Goals from Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho saw Manchester United blitz Leeds late on at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon, with Erik ten Hag’s side winning 2-0 on the road to move up into second place in the Premier League table.
Eyebrows were raised prior to kick-off as Reds fans saw that skipper Harry Maguire had come in to partner Luke Shaw in central defence, with both Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane named on the bench. Jadon Sancho also started for the first time since his return to the club’s first team fresh from his equalising goal against the Yorkshiremen just four days ago.
Whilst United were sluggish in their start to the game, Leeds were up for the contest having drawn earlier in the week in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford. Crysencio Summerville had a big opportunity inside the area to put the home side in front within five minutes, but Tyrell Malacia did just enough to put him off after the ball had been pulled back from the byline.
The half was largely dominated by fouls and tackles, and Paul Tierney felt need to dish out a couple of yellow cards. The flow of the game was disrupted as a result of the stoppages.
The visitors had a golden chance to go in front before half-time when Bruno Fernandes snatched possession away from Maximilian Wober on the last line of defence. The Portuguese international carried the ball into the area on the right-hand side before being denied by Illan Meslier.
There were no changes at half-time in relation to the personnel, but Leeds come flying out of the block and will be ruing their wasted chances inside the first ten minutes of the second half. David De Gea – who became the youngest goalkeeper to make 400 Premier League appearances at 31 years old on Sunday afternoon- was susceptible to a dodgy ball out from the back, as was Maguire, yet Leeds failed to capitalise.
The game settled back into a lethargic tone. Aside from Summerville’s effort and Luke Ayling’s bicycle kick being saved, the home team did not threaten too much. With that said, The Reds did not threaten too much either, but it was two late goals that snatched it.
Ten Hag’s men showed signs after in the 63rd minute Dalot let fly and his strike thundered off the bar. It was that shot that injected life into United’s performance.
Shaw’s cross against the run of play in the 80th minute was met by Rashford who glanced the ball home to score his 22nd goal of the season, equaling his best ever tally in all competitions that he achieved in the 2019/20 campaign.Embed from Getty Images
A shell-shocked Leeds were damned again just five minutes later when Garnacho raced down the left-wing before slotting it beyond the goalkeeper at his near post to seal the win for his team from off the bench.
Rashford and Wout Weghorst both had goals disallowed by VAR for offside after that. The Red Devils did not have their best game, but it was a fine ten minutes that allowed them to snatch the points.
Final Score: Leeds United 0-2 Manchester United (Rashford 80’, Garnacho 85’)
Man of the match
The performance was not great from a United perspective as a team, but Shaw showed his versatility and class once again in what proved to be a very tough game.
The 27-year-old started alongside an out-of-form Maguire in the more unfamiliar centre-half position but never looked out of place across the ninety. He was a key part of United keeping the clean sheet.
He transitioned seamlessly into his accustomed left-back role when Martinez entered the fray in the second-half, and the Englishman was the provider for Rashford yet again when he assisted the forward for an important goal.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
It definitely feels like United grabbed the win from nothing when analysing the whole match. There were never any sustained attacking spells, but there is no doubting that Ten Hag’s side were solid at the back when they needed to be and eventually showed their quality when it was needed the most. Games like that are there to be won if you stay in it for that long, and all the best teams win that sort of game when it is looking unfavourable.
The result puts United second, with Manchester City likely to get that spot back with two games in hand and just two points to make up. Nevertheless, there cannot be many complaints. The manager’s exceptional progress continues.
Maguire came in at Elland Road and, bar one or two shaky moments, the captain was good. It is worth remembering that he has not played a lot of football this season. He kept a clean sheet, so Ten Hag’s call paid off.
It was interesting to see that Martinez did not start given the fact he is suspended for the European game in the week. Varane’s rest was understandable given his injury tendencies. Neither Fred or Marcel Sabitzer shined, but again, with a win and a clean sheet, there cannot be many complaints.
It was great to see Rashford continue his scoring streak and a goal was exactly what Garnacho needed in the wake of some controversial criticism by supporters.
On De Gea – he is the first Manchester United goalkeeper to reach 400 Premier League appearances and the youngest stopper to ever do so. Incredible from the Spaniard. Vamos!
What is next?
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Barcelona at Camp Nou on Thursday 16th February at 17:45 (BST) in the Europa League play-off round.
After that, United take on Leicester City at Old Trafford on Sunday 19th February at 14:00 (BST) in the Premier League.