Manchester United travel to Yorkshire to face Leeds United at Elland Road in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. On Wednesday evening at Old Trafford, United managed a second half comeback after conceding two goals to Leeds, one of them an own goal by Raphael Varane at the start of the second half. Marcus Rashford scored his 20th goal of the season in the 62nd minute and Jadon Sancho getting United’s equaliser eight minutes later.
It was two points dropped for United, which was a shame but it did not feel the same as the recent 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace, which felt like a defeat. United will need to play a lot better at Elland Road that they did at the Theatre of Dreams, which will be tough for United. Leeds did get the better of them for a large part of the last match but Erik ten Hag will be seeking to get more for United in this match and three points are a must – United need to stay in the top four.
United are three points clear of Newcastle United in third place in the Premier League ahead of the earlier matches this weekend. The Magpies have a game in hand over United though. Tottenham Hotspur sit in fifth place, four points adrift of United, so there is little chance of United dropping out of the top four prior to their match kicking off on Sunday. The Magpies will need to beat Bournemouth to rise above United on Saturday evening. United need to prevail.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-3-3
Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;
Fernandes, Sabitzer, Fred;
Sancho, Weghorst, Rashford
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea has been in good form this season but has recently conceded a few goals in matches that should not have been scored, but it happens to every top goalkeeper at some point in their career. It seems likely that he will start for United in this match, the second against Leeds in a week and providing he does, he will set a new record being the first non-British player and goalkeeper to make 400 Premier League appearances for one club.
That will be a minor thing for De Gea though – the major will be getting three points and possible a clean sheet from this match. United need three points from this match to strengthen their position in the top four this season. United do not want to be in the same predicament they were in last season whereby they failed to break into the top four a few matches before the season ended, which added a sour mood to the finale of the season. United won’t want that again.
It is possible that Tom Heaton could be given a start for United in this match, but given the quality that Leeds shoed at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, it will more likely be De Gea in goal, unless something happens between now and the match kicking off on Sunday. Jack Butland has not made any appearances so far this season, which will need to some at some point, but with him not even making the bench yet, that seems unlikely for the time being.
Defenders: Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw
United’s defence had a bad night at Old Trafford on Wednesday where they conceded a goal in the first minute of the match and then an own goal was scored in the first few minutes of the second half. United dug deep and performed well, scoring two goals themselves to register a draw with Leeds, which should have been a win. Diogo Dalot made his first start following his recovery from a thigh injury. He looks set to start again with Aaron Wan-Bissaka currently ill.
Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez started in the centre of the defence and it was Varane that scored the own goal at the start of the second half of the match. He did not have the best performance but will be looking to right that in this second match against Leeds this week. Martinez was on top form against Leeds and will be committed to the task of stopping Leeds in this match and helping United push for a victory. These players have the winning mentality needed.
Luke Shaw looks likely to start at left-back against Leeds for the second time this week. Hopefully, Marcus Rashford will start on the left flank as they both work well together. Although, if Wout Weghorst is benched, it would leave Rashford as the main striker in this match, which would see possible Jadon Sancho playing ahead of the left-back – which has been done before. Shaw has been in good form this season and will be seeking to find his form again and help United win.
Midfield: Fernandes, Sabitzer, Fred
United’s midfield did not work well against Leeds on Wednesday evening with Christian Eriksen injured and Casemiro still suspended, not to mention Scott McTominay still injured too, gives United few options for this match. A change of formation could work with Bruno Fernandes dropping back into a three-man midfield which would add personnel in the positions and possible help United dominate more. I don’t think Fred covered himself in glory in that match.
Marcel Sabitzer looks set to make his third appearance for United on Sunday – his second start with Casemiro out of this clash and the next Premier League match against Leicester City. He will be eligible to face Barcelona in the UEFA Europa League play off matches though – so we should be able to see how well Casemiro and Sabitzer work together. The Austrian is a talented midfielder but needs time to settle at the club and get used to the methods of Erik ten Hag.
Fred will need to start thins match, unless Zidane Iqbal or Kobbie Mainoo are given a chance against Leeds. That would be a big ask for them but in a midfield three with Fernandes and Sabitzer, it could help them massively. It will be a gamble though. Fred has been a good player this season, albeit from the bench and with either Eriksen or Casemiro to play alongside him. It was a calamity for Fred against Leeds on Wednesday and he does not need that again this week.
Forwards: Sancho, Weghorst, Rashford
Jadon Sancho needs to start thins match against Leeds. When he replaced Wout Weghorst around the hour mark, it took three minutes for United to score their first goal of the match and within 11 minutes of him being on the pitch, he had scored the equaliser which saved United’s face – a little. Sancho has put in a lot of work away from the spotlight whilst being put of action and that will show more as the season develops. This could be great for him to make his mark.
Weghorst has not had many great appearances for United since he signed for the remainder of the season on loan from Burnley last month. In fact, his performance against Leeds was dire. He could be benched for this match, which would be a gamble being that Anthony Martial is still injured. That would leave Marcus Rashford as the striker which would change this formation. Weghorst has one goal so far this season but if United crossed more with him on the pitch, he might score more.
Rashford has been the in form player for United this season. He scored his 20th goal of the season against Leeds and has seven assists, giving him 27 goal contributions. Sancho has four goals and one assist this season – five goal contributions with Weghorst’s one goal, gives this forward line 33 goal contributions. Not the best but well on the road to achieving something as the season develops. United will contest the Carabao Cup later this month, so there is something to gain.
Substitutes: Heaton; Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia; Pellistri, Iqbal, Mainoo; Elanga, Garnacho
United have many good players out on the sidelines though injury, illness and suspension at this stage of the season. Donny van de Beek, Christian Eriksen, Scott McTominay, Anthony Martial and Antony are all injured. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is ill and Casemiro is suspended for two more matches (including this one). I would expect to see Tom Heaton as the goalkeeper on the bench being that Jack Butland has not played a part in this season since signing for the club on loan.
In defence, United could be well stocked here with Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia – who all offer something. On Wednesday evening, Lindelof came on as a midfielder for the last eight minutes, plus added time and did well. I don’t think that will be something that happened regularly, even now with many midfielders out of action. Facundo Pellistri, Zidane Iqbal and Kobbie Mainoo could all be on the bench for this match, which would be good for all of them.
In attack, with United missing the likes of Martial and Antony, could see just Anthony Elanga and Alejandro Garnacho on the bench for this match. Of course, Pellistri is an attacking player who could strengthen the attack. That said, United have next to nothing in reserve here. Garnacho is perhaps the best option of the two considering he has two goals and four assists to his name this season with Elanga yet to score himself but he does have two assists.
Written by John Walker