Leeds Utd 0
Manchester Utd 2 (Rashford 80, Garnacho 85)
12th February 2023, Premier League.
Another very Leeds United 2022/23 performance and result. Expectations were high following the heroics of Wednesday night and, for 80 minutes, these two sides went toe to toe again with a visiting alien likely to have been none the wiser as to which team was in the top four and which was in the bottom four. Sadly, the failings that have beset us all season were there again. A failure to put the ball in the net from a handful of half-chances while, perhaps more crucially, at the other end two lapses of concentration gave the visitors two goals.
Leeds probably had the best of the few chances seen in a closely matched first half in which Man United had more of the ball but only due to the fact that they were so slow in using it; often passing to and fro along their back line as the Leeds press kept them penned for long periods in their own half. Those chances we had included a bit of a swing at the near post by Patrick Bamford from a hooked cross by Max Wober following a Robin Koch free-kick. Bamford’s effort was blocked by de Gea, only for the ball to run to Crysencio Summerville who, under pressure, blasted the ball inches over the bar. The best chance of the half though fell to the visitors as Max Wober almost committed footballing suicide as his attempt to launch the ball forward from his own half was “charged down” by the boot of Bruno Fernandes. Fernandes was thus clean through on goal in the inside right channel. Thankfully Meslier got a strong right boot on a shot that was otherwise destined for the bottom left corner of our net.
The second half started brightly for Leeds as Crysencio Summerville came more and more into the game. He had one shot tipped around the post by de Gea low down to his left. Then a poor header out by the Reds following a curling Harrison free-kick on the left was smashed back at goal by Luke Ayling, only for the ball to nick off a defender and just beat the right post. McKennie and Harrison also had shots blocked and Robin Koch similarly had a header blocked from a corner of which Leeds had several. Leeds brought on Georginio Rutter for Patrick Bamford just before the hour mark with Bamford, once again, not really having left any mark on the game.
It was around this time that I just had the feeling we were running the risk of seeing Man United break away and steal a goal. As we did on Wednesday, we somehow allowed our intensity to drop and the visitors started to show that little bit of extra quality on the ball that their millions have allowed them to acquire. There was a rasping shot from Dalot from the edge of the box that crashed against the crossbar just as a little warning.
Still, Leeds had their moments though, and a Willy Gnonto shot was saved and pushed out for a corner and then, following another one, the ball broke to Luke Ayling whose neat overhead kick went straight at de Gea. A second Leeds change saw Aaronson on for Harrison as Leeds continued to keep things like for like. Crysencio had another shot from a tight angle again saved by de Gea just as Meslier had done from Fernandes earlier; none of de Gea's saves were that special but he did what he needed to and was always in the right place. What you had to commend Man United for was a certain correctness about their defensive work that meant they dealt with everything we mustered without too much drama. Had we been able to do the same, then the game would have ended goalless and we could have congratulated ourselves on winning two points from two tough games against one of the form sides in Europe. Sadly we couldn’t though, and our shortage of the same level of quality once again cost us. The first mistake was in leaving the Premier League’s current form striker in acres of room in our box, a striker we’d seen power a header in against us on Wednesday. It was so annoyingly simple for them.
Luke Shaw got half a yard free from Summerville and whipped the ball across from the left and there was Marcus Rashford, in between Max Wober on his left and Junior Firpo on his right, with neither in reach of a long bargepole of the in-form striker. His execution of the header from eight yards out was clinical. It was the second clear-cut chance of the match, the first being that Wober mistake that let Fernandes in; teams of the quality of Man U seldom waste more than the odd golden chance in a game.
The second goal may well have come from Leeds having had the stuffing knocked out of them, having got so close to closing the game out. This time McKennie and Ayling between them managed to give up possession near halfway to Fred. He shoveled the ball to Weghorst and he quickly sent Garnacho away down the Man United left. Garnacho skated easily past Robin Koch and simply thrashed the ball past Meslier at his near post, probably burning Illan’s fingertips on the way past; should a keeper get beaten at his near post? It was the sort of goal I simply could not imagine us scoring today even though we did get one similar on Wednesday. Man United just seemed much tighter than we were defensively.
And that was that. Another game when we actually played really well – just as we did for no reward at Spurs, or against Arsenal, or down at Southampton on opening day or at Villa Park, or on numerous other occasions. We had half-chances that, on another day, might have yielded a goal or two, but for once we can’t really blame the forwards for ‘missing’ clear-cut chances, they were at best half-chances. No, the problem this time, as it has been far too often this season, was that we couldn’t maintain our defensive concentration for 90 minutes, we couldn’t manage the game to its conclusion; we got lucky once with the save from Fernandes, but Rashford and Garnacho punished us for those two late lapses.
So, once again frustration, and we now all become Liverpool fans for one night as we hope and pray that those Merseyside Reds can beat Everton on Monday night to ensure we remain outside that drop zone until we arrive at Goodison on Saturday when we can hopefully do our own bidding. Regardless of how it goes tomorrow, the next two games are must-win games, far more must-win than any previous must-win game this season, and that is whether or not we have a new man in charge. The two games against Everton and Saints have to be the best chances we’ll get for three points until we go to Molineux in mid-March and if we fail, I’d have to conclude that we were pretty much odds on to go down. We face Sean Dyche next week of course and, if some reports coming out tonight are to be believed, we may face Jesse Marsch when the Saints come marching into Elland Road! Oh, great joy!
Leeds Utd Man Utd
Possession 33% 67%
Shots 16 11
On Target 6 5
Corners 7 3
Fouls 10 13