Manchester United might be playing like champions away from home in the Premier League, but are struggling like a relegation-bound side at Old Trafford. It’s high time the Red Devils ditch this Jekyll and Hyde personality to become more consistent if they wish to mount an ambitious title challenge.
Being only 5 points behind league leaders Liverpool (with a game in hand), a few solid wins can catapult them right to among the top spots. For that, they need to start winning at home & start it with a dominant victory over Leeds United.
These two sides have some bad blood between them, being long-time rivals reunited in the league after a long time. With both sides looking shaky defensively but promising going forward, this should be an action-packed game filled with goals & one in which the Red Devils must be more clinical to win.
Manchester United Likely XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, Pogba, Bruno, Rashford, Greenwood, Martial
Edinson Cavani remains the only injury doubt, but he should be fit enough to start from the bench.
Leeds United Likely XI
Meslier, Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski, Phillips, Rafinha, Rodrigo, Klich, Harrison, Bamford
Leeds have a few injury problems, with defenders Robin Koch & Gaetano Berardi both injured. Centre-back Diego Llorente is also unlikely to recover, while midfielder Adam Forshaw is also ruled out. Expect Marcelo Bielsa’s side to go for the all-out-attack route.
Manchester United vs Leeds United Preview
After that horrible thrashing at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, not many could imagine that Man United would actually come sniffing distance from the top spot. But since that game, they’ve picked up their pace and are only a few points off the top of the table.
However, to convince everyone that they can be genuine title challengers, the Red Devils need to be consistent. That means they have to the games during the Christmas period, regardless of how exhausting it is. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must ensure his side maintains the momentum from the Sheffield win and continue playing menacing attacking soccer.
With their shaky backline, the Red Devils can’t really afford to score a goal & park the bus – especially against the cunning attacking line Leeds have. They’ll need to go toe-to-toe against the brave attacking side & just outscore them.
Marcus Rashford is purring with confidence after his brace against Sheffield United and looks back to his best. With his ability to run behind defenders, make those blistering quick forward runs & finish chances, he’ll be the vocal force responsible for ensuring that his side score many goals.
Bruno Fernandes hasn’t really looked his best at Old Trafford (in the league) this season, but has a chance to finally get going. With those around him also improving, Bruno can perhaps gain a bit more freedom to take bigger risks & slide into the final third to create or score definitive chances out of nothing.
Anthony Martial also seems to have his groove back, but must be clinical in finishing off whatever he gets & bully the defenders with his movement. Mason Greenwood needs to tuck in more centrally to get better scoring chances but also improve his decision-making to help his teammates.
Paul Pogba seems to be oozing with confidence & will be key for helping his side dominate the midfield battle. He’ll have to get those cheeky forward passes perfect to open up opportunities and also put in a solid shift defensively to stop Leeds from penetrating through the middle. Fred should partner the Frenchman and needs to maintain his hard-working nature to make key interceptions & keep high energy levels in his side.
As shown on numerous occasions this season, Leeds are relentless & fearless against any side. They won’t sit back & should operate at a high-octane level. That means they will continue barging forward with multiple bodies to test United’s backline.
The league’s third-highest scorer Patrick Bamford is scoring goals for fun. Rafinha adds that extra trickery with his dribbling & pace, Rodrigo brings physicality & an added goal-scoring touch & Jack Harrison’s a workhorse on the left-wing. If given the opportunity, Marcelo Bielsa’s men can churn up a storm at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer must counter Bielsa’s brilliant tactics by proving his own managerial ability. The biggest thing he must ensure is his backline remains faultless. Harry Maguire & co must maintain utmost concentration levels & show swift reflexes to ensure the visitors don’t run riot.
This should be a thrilling end-to-end contest because that’s what 90% of Leeds games are. Man United are desperate for a home win & Leeds won’t hold back. Knowing the quality of attacking players on both sides, this will come down to the fine margins in which only the more ruthless side should prevail.
This will be a close affair & a highly entertaining game similar to the Liverpool-Leeds game. I feel like Bielsa’s side could give them a big scare, but the Red Devils should capitalize on their opponents’ defensive weakness & edge out a 3-2 win.