Match Preview: Leeds United vs Manchester United

Manchester United are back in action this Sunday after defeating an impressive Brighton side on Tuesday night. Ralf Rangnick‘s previously wasteful Reds head to Elland Road to take on rivals, Leeds United as they continue to their fight for fourth place.

This will be the second time the side’s have faced each other this season with United emerging comfortable victors in the season opener against the Yorkshire club and will no doubt be looking to repeat that feat away from home.

Form guide

Before Tuesday’s win against Brighton, United February had been fairly miserable as they were knocked out the FA Cup by Middlesborough and failing to beat two lower bottom-half Premier League opponents despite taking the lead and looking far more organised and threatening (at least in the first half).

However, the visit of the Seagulls saw the reverse ring true as the team struggled in the first half before looking considerably more lively and creating enough chances to score twice and secure the three points in the second half.

Since the Red Devils defeated Brentford and a bitter Thomas Frank, United have had a whopping 102 shots yet have only converted six of those opportunities with key players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes looking shockingly out of form in front of goal.

The Portuguese duo will be hoping their woes are behind them after their goals allowed Manchester United to reclaim fourth spot in the table.

Marcelo Bielsa‘s Leeds have had a tough season overall, sitting 15th and suffering some brutal defeats with their most recent one coming against a struggling Everton team. Once again, their main issue appears to be the team’s inability to defend conceding 46 goals, an average of two goals a game.

The difference between the Whites home and away form is stark. In the Premier League they’ve secured points in 63% of their home fixtures conceding 19 whereas when they’re visiting other top flight sides, the percentage drops to just 50% conceding a whopping 29 goals in the process.

In spite of their better home form, United’s forwards will still be relishing the chance to come up against the second worst defence in the division. But after the reverse fixture at Old Trafford that saw Solskjær-led team run away 5-1 winners, Leeds will be preparing for Saturday knowing they have a point to prove after failing to win any of the sides meetings since their return to the top flight.

Team News

Edinson Cavani remains out injured despite returning to training this week and will no doubt have set his eyes on being back in the match day squad for Wednesday’s big Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid. Third choice goalkeeper, Tom Heaton, will also be unavailable for the short trip to Leeds.

In more positive news, Ralf Rangnick will have Raphael Varane back and available for selection after pulling out of the team on Tuesday through illness. Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic have also returned to training but doubts remain over whether or not Sunday’s fixture has come too soon for the duo.

Marcelo Bielsa will be without some of his squad’s biggest names with Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper all out through injury. Stuart Dallas is another potential absentee but is yet to be officially ruled out by his Argentine boss.

Leeds are also missing young defender, Leo Fuhr Hjelde who sustained an injury at Goodison Park last weekend.

Ones to watch

Despite results dipping after his return to the match day squad, Paul Pogba has looked exceptional and totally rejuvenated Manchester United’s attack, aiding the team’s ball progression through his passing and ball-carrying ability.

His speed of thought was also on display with a quickly taken free-kick leading to Bruno Fernandes doubling United’s lead and securing the Frenchman his 8th assist in just 828 minutes of football this season. Half of his impressive assist tally came in the reverse fixture assisting four of United’s five goals on the day.

Another player whose proven to be a hub of creativity since Rangnick took over is Jadon Sancho. The 21-year-old could be a permanent fixture in the “ones to watch” section of UtdDistrict previews as his influence on the side continues to grow.

The young forward leads the way in both progressive passes and progressive carries (5.86 per 90) while also beginning to look more of a goal threat, scoring twice in recent weeks as well as getting on the end of several good opportunities which with a bit more conviction and finesse could’ve resulted in further success in front of goal.

Meanwhile at Leeds, a former Red appears to be thriving after bagging a brace in their recent fixture against Aston Villa. Daniel James will be looking to use all the knowledge he has of his previous employers to his advantage in order to help his side secure three points. The speedy winger will definitely feel he has a point to prove as was deemed surplus to requirement once Ronaldo returned.

Raphinha is another winger United will need to be wary of as he’s consistently proven to be their main threat since his arrival in Yorkshire with 10 goal contributions in 21 games in the Premier League this season.

Predicted XI

David de Gea;

Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw;

Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba;

Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford.

Time to perform for 90 minutes

Manchester United have shown consistently under Rangnick they can perform for 45 minutes, but with games getting tougher between now and the end of next month. it’s time to show they can perform for the full 90 minutes and where better to do that than in the “Roses Rivalry”.

While the likes of West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur have wilted in recent weeks, United have yet to take advantage and with the race for top four looking increasingly tight, it’s paramount they start capitalising on their rivals slip-ups.

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