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Man U give Leeds a lesson in finishing
Wednesday, 17th Jul 2019 16:52 by Tim Whelan

Man U 4 Leeds 0. Special report on this pre-season ‘friendly’ by our man deep behind enemy lines at the Champs Sports Bar, Urmston, Greater Scumchester.

The trouble with being too tight to pay the one off £8 LUTV fee is that you have to go to the pub to watch the game, which is a bit of a problem when you live on the edge of Scumchester. I’d read about the lone Man U fan who was persuaded to leave a pub in Australia that was otherwise full of Leeds fans, and I was a bit afraid of the reverse situation happening to me. But Leeds helped out by giving me not a lot to shout about, so my loyalties could remain undetected for the entire 90 minutes.

Down in Aus, the game attracted an attendance of 55,274, which the annoying MUTV commentator ascribed to Man United’s ‘pulling power’. Seemingly oblivious to our own pulling power, despite the presence of many Leeds fans at one end of the stadium, and a flag from the ‘Perth Whites’, as well as flags from several parts of England.

Leeds took to the field a little short of our strongest lineup, after Marcello Bielsa had left a few players behind at Thorp Arch and only flown out to join the squad a couple of days ago, after complaining about this tour and the disruption to his preferred summer training schedule. Berardi was playing at right back while Ayling recovers from an injury, and Phillips was once again filling in as a central defender while Leeds search for a replacement for Jansson, with Forshaw in central midfield.

That said, Man U were also short of a couple of their regulars, though I was impressed by some of their youngsters that I’d never heard of. Unlike Jansson, Pogba is still at his club despite a rumoured desire to move elsewhere, and unlike Jansson, Pogba has come back from his summer hols looking a little bit tubby round the waist. Perhaps a bit too much ice cream and beer at the seaside for him.

It only took a couple of minutes for a neat Man U move to find Rashford on the right hand side of the box, and his shot across the face of goal came back off the post. And in the 7th minure they took the lead when a ball down the right from Pogba found Wan-Bissaka, and when the ball was pulled back across the face of goal, Greenwood reacted faster than a static Leeds defence, to tuck the ball into the corner of the net.

We then had to endure a free kick from Pogba that went narrowly wide, before Leeds finally managed to pose a bit of danger to the goal at the other end of the stadium. Hernandez controlled the ball well just outside the box, but his finish didn’t match what had gone before, as he hit it well over the bar. It wasn’t to be the last Leeds shot from distance that would be some way off the mark.

But that was the start of a good spell from Leeds, as we put some decent moves together going forward, but as ever our problem was the lack of penetration close to goal. Harrison was lively and put one shot into the side netting, claiming in vain that it must have ended up there because of a deflection. Bamford was fairly ineffectual throughout, but might have been unlucky with our best chance so far, when his shot was saved by Romero’s legs.

So it was almost again the run of play when Man U doubled the lead in the 27th minute, when they caught us on the counter attack, starting when they broke down another Leeds move on the edge of their own area. McTominay sped downfield and played it to Rashford down their left, and Rashford produced an excellent piece of skill to skip past Berardi, before sidefooting it past Casilla into the opposite corner.

Leeds still kept up the pressure in the search for one goal at least, and a corner produced a great chance for Roofe, but he put his powerful header a bit too close to Romero, allowing the Man U keeper to pull off a fine save. But the red devils were still dangerous on the break, and for once I was glad to see Casilla come charging off his line to deal with a long ball, on this occasion the correct decision as he would get there before any defender.

Generally, I thought we could be quite pleased with our performance in the first half, but Man U would have the final chance of it, as they again hit the post through Dan James. We came out for the second period still looking determined to get back into the game, but could only produce another wayward shot from Harrison, before they went further ahead in the 52nd minute.

Casilla did well to tip a fierce shot from Pereira over the bar, but from the resulting corner Phil Jones outjumped Phillips to head home. The MUTV commentator informed us they don’t score too many goals direct from corners, so that just shows how urgently we need a replacement for Jansson, unless Ben White turns out to be phenomenally good.

Still Leeds kept going, with another wayward effort from Hernandez, before Bielsa made the first of his changes. Bamford was replaced by the highly rated Polish youngster Bogusz, who ran around very enthusiastically but didn’t get much chance to show what he could do with the ball. The second sub came after Dallas was caught in the face by a flailing arm, and the wonderfully named Hossanah came on. I’m sure that’s a name I’ll be using in a few headlines if he makes progress in his career.

But shortly after that we were four down, as Cooper went flying into a tackle as Chong went to the by-line, inevitably catching the Man U youngster as he tried to cut back inside. Just as I was wondering if it should be a penalty if contact had been made over the goal-line, the replay confirmed that the foul had actually taken place on the field, and therefore within the penalty area. Martial duly stepped up and ignored Casilla’s attempts to put him off by jumping up and down on the goal line, calmly sending the spot kick into the corner of the net.

It was about this time that a would-be pitch invader amused the crowd by dodging past several stewards without actually making it onto the field of play. He hadn’t taken into account that the Opta stadium is built for Aussie Rules, which has a bigger pitch than the beautiful game, so he would need to get across a vast perimeter before he could interrupt the game that was taking place in front of him.

Perhaps we could have done with a distraction, but Leeds kept going in the search for a consolation goal at least. Our final substitution saw Hernandez replaced by Jordan Stevens, but the most notable action of the closing stages was a fracas involving the ever-unpleasant Ashley Young. He’d been caught by an accidental elbow from Forshaw, and in revenge dived into an unnecessarily violent challenge, which led to a lively discussion involving several players. Shortly after that the ref put us out of our misery with the final whistle.

I didn’t agree with the comments of the others in the pub, including “I thought Leeds would give us a bit of a game, but we battered them”. But being outnumbered I thought it best to keep my thoughts to myself. We had actually enjoyed quite a lot of possession and at times looked very good going forward, and the 4-0 scoreline rather flattered Man U as their finishing was so much better than ours.

Clearly we have work to do for the coming season, after a couple of bits of discontent behind the scenes and the disruption to Bielsa’s intended fitness programme. We obviously need another central defender and Bamford still isn’t firing up front, so a few more additions to the squad are essential in the next couple of weeks. But at least we can take heart from the fact that this defeat comes against a side who are a lot better than any we will face in the league between August and next May.

Photo: Action Images

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