After a turbulent few days in the world of European football and the short lived prospect of the “Super League“, Manchester United’s senior team were back in training on Wednesday. The squad were given two days rest before starting preparation for their Sunday fixture against Leeds United. Ole Gunnar Solskjær gave his squad the Monday and Tuesday off as a result of being free from the strain of midweek fixtures until the return of the Europa League on May 1st.
On Friday afternoon, over 3000 fans travelled to Old Trafford to protest against the Glazer family. It was a successful day as Red Devils were able to show their frustrations as well as sing their favourite chants after being silenced through the pandemic over the last year. Another protest is set to take place on the 2nd of May as United host Liverpool in the Premier League.Embed from Getty Images
Marcelo Bielsa will be looking for revenge after his side were hit for six last time out at Old Trafford. The Whites will back themselves to pick up a result too, after successfully beating the league leaders Manchester City last Saturday with only 10 men and drawing with last year’s league champions Liverpool and with Pep Guardiola looking increasingly likely to pick up his third Premier League title, United will have to be on top form to ensure City are made to pay for any dropped points.Embed from Getty Images
Scott McTominay was a key contributor in picking up all three points in the reverse fixture with two beautifully taken goals. He will undoubtedly be hoping to have a similar sort of impact at Elland Road with United looking to secure their sixth win on the bounce.
Mason Greenwood‘s return to goalscoring form has been a welcome occurrence in recent weeks with the 19-year-old looking to bag his fifth goal in his last six domestic games in this weekend’s fixture. You can see the teenager live in action along with his team-mates on Sky Sports. Craig Pawson will be officiating with Mike Dean in charge of VAR at Stockley Park.
Both sides come into this game in good form which should make for a tasty encounter considering the rivalry between the two. Leeds have gone unbeaten since the start of March, taking points off the aforementioned Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool in the process.
Marcelo Bielsa’s team have been known to concede either a flurry of goals or just the one. It is clear to see this is something that may have been worked on as they haven’t conceded more than two since their Valentine’s Day encounter with Arsenal.
The Reds, nonetheless, are also in a rich vein of form winning every game since their defeat to Leicester City in the FA Cup scoring 12 and conceding just 3. So if Solskjær’s side’s recent performances are anything to go by, they should be firm favourites for the “Roses Rivalry” clash.
However, form has been known to go out the window in big games and with the recent European Super League debacle, it’ll be interesting to see how that has impacted planning for gameweek 33.Embed from Getty Images
Manchester United vs Leeds United is, of course, a hugely prominent and historic rivalry. However, since the rebranding of this first division, The Red Devil’s have lost on only five occasions out of a possible 29 to the Yorkshire-based club.
The most recent defeat came in the FA Cup in 2010 when Jermaine Beckford scored the only goal for the then League One club to knock Sir Alex Ferguson‘s team out.
In the two clubs last meeting just before Christmas, Solskjær’s men ran out comfortable 6-2 winners in what can only be described as a goal frenzy.
After a prolonged stay in Ivory Coast with a positive COVID-19 test, Eric Bailly returned to full training this week to add further cover for the backline. The only two expected absentees from the squad is Anthony Martial, who is still out with a knock but is hoping to return before the season’s end and Phil Jones. The latter is rather unsurprisingly ruled out just as he has been for the majority of the time since signing his new deal in 2019.
While the manager confirmed that Marcus Rashford has not trained with the squad this week, he hopes that he will join the squad for the match on Sunday.
The rest of the squad is expected to be fully fit and raring to go after the first full week’s rest of the season.Embed from Getty Images
As for the visitors, they will be without the suspended Liam Cooper who scored their first of two goals in the previous game. The only other doubts for the Whites are Brazillian winger Raphinha and Spanish striker Rodrigo.
The former would be a huge miss and would lose out on another opportunity to audition in front of Ole and co after reports linking him with a switch to Old Trafford.
Ones to watch
Mason Greenwood will likely be the one looking to extend his great run of form and add Leeds United to the list of big games he’s scored in after bagging against both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur this season. United’s number 11 never made an appearance in the previous matchup and will be looking to make his mark against a Leeds team who often leave plenty of space to be exploited on the attack.
With Martial still out injured and having started in Greenwood’s favoured position, the teenager will want to show that he can be equally effective when it comes to linking play and taking his chances.
Edinson Cavani is another man on a hot streak of goalscoring form. The Uruguayan came on in place of Fred at half-time against Burnley and bagged in injury time with his trademark movement in the box making room for a tap-in.
The away side will be looking to supply their top goalscorer Patrick Bamford, with chances aplenty after a barren run of no goals in over a month. If Raphinha plays, you would expect he would be the next best player to cause problems for the Reds.
But with Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka having both flanks on lockdown in recent weeks, it is difficult to see any threat coming from there.
Keep the pressure on
Manchester City extended their league back to 11 points on Wednesday night so if the red half of Manchester want to keep their neighbours quiet for as long as possible, they’ll want to pick up all three points this weekend. But football purist, Bielsa, will be looking to add another big six scalp to his resume especially after condemning the top clubs attempts to potentially breakaway from the traditional football pyramid.
This also provides Solskjær with a further opportunity to do the double over another much-lauded manager and prove his managerial pedigree to an even greater extent.
It’s not quite make or break but if United lose, their chances of winning the title go from very slim to totally impossible.Embed from Getty Images