Man United vs. Leeds United PREVIEWGriffochaz
It’s been a summer of ups and downs, pride and hurt, joyous celebrations and penalty despair but the Premier League season is officially back this Friday as Brentford take on Arsenal.
However, our attention turns to Saturday lunchtime as the fierce rivalry between Man United and Leeds plays out on the opening weekend of the season. It’s been 17 years since Leeds United have come to a packed-out Old Trafford in a Premier League fixture and for it to be the curtain jerker for the upcoming campaign is just a mouth-watering prospect.
The rivalry between these two clubs can stretch back as far as the 15th century. It originates from the enmity between the historic counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire birthed from the War of the Roses. Despite these deep lied connections being more than 500 years old, both clubs continue on the bitterness to this day.
However, there is more to this rivalry than British history.
In the 1970s, British football hooliganism was reaching its peak and at the centre of this was Manchester United’s Red Army and Leeds United Service Crew who would frequently be a part of brawls and fights before and after matches. While the physical altercations may have calmed, the heat between the two sides certainly has not and I’m sure we will see evidence of this on Saturday.
Last Meeting – Leeds United 0-0 Man United
The last clash between these two English giants was overshadowed by the European Super League. The game was in the wake of the rise and fall of the ESL and football fans were still in the dark about how this prospect would affect the footballing world. There was a real possibility that United were going to be kicked out of the league along with the other “Top 6” clubs that sold their souls for money.
The ESL drama mixed with nothing for either team to play for mixed with an empty ground made for one of the most boring clashes in the long and established history of Leeds vs. Man United and the scoreline reflected that.
On a personal note, I remember vividly watching this game and questioning why I should be interested in it. Thankfully the idea fell through (for now) and Man United went back to exciting fans by beating AS Roma 6-2.
Man United Team News
There is a strong sense of mystery surrounding Man United in this game to the extent that not one person knows how we are going to line-up, not even Ole. We have to weigh up factors like match sharpness, fitness, training time, injuries and much more which makes for both an exciting and scary wait til 11:30 on Saturday.
One position that many thought would be problematic is the goalkeeping position but with the news that Dean Henderson is still recovering from COVID-19, that leaves David De Gea as the only viable option in net. Tom Heaton has impressed in pre-season but isn’t up to the standard of De Gea so it should be a no brainer for Ole.
In terms of the defence, Aaron Wan Bissaka has been one of the few regulars in pre-season and is almost a nail on to start on Saturday. After a headline making European Championships campaign, Luke Shaw returned to the Old Trafford pitch last week against Everton and looked like he didn’t miss a beat. One of the world’s best left backs is more than ready for the season ahead, not that he has a choice with his counterpart Alex Telles out with an ankle injury. Red Devils captain Harry Maguire missed the end of last season and the start of The Euros but has since returned to full fitness and is ready to go for the new season but his centre back partner is where the questions lie. Raphael Varane is not yet an official Man United player as of writing so it’s hard to include him in any capacity of the squad on Saturday and despite the Frenchman keeping up his training levels in Madrid before flying to Manchester for his medical, there is doubt whether he can start so Victor Lindelof will more than likely be Ole’s preferred option.
The midfield is the biggest concern for United with still many unanswered questions. While “McFred” was the tried and tested duo last season and Ole may go with what he knows against Leeds in the absence of a new signing, Nemanja Matic has been the more frequently used during pre-season. It really is a toss of a coin as to who could be our anchor this weekend but my odds are in the court of the Serbian terminator. The signing of Jadon Sancho should mean Paul Pogba’s days as a left winger are done but with Rashford’s injury, anyone could fill that position. Despite Ole’s relationship with Donny, the Dutchman may get minutes in the opener due to the uncertainty of Paul Pogba’s fitness. The final man in the midfield is undoubtable. Sharp or not, Bruno Fernandes starts against Leeds. No questions asked.
The front three against Leeds will look very different to Man United’s best front three for the season. Edinson Cavani will be joining the training sessions as late as Thursday so his inclusion in the starting XI looks in major doubt. There are two options that come to mind when replacing Cavani, Martial and Greenwood. Ole loves the pair of them but based on fitness and pre-season, I’m fully expecting Mason Greenwood to be our number 9 on Saturday. With Rashford out and Lingard isolating, the wing positions are again a complete tossup. Ole will have to keep a close eye on United’s new boy Jadon Sancho to see whether he is fit to start and a week’s training may not be enough for him to start so Dan James seems a sensible pick. The way Leeds play suits James and in the absence of others, the Welshman could be a real threat against a Bielsa side that will be looking to attack at any given opportunity. The left-hand side is a real conundrum but with Rashford’s surgery and Lingard’s isolation, Martial looks the only viable option to start.
Man United Predicted Line-Up
Leeds United Team News
Leeds United haven’t made too many first team signings this window but have surprisingly won the services on Barcelona’s Junior Firpo. The only other notable signing is Jack Harrison who has completed a permanent move to Elland Road after being on loan from Man City last season.
The only real question around Leeds’ team selection is the fitness of Kalvin Phillips who like Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho went all the way to the Euros final. The summer campaign really showed the quality of Kalvin and whether he starts or not can be a big indicator into how this game will go.
Leeds United Predicted Line-Up
Prediction – Manchester United 2-0 Leeds United
It is so hard to predict the opening game especially when both line-ups are difficult to call however even with fitness and injury concerns, I feel Ole’s men will have enough quality to be able to dispatch a good-looking Leeds side. I can see a solid 2-0 victory on the cards to open the Premier League campaign.