A History of Fireworks
Manchester United versus Leeds United has been an anticipated match since Marcelo Bielsa’s side sealed qualification into the English Premier League. Both teams have a storied past and after 16 years their rivalry would be renewed at Old Trafford. Manchester United are doing better than their fans would lead you to believe. They are close to the top and remain title contenders with the quality in their squad. Leeds United is known for their high-octane style and the match was set for some explosive football. Their last encounter ended in a 1-1 draw back in February 2004 but this encounter would be very different.
Leeds United had won 2, lost 2, and drawn 1 of their last 5 Premier League games. In their last game, they put in a 5-star performance against Newcastle United as they won 5-2. Since United’s loss to Arsenal, they have won 5 out of their 6 Premier League games. United had won 1 in their last 6 at home leading to some concerns about their home form but they put that aside with a terrific performance.
As the term explosive left our mouths, Scott McTominay put United ahead after only 66 seconds. Bruno Fernandes laid a simple ball for the Scotsman to smash home from the front of the box. A minute and 44 seconds later and McTominay got his second of the day after skillfully taking an Anthony Martial pass before sliding it past Illan Meslier. Patrick Bamford got a chance to score after he was put clean through but he missed the target with a strike on his weaker right foot. The Englishman would miss another good chance to score from a cross from the right side as he headed over. Leeds looked rattled and they were struggling to calm the game down and close the space in front of their defense.
Soon enough United’s Portuguese talisman Bruno Fernandes took advantage of that space to smash in the third. It was the third goal in 20 minutes. United had taken the game to Leeds and had smothered most of their fiery attacks. Manchester United won a corner on 36 and Anthony Martial flicked it on at the near post for Victor Lindelof to net at the back post. 4-0. It was already game over in the first half but if you know this Leeds side then you’d know not to count them out. Raphinha had been poor on set-pieces earlier in the game but he put in a sterling ball for Liam Cooper to head home from a corner kick before half-time. 4-1. It was attack versus attack as expected but United’s quality on the counter was too much for Leeds to deal with.
Bielsa reacted by bringing on Pascal Struijk for Kalvin Phillips and Jamie Shackleton for Mateusz Klich. Raphinha had switched to the left before the break and was causing Aaron Wan-Bissaka all sorts of problems. He struck a fine shot that David de Gea saved from a ball from deep which the English right-back misread. Luke Shaw came off for Alex Telles on 60 as Leeds applied the pressure. Raphinha struck another shot which de Gea turned around the post but against the run of play, United strode forward and secured number 5. Scott McTominay won the ball on and strode forward, he set Daniel James up and in one Swift turn, the Welshman was away from the Leeds defense and put the shot through Meslier’s legs for the goal on 66. The former Leeds target made it 5-1.
3 minutes later and Anthony Martial was brought down in the box and Anthony Taylor took his time to point to the spot. Bruno Fernandes scored Manchester United’s 32nd penalty since last season and goal number 6 for United on the day. Martial had another wonderful opportunity to score but Meslier stuck out a leg to save. Marcus Rashford came off for Edinson Cavani, Bruno Fernandes off for Donny Van de Beek and Leeds exchanged Liam Cooper for Leif Davis. On 73, Raphinha laid back a pass from a long ball for Stuart Dallas to fire home. 6-2.
Did we mention explosive? 30 goals conceded by Leeds so far and they almost conceded 31 as Meslier pulled a double save to keep out Cavani and James. The youngster also saved from Alex Telles a few seconds later and from the corner, Maguire headed straight into his hands. His release was poor and he gave the ball to Fred, however, the young keeper saved his blushes on 87.
Jack Harrison missed a glorious chance after a ball by Raphinha that Rodrigo and Bamford dummied. McTominay limped off with a groin injury as United saw out the game with 10 men. Lots of mistakes, lots of attacks, as the game ended 6-2. United leap to 3rd on the table as Leeds stay 14th in what was a Premier League classic.