Man Utd battled a fierce second half fight back and a rapidly deteriorating pitch to secure a 4-2 victory over Leeds Utd thanks in large part to maligned quartet Victor Lindelof, Fred, Paul Pogba and Jadon Sancho.
Man Utd weathered the fiery atmosphere and Yorkshire rainstorm before crafting the game’s best chance in the early going. Paul Pogba breezed past Adam Forshaw down the left before picking out Cristiano Ronaldo for what looked a certain tap-in. However, the scrambling Illan Meslier was on hand to paw the effort to safety.
But the Frenchman could do little to prevent Harry Maguire’s header from breaking the deadlock in the 34th minute. A superb Luke Shaw delivery was nodded home by Maguire who proved too hot to handle for marker Diego Llorente. The goal was Man Utd’s first from a corner in 139 attempts.
The lead was doubled in stoppage time of the first half when Jadon Sancho’s delicate delivery allowed Bruno Fernandes to head home under the hand of Meslier.
Marcelo Bielsa rung the changes at half time, with the added impetus up front sparking a ferocious Leeds fight-back.
Rodrigo lobbed David de Gea with a cross intended for Raphinha, before the Brazilian – surprisingly benched for the contest – prodded home Daniel James’ drilled low cross.
The visitors steadied the ship and re-took the lead with Fred capping off a sublime team move in truly dreadful weather conditions. Anthony Elanga sealed the victory late on when sliding a calm finish between Meslier’s legs.
Illan Meslier: Continues to struggle to find teammates with his distribution from the back. Made up for that deficiency when producing a stunning stop to deny a Ronaldo tap-in. Question marks will be asked about Fernandes’ goal with the ball squirming under his hand. Beaten at the near-post for Fred’s goal and nutmegged for Elanga’s clincher. 4/10
Luka Ayling: Sloppy distribution from right-back with too many attacks coming to an end at his hands. 5
Pascal Struijk: Several smart interceptions to limit Man Utd’s threat in the first half. The only one of Leeds’ back four not to struggle prior to the break. 6
Diego Llorente: Mauled by Maguire for United’s opener as the Red Devils ended their long goal-less streak from corners. Worrying lack of communication with his goalkeeper when almost flicking a misplaced Man Utd pass into his own net. Hooked at half-time. 3
Stuart Dallas: Held up well against Lingard before moving into midfield after Koch’s substitution, but later guilty of not tracking Fernandes’ run for the Portuguese’s goal. Gave it his all in the second half but continues to underwhelm based on last season’s high standards. 6
Robin Koch: Awful clash of heads with McTominay that immediately saw blood flow freely from above his left eye. Patched up and returned to action sporting a bandage around his head, but looked groggy and was replaced by Firpo after half an hour. 6
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Adam Forshaw: Tough task in the engine room against the more physical pair of Pogba and McTominay. What he lacked in strength he attempted to make up for in desire and determination, and rattled into two challenges early on to spark a Leeds counter.
Ruthlessly exposed by Pogba for Ronaldo’s chance before being shown a clean pair of heels by Lindelof in the build-up to Man Utd’s second goal. 5
Daniel James: Difficult conditions to utilise his greatest asset of blistering pace with the Elland Road pitch suffering in the rainstorm. Found a yard of space down the left flank to tee up Raphinha’s goal with a sublime low cross in the corridor of uncertainty. 7
Mateusz Klich: Vibrant early when floating a lovely ball to Harrison who fired wide. Battled hard but lost the midfield battle to Pogba and McTominay and guilty of spurning two chances to truly test De Gea. 6
Jack Harrison: Wasted an early chance to send Elland Road into raptures when firing wide on the half-volley. Minimal impact resulted in a half-time hooking. 5
Rodrigo: Anonymous in the first half with the link-up play and guile of Bamford again sorely missed. Sparked Leeds’ revival in spectacular fashion when his cross floated over the despairing De Gea. Much improved after moving to the No 10 role with Gelhardt furthest forward. 6
Incredible scenes as Leeds score TWICE in a matter of moments! First it's Rodrigo and then Raphinha slides in at the back post to level it! GAME ON! pic.twitter.com/8DIxskcDBW
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 20, 2022
Junior Firpo (On for Koch, 31m): Dismal effort to track Sancho’s run in the build-up to Man Utd’s second goal and gave the ball away for the third. Booked for scything down Elanga in injury time. 4
Raphinha (On for Harrison, 46m): Surprisingly benched but made an instant impact when brought on at half-time. Prodded home James’ inch-perfect delivery to level the scores and played a huge role in Leeds taking the game to United on home turf. 7
Joe Gelhardt (On for Llorente, 46m): Provided an immediate burst of energy up front. Brought the best out of his fellow attackers and quick feet proved tricky for Maguire and Lindelof to handle. 7
David de Gea: Just the one save to make in the first half when beating away Forshaw’s powerful drive. Left wondering what happened when lobbed by an errant Rodrigo cross. Made a series of late saves that were made harder by the conditions. 6/10
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: Surprise selection ahead of Dalot with his greater defensive quality required against Harrison. Looked rusty and was forced to go to ground on multiple occasions – not all legally – to prevent Leeds attacks. 6
Victor Lindelof: More comfortable first half than even he would’ve expected in the cauldron of Elland Road. Tremendous driving run out from the back before laying off to Sancho to tee up Fernandes’ goal. Found it tougher after the break after the introductions of Raphinha and Gelhardt. 8
Harry Maguire: Combined with Lindelof well to blunt a Leeds attack that looked up for the fight early on. Too strong for Llorente from a corner when nodding home the opener. Lacked for pace against the quick feet of Gelhardt especially in the second half, but manfully stuck to his task after Leeds’ comeback was halted. 7
Harry Maguire breaks the deadlock! ⚽
The Manchester United captain gets on the end of Luke Shaw's corner to nod the away side into the lead! pic.twitter.com/4fxDOJ6MqY
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 20, 2022
Luke Shaw: Superb delivery from the dead ball to assist Maguire for the first goal. Allayed fears he could be at the mercy of James’ pace when not giving the Welshman a sniff down the flank. Guilty of being caught on his heels when allowing Raphinha to nip in for Leeds’ equaliser. 6
Scott McTominay: Helped United win the midfield battle and stood up well to Leeds’ early physicality. Kept it simple on the ball with Pogba alongside, and appeared to revel in the occasion against a bitter rival. 7
Paul Pogba: Showed his strength early when batting off Forshaw before testing Meslier from distance. Breezed past his opposite number down the left before picking out Ronaldo for his close-range opportunity. Continued to look the most dangerous player on the pitch throughout the first half. Impact was stifled to a degree after the break, yet his substitution with the game in the balance at 2-2 still came as a surprise. 8
Jadon Sancho: Anonymous inside the first 20 minutes, though the same could be said of all of United’s front four. Blazed over with his weaker foot from a half-chance outside the area, but produced a divine chipped cross to lay Man Utd’s second on a plate for Fernandes.
Grabbed his second assist when showing great composure to bide his time before laying off to Fred to rifle home. A thoroughly encouraging display from the summer recruit after overcoming a slow start to life in Manchester. 8 (Man of the match)
Bruno Fernandes: Grew into the game after a sluggish start and headed Man Utd into a two-goal lead when making a superb late run into the danger area. 7
Jesse Lingard: Struggled to impose himself against Dallas on a rare start under Rangnick. Fared little better against Firpo and replaced by Elanga with 25m to go to see a rare chance to shine go begging. 5
Cristiano Ronaldo: Bided his time before seeing Meslier remarkably repel what looked a tap-in from three yards. Booked for dissent after a VAR check for Leeds’ second goal went against the Red Devils. A low key outing for the Portuguese legend. 5
Fred (On for Pogba, 67m): Smart near-post finish from the oft-criticised midfielder to grab the deciding goal. 7
Anthony Elanga (On for Lingard, 67m): Spurned a glorious opportunity to make it 4-2 when shooting too close to Meslier. Came good at the second time of asking when nutmegging the Frenchman late on. 7
Raphael Varane (On for Ronaldo, 85m): N/A