Manchester United left the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium with a draw after being rescued by a late equaliser from Anthony Elanga. The Swedish youngster has now scored in back-to-back games for United and interim manager Ralf Rangnick has taken a liking to him after being impressed in training sessions.
The quality that sets Elanga apart from United’s other attackers is his willingness to make runs off the ball. His movements off the ball have played a huge part in all three of the goals he has scored this season. This is one of the reasons Rangnick has used him so much as his runs in behind add another layer to United’s attack.
Elanga’s first goal this season came in United’s 3-1 win over Brentford but his movement off the ball can be seen throughout the game. Here, as Diogo Dalot is about to play the ball to him, he is the only United player facing away from the ball and looking to make a run in behind.
Elanga can’t do anything with the header but the run into space gave Dalot a good option and created a good opportunity to score.
In the build up to his goal we can see Elanga on the last line being followed by Mads Roerselv with Cristiano Ronaldo occupying Ethan Pinnock and Pontus Jansson.
Elanga shows his intelligence here by using Ronaldo dropping to show for the ball as a signal to make his move.
Ronaldo’s movement draws the centre-backs forward leaving Elanga one on one with the goalkeeper and able to finish.
Against Leeds Anthony Elanga came off the bench to score his second goal of the season replacing Jesse Lingard. This was a smart change from Rangnick as he knew Elanga’s off the ball movements could disrupt the man to man marking system that Leeds play with.
Here Ronaldo has dropped off the last line to receive the ball, leaving the Leeds centre backs unoccupied. This is something that has become common this season and can make United easier to defend against when nobody is there to fill the space vacated by Ronaldo.
Elanga recognises this space and makes a run in an attempt to exploit it. The ball isn’t played into him but the intelligence shown to recognise the space and make a good run is a positive and an early sign of his intentions to hurt Leeds with his movement.
Not receiving the pass the first time doesn’t discourage Elanga, and his continuous efforts are rewarded when he scores United’s fourth goal of the game. Before Fred passes towards Bruno Fernandes we can see Elanga with Junior Firpo marking him.
Elanga recognises the situation first and moves past Firpo, making himself available for Fernandes’ pass by attacking the space left open for him. This allowed him to be one on one with Illan Meslier and calmly finish through the French goalkeeper’s legs.
Even in the dying moments of the game Elanga continued to make runs to take advantage of Leeds’ man marking system. Here United have switched to a back three and Bruno Fernandes is playing as a false nine.
This leaves space in behind for Elanga to make a similar run to the one he made earlier in the game.
This time the pass does come but the ball from Fred is slightly behind Elanga and he can’t adjust in time to control the ball.
It only took five minutes for Elanga’s movement to cause problems for Atletico Madrid’s defence. Before Fernandes even receives the ball Elanga had begun sprinting into the space ahead of him.
Elanga’s pace allows him to exploit the gaps in Atletico Madrid’s defence and by the time Fernandes is ready to play the pass only Reinildo ahead of him.
Reinildo slips while trying to intercept the pass and Elanga calmly finishes past Jan Oblak.
Manchester United have had some trouble trying to figure out their attack under Rangnick and while Anthony Elanga cannot solve these issues on his own, he will be a useful part of the squad for the end of the season. His dancing off the ball has earned him the chant that fans cannot stop singing at recent games.