embed from Getty Images
As one of England’s biggest clubs themselves, Leeds will be satisfied at extending their run of home draws against ‘Big Six’ opposition to five, with only Tottenham left to come. The Red Devils were spared the uncomfortable welcome and intense atmosphere normally associated with this fixture but the passions stirred by the thwarted European Super League breakaway were difficult for them to ignore.
A banner, pinned to a railing outside the ground, bore a lengthy statement, which started with the words ‘Don’t let them threaten or bully you any more’ and demanded action against the six clubs.
The match programme included columns from manager Bielsa and skipper Liam Cooper, which both condemned the plot.
Chief executive Angus Kinnear called it a ‘betrayal of every true football supporter’ but warned it would be ‘naïve to believe the threat has been extinguished forever’ and that while ‘this week’s battle against elitism may have been won, the ongoing war needs to be relentlessly and vigorously fought’.
With the banner against the Old Trafford ownership being trailed as well and the Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani, plus director of football Victor Orta sporting large white roses – the symbol of Yorkshire – in their lapels, there was enough spice even without the presence of supporters.
United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who was heavily involved in Super League discussions but was prompted to hand in his resignation due to his dislike of the proposals, was also absent. It was a surprise, therefore, that the contest began in such a lacklustre manner.Embed from Getty Images
Not until the final minutes of the first half did a breakthrough seem possible when Illan Meslier tipped a goal-bound Rashford free-kick over and Harry Maguire nodded the resulting corner wide.
The second period was more even at least and Helder Costa drove a low cross along the six-yard area before his shot deflected off Victor Lindelof and looped over.
But goalmouth action was rare and treats even fewer. Indeed, arguably the highlight was seeing Fred and Harry Maguire having a go at each other during a break in play.