Manchester United will entertain Leeds United at Old Trafford for the first time in the Premier League since 2004 on Sunday afternoon. Back then, it was a 1-1 draw between the two fierce rivals. United and Leeds have met twice in the domestic cup competitions with Leeds beating United 1-0 at Old Trafford in the FA Cup in the 2009/10 season and with United beating Leeds 3-0 in the League Cup in the 2011/12 season. There was a meeting in Australia during pre-season not all that long ago, which was another win for United, but not a competitive match. It is safe to say that Leeds will relish their match at Old Trafford.
United beat Sheffield United on Thursday evening, which saw them rise to sixth in the Premier League with goal difference separating them and Everton. Another win for United could propel them further up the league table, which will see United still have a game in hand over the teams above them, and probably immediately below them, which is a good sign of progress. United six five points from the top of the league, before any matches kick off this weekend, having that game in hand, so this supposed ‘crisis’ at Old Trafford seems to be a little bit far fetched to say the least, or just journalistic licence.
How United have faired against Leeds United in the Premier League.
United and Leeds have met a total of 24 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 13 times whereas Leeds have won four times with seven draws between the two clubs. United have scored a total of 35 goals, winning no penalties. Leeds have scored a total of 17 goals, also winning no penalties. United have kept a total of 13 clean sheets with Leeds keeping just five clean sheets. In terms of discipline, United have been shown a total of 33 yellow cards and no red cards with Leeds being shown a total of 46 yellow cards and two red cards. This could well be a fiery match between the Manchester and Yorkshire rivals.
The last time these two teams faced each other in the Premier League at Old Trafford was during the 2003/04 season. The match was played on the 21 February 2004 and it was a 1-1 draw with Paul Scholes opening the scoring in the 64th minute of the match and Alan Smith equalising three minutes later. The away clash that season was played ay Elland Road on the 18 October 2003 and was a 1-0 victory to United with Roy Keane scoring the only goal of the match. United and Leeds have met twice in the domestic cups since. Leeds won 1-0 in the FA Cup at Old Trafford in 2010 and United winning the League Cup match 3-0 in 2011.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Leeds United in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea was rested for the 3-2 victory over Sheffield United on Thursday evening, which saw United come from behind to win once again. Dean Henderson was initially blamed for the defensive error with David McGoldrick pouncing on a back pass from Harry Maguire with the goalkeeper unable to collect with his hands. De Gea will be thankful of the rest ahead of the important Premier League match against Leeds United at Old Trafford this Sunday. United will be seeking to progress once again with the sole aim to keep the chase on those above them in the league with United still able to mount a title challenge.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence will need to do so much better if they are to prevail this season. A clean sheet was kept against Manchester City last weekend, but before that, it was the 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion at the end of November. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw should start in the fullback positions, with Alex Telles on the bench should United need more attacking options from the back. In the centre of defence, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire should start, despite the fact Solskjaer said he would need to split the pair up at times this month. Perhaps not in this match though. United will need to be at their best defensively.
Midfield: Fred, Scott McTominay
Paul Pogba played well against Sheffield United on Thursday evening, but for this match, he should be on the bench and called upon if United need to add more bite in the midfield. This is going to be a tough few weeks for United, playing every three days until New Year’s Dat. Scott McTominay, who came off the bench at the death on Thursday and Fred, who was rested for the trip to Sheffield should be starting. I believe both of them could offer something, both defensively and going forward, which could help United get the better over their opposition this weekend, keeping their chase for the top spot in the Premier League on the cards.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Donny van de Beek, Marcus Rashford
This is the area where United have a lot of talent on the squad. The first choice players for these positions would be Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. Fernandes has played a lot of football recently, so keeping him fresh with a place on the bench could be good for him and he could be called upon should United need some inspiration. If they are able to manage with Donny van de Beek playing in his place, the Portuguese midfielder will be fresh to face Everton in the Carabao Cup next week. Greenwood and Rashford should be enough to add creativity to the attack against Leeds, who could put up a fight.
Forwards: Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial scored his third goal of the season when United best Sheffield United 3-2 at Bramall Lane on Thursday evening. It was a clinical goal which was started by Pogba with his pass to the Frenchman, which he eventually put into the back of the net. Martial will need to be clinical in front of goal a lot more this season with United depending on hims to score the goals. He has the ability to do so after his goal haul last season but he had competition in Edinson Cavani this season, which should bring out the best of him and help him to find better positions inside and outside the box to find the back of the net.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Axel Tuanzebe; Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Daniel James; Edinson Cavani, Odion Ighalo
United will be able to name nine substitutes on the bench from this weekend in the Premier League, but will only be able to use three after the clubs in the league decided against five substitutes for the remainder of the season. This will give Solskjaer more options to utilise as to whatever Leeds manager to throw at United. Dean Henderson will be back on the bench after his outing against his former loan club. In defence, Eric Bailly, Alex Telles and Axel Tuanzebe should all be available. In midfield, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Daniel James could be called upon if needed with Edinson Cavani and Odion Ighalo options in attack, should they be needed.
Written by John Walker