Manchester United return to Premier League action this weekend as they travel to Elland Road where they will face Leeds United. It has been a long week, which was going to be a break from football for the Red Devils but the European Super League debacle made it a long week, which started out with a lot of discontent about something which could damage the footballing word, not to mention the eradication of Manchester United’s history. The ESL has now been terminated with six Premier League clubs withdrawing from the competition but there is still a lot of fallout to come. Ed Woodward has resigned and will leave at the end of 2021.
Leeds drew 1-1 with Liverpool earlier in the week which shows that the club are in a much better position than they were back in December when United beat them 6-2. The Yorkshire club will be seeking revenge, which is exactly what I had hoped they would do. United need to be playing well at this stage of the season, with the UEFA Europa League still up for grabs with United facing AS Roma in the semi-final of the competition from Thursday when they play in the first leg. United will be seeking another three points from this match, keeping their push for second-place in the Premier League this season.
How United have faired against Leeds United in the Premier League.
United and Leeds have played just 25 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 14 times. There have been seven draws and Leeds have won just four times. United have scored 41 goals with Leeds scoring 19. United have been awarded one penalty, scoring it with Leeds yet to be awarded one. United have kept 13 clean sheets with Leeds keeping just five. In terms of discipline, United players have been shown 34 yellow cards and no red cards with Leeds players being shown 46 yellow cards and two red cards. The rivalry between the two clubs is fierce despite the lack of competitive matches between them recently.
Back in December, the two clubs met at Old Trafford with United winning 6-2. Scott Mctominay and Bruno Fernandes both scored a brace with Victor Lindelof and Daniel James scoring the other goals. Liam Cooper and Stuart Dallas scored for Leeds. The last time the two clubs met at Elland Road in the Premier League was back in October 2003 which was a 1-0 victory for United with Roy Keane, assisted by Gary Neville, scoring the only goal of the match. That season, United finished third with Arsenal winning the Premier League. Leeds were relegated. Neither scenario will happen this season though.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Leeds United in the Premier League at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Dean Henderson seems to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-choice goalkeeper at this stage of the season after being given seven matches in a row following the birth of David De Gea’s first daughter. The 24-year-old seems to have done well in his short time actually playing for United and despite some teething problems, he seems to be a solution to the future of the goalkeeping position at the club. For five years, the player was loaned out, working his was into the Football League then into the Premier League, which has shown a rise of form ever since. Henderson is a vocal player than thus could be the one that United have been waiting for.
Leeds United are going to be seeking revenge against United after their 6-2 defeat at Old Trafford back in December. They will also be seeking to make an example of the club after their European Super League failure, which was nothing to do with the players, the manager, the backroom staff and was everything to do with the club’s greedy owners and their man in the boardroom, no matter what the rumours are suggesting. Henderson will be up for the challenge and will want to help United earn another three points on the road in the Premier League. It has been ten Premier League away matches since United were defeated by Sheffield United.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence has done well this season, despite conceding 35 goals fo far this season, which was 36 goals after 38 matches last season. Many will probably lump on that to slate Solskjaer, which would be a pathetic things to do, but predictable. This season has been a lot more positive than last season and it will only get better. United will end up being hated a lot more by other Premier League clubs because of their owners greed with the ESL but United will understand, not being the decision makers themselves and they will help the other teams get over it, eventually.
Against Leeds, I expect Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw to fill the fullback places and after a week’s break, they will be recharged and ready to end the season with United looking to cement their second-placed position in the Premier League and aim to win the UEFA Europa League this season, reaching the same stage that they did last season, although it is a two-legged match this season. Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire will partner each other in the central defensive position, which is the best option right now considering Eric Bailly has not played since the international break at the end of March.
Midfield: Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba
United’s midfield is very strong on paper and Solskjaer needs to start picking the actual strongest players in this area. Paul Pogba is an automatic start in this position and just like in the past few matches, a three-man midfield also utilising Bruno Fernandes in the advanced role will give them more power in this area, so as not to let Leeds overcome them, as has been the case with other clubs recently. Scott McTominay should also play and he can offer a defensive role in the centre of the midfield, moving forward when United have the ball and getting inn advanced areas, like he did in this fixture at Old Trafford in December.
One player that deserves to play more this season is Donny van de Beek. Some supporters have been moaning that Solskjaer has overlooked him with others citing bullying. However, from the people that know about the player and his time at United so far, they say the Dutchman is being settled at the club and next season will be much bigger for him. Who would have thought that it is best to ease a player in rather than expect the earth from them straight away. Kudos to Solskjaer for putting a plan into place and getting the player onboard with it, which seems to be working. I think he could play in this match and a few more before the end of the season.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes is the player of the season for United. 24 goals and 14 assists to his name and he has been integral to the performances of the club. At the start of the season, when Fernandes was not playing or was out of form, United struggled but over the course of the season, other players have stood up and and risen to the plate. At times, Fernandes looks tired but he still keeps plodding one as that is the type of player that he is. He is an inspiration on his day and in recent matches, he has been unlucky not to find a goal or two inn open play, which is something that he is criticised of not doing all that regularly.
Fernandes should start in his usual position against Leeds and with a week’s rest, he could well be back in the zone and inspire the club towards another victory with five Premier League matches left to play before the end of the season after this match. United could have ridden the waves with Manchester City but some draws in January/February saw an end to that, which is an area the club will need to improve ons ahead of next season. Rome was not built in a day. The so-called supporters that mock Solskjaer seem to have very high standards, also thinking that pressing the rest button yet again will change anything. It won’t.
Forwards: Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani
When United have not played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, it has been better for the club to get on the cusp of things and get goals. Inn the last two Premier League matches, United have won by the same 3-1 scoreline, coming from behind against both Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley. Edinson Cavani scored in both matches, as did Mason Greenwood and for that reason, both should be starting against Leeds United. Cavani has ten goals to his name this season with Greenwood scoring nine so far, which is not as good as last season, but has seen him play his favoured role more times this season with a bit of work left to do before he fully develops.
It was revealed on Friday that Marcus Rashford did not train with the club and it is hoped that he will on Saturday ahead of the clash with Leeds. If he does not train, it is not the end of the world, although United will be short on attacking players but the liked of Amad Diallo, Shola Shoretire and Anthony Elanga could bolster the bench with Daniel James also an option. I think Cavani and Greenwood could do the job for United against Leeds but late in the match, James’ pace and tricky way of playing could be costly for the club that did not get his signing across the line when he played for Swansea.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Elanga
Solskjaer can name nine substitutes on the bench in the Premier League and he may need to use them against Leeds United, who will be seeking to get revenge after their 6-2 defeat at Old Trafford back in December. United will also be looking to bounce back from the talk of the European Super League which Burt onto the scenes on Sunday ahead of United’s clash with Burnley and came to an end 48 hours or so later when all six English clubs had left the competition, which was the right decision. The supporters of the club are now United the Glazer’s greed to get rid of them, which has been 16-years in the making.
In goal, I expect to see David De Gea on the bench and available if needed. In defence, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe could be called upon. However, Eric Bailly could also be called into action if he is fully fit to do so after his period on the sidelines through coronavirus. In midfield, Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo and Nemanja Matic could be available. It is also possible that Shola Shoretire could be called upon this weekend, if only to take a position on the bench. In attack, Anthony Elanga could be there with Marcus Rashford’s fitness level unknown after carrying an injury for the past few months.
Written by John Walker