Rash And Grab: Leeds Hold Their Own But It's Not Enough Against Manchester United

Erik ten Hag's side take all three points at Elland Road
15:56, 12 Feb 2023

In many ways, Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Leeds United played out in a similar manner to their 2-2 draw with the same side on Wednesday night. Leeds started better than their rivals before fading and allowing the Red Devils back into the game. The difference this time being that managerless Leeds did not have a lead to concede and instead left the Elland Road pitch in defeat.

While Manchester United’s rivalries with Manchester City and Liverpool have been more competitive in recent years, their feud with Leeds cannot be matched for bitterness. That tempestuous nature was on show this afternoon at Elland Road.


Leeds came flying out of the blocks, roared on by their home faithful. Maximilian Wöber’s cross found Patrick Bamford, whose shot was palmed away by David De Gea. The Spaniard, making his 400th Premier League appearance, could only push it as far as Crysencio Summerville. The winger got his shot away but the presence of Tyrell Malacia bearing down on him saw him fire it over.

The atmosphere crackled and Leeds took advantage, piling into tackles from the word go. Jadon Sancho was chopped by Summerville. Malacia had a concussion check after another robust tackle. Junior Firpo, Fred and Marcel Sabitzer all went into the referee’s notebook. “Old school” is probably the most charitable way of describing a blood-and-thunder first 45 minutes.

In between the fight, a football match did threaten to break out. Jack Harrison seized upon a dithering Harry Maguire pass, but gave the England star too much time to recover and put in the tackle. Summerville got the wrong side of Malacia and had a shot saved. Bruno Fernandes sent one shot wide and had another well-saved by Ilan Meslier. But for the most part, hostility trumped quality in an ill-tempered first half. 

Summerville had spent the opening period as the most prominent thorn in United’s side. He opened the second in kind, drawing a full-stretch save from De Gea with an early shot. Leeds kept the pressure on, with further errors from De Gea and Maguire making it hard for Erik ten Hag’s side to break out of their own defensive third.

United’s failure to launch in the second half saw Ten Hag make changes. Alejandro Garnacho and Lisandro Martinez came on to replace Sancho and Malacia. Things did start to look up, with Diogo Dalot thundering a long-range strike off the crossbar. Fred pulled one wide too. United were finally knocking on the door after taking a secondary role in proceedings since half time.

It was the almost-inevitable intervention of Marcus Rashford that finally broke the deadlock. Luke Shaw’s pitch-perfect cross found his England teammate in the box. Rashford leapt to glance home the chance, sending the travelling fans wild in the process. A lengthy VAR check played out, a common trapping of the modern game, but the goal was given.

Garnacho’s follow-up did not even suffer the indignity of the video official intervening. A confident, rampaging run down the left saw the Argentine open his body and slot past Meslier. It was a goal that showed maturity beyond his years. At a club that values youth as much as anywhere in the world, you get the feeling this particular starlet is going to thrive. 

Rashford looked to have added a third in the final minute of normal time but his effort was adjudged offside. Wout Weghorst then did likewise, but again to no avail. But those goals would almost have added unwarranted gloss to this performance. United were workmanlike rather than other-worldly.

It was a gritty display worth celebrating, though. Lessons were clearly learned from the midweek draw and Ten Hag must be pleased with the improvement. Leeds have plenty to take from the twin-derbies too. They may have emerged with a single point, but the performances across both games were vast improvements on the death rattle of the Jesse Marsch regime. When they dod appoint his successor, there will be something to build on here.

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