Man U 5 (Fernandez 30,54,60,Greenwood 52,Fred 68)
Leeds U 1 (Ayling 48)
Wow – I don’t know about you but I didn’t see that coming! My first reaction is that we really did miss Kalvin Phillips’ control of the deep midfield area today. That allowed Paul Pogba far too much time on the ball and, for once, he relished it and called most of the shots for the home side registering four assists. Add to that the fact that we were also clearly reluctant to throw Junior Firpo straight in at the deep end despite being told on Thursday he was fit and ready to go and that meant the Leeds midfield was further denuded by not having Stuart Dallas in there. Stuart was arguably our top man in that area of the pitch in the second half of last season. Having said that, we did make the change at half time with Firpo slotting in there and Dallas moving to midfield and it didn’t in the end seem to help. I think that was more to do with Pogba and the clinical finishing of the home side, Bruno Fernandez in particular.
The crucial feature of the game today though is that this Man U side is absolutely packed full of quality and a Leeds without Kalvin does look, and always has looked, lightweight in comparison. They could turn to their bench and bring on Martial, Matic and Sancho while we could only call on the likes of Tyler Roberts and Helder Costa. We are quite simply years behind the Red Devils in being able to call on reserves of their class. We all know it will take time to build to that level so we can't really complain when we stumble occasionally against the best of the Premier League. Pogba and Fernandez were a class apart today while Luke Shaw and Maguire, much as it hurts to admit, were rocks for them at the back giving us very little to work with.
We were simply blown away today in the second half – perhaps even more so than we were in the game at Old Trafford last year. Then we were caught cold at the start and gave them a two goal lead which we never quite overhauled, but today it was a second half blitz of incredibly clinical finishing that did for us, while Pogba continued to make the openings. The finishing we witnessed I doubt we will see very often – five damn good goals from 16 attempts with 8 on target is shooting of the highest order. Yes we also scored a peach too, but that was one of only three of our shots that hit the target. Raphinha will be kicking himself that he didn't at least pull back one more as he missed a relative sitter late on. Other than those two chances though we didn't create enough from our share of the ball. We had no Pogba pulling the strings for us today.
We did at least get to savour one of those all too familiar “Leeds United moments” – a moment of brilliance, a fine goal to get us on level terms just after the break and the away section in raptures… only for the moment to melt away faster than snow on a hot spring day! Oh yes, we can all think of hundreds of moments like that over the years, it’s where we got that line about ups and downs from! Up one minute, down the next!
I think we will look a different side next week with Kalvin hopefully back in that holding midfield role and with Junior starting at the back. Llorente will still be a big loss but, with Dallas back in midfield and Kalvin patrolling in front of the back four I'm sure we’ll be more solid and ought to give fewer opportunities to the opposition and I doubt Everton will be in the same bracket as Man U this season. Without some reinforcements though we will continue to have limited options to change a game from the bench and it will, as it was last season to be fair, be down to the starting XI to usually get the job done.
So, no panic from me yet, Man U will struggle to be as clinical as this every week although I have to say they do look like a the real deal on this performance and we know they have plenty more players to call on than we even saw today. For Leeds, we put this down to experience and look forward to a much sweeter display against the toffees next week.
Man United Leeds United
Possession 49% 51%
Shots 16 10
5On Target 8 3
Corners 5 4
Fouls Committed 11 9