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Premier League: Manchester United vs Leeds United Preview

Leeds United will begin their 2021/22 Premier League season with an electrifying clash with Manchester United at the Old Trafford on Saturday. This contest between two bitter rivals could prove to be the biggest attraction of the opening Premier League weekend.

This match will see Leeds United playing in front of fans in top-flight football in a full stadium for the first time since 2004 after they secured promotion to the Premier League last season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leeds United have added former Barcelona full-back Junior Firpo to their roster this summer. Meanwhile, after much speculation and near-misses spanning a year and a half, the Manchester United-Jadon Sancho saga has finally come to an end.

The English winger returned home after United paid the 85-million-euro fee that Borussia Dortmund desired. Meanwhile, they’re also close to announcing the signature of former Real Madrid defender and World Cup winner Raphael Varane but he’s likely to miss the opening fixture.

Let’s take an in-depth look at both the sides:

 

MANCHESTER UNITED IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE LAST SEASON

Manchester United finished second in the Premier League last season. With 21 victories, 11 draws, and six losses, they racked up 74 points. For most of the competition, United had to trail their neighbours and arch-rivals Manchester City who lifted their third Premier League title in four years.

United were excellent in patches under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and had a comfortable lead over Liverpool, Chelsea, Leicester City, West Ham, and Tottenham. All five clubs were involved in the race for the top four and eventually, Liverpool and Chelsea managed to secure Champions League places.

The Red Devils had also reached the final of the Europa League but ended up losing the match against Villarreal on penalties.

 

PREDICTED LINEUP AND TACTICS AGAINST LEEDS UNITED

Although Sancho still needs to acclimatise to the English conditions after spending five years in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might be tempted to use him in the very first match with Rashford out due to an injury. Sancho could also be the solution for Solskjaer when he takes on Leeds United.

Following the 6-2 drubbing at the hands of United early in the season, Bielsa learnt from his mistake and tried to play a more compact, defensive game which resulted in a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture. Despite taking 16 shots and controlling the majority of the possession, United failed to make their chances count.

If Marcelo Bielsa decides to adopt a similar approach against a high-octane United frontline, Jadon Sancho could prove to be the deal-breaker with his electric dribbles and playmaking ability from the wings. He was ranked sixth overall in the Bundesliga last season when it came to key passes and he also completed the second-most dribbles in the league.

Probable Playing XI (4-2-1-3): David De Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho/Dan James, Anthony Martial

 

LEEDS UNITED IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE LAST SEASON

Last year was Leeds United’s first season in the top-flight of European football since the 2003-04 season when they were relegated after going bankrupt. Marcelo Bielsa and his men took the league by storm and managed spectacular wins against the likes of Aston Villa, Everton, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur. They had also held Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool to stalemates.

The Whites finished ninth in the Premier League last season with 18 wins, five draws, and 15 losses. They had amassed 59 points over the season, three less than Tottenham in seventh and a couple less than Arsenal in eighth. Bielsaball was also on full display in the Premier League and a fearless Leeds United side racked up more goals than Chelsea and Arsenal.

The next obvious target for Leeds United will be finding their way back to European football.

 

PREDICTED LINEUPS AND TACTICS AGAINST MANCHESTER UNITED

Leeds United were at the end of a humiliation in their first match against Manchester United last season. They’d lost that match 6-2 and having learnt his lessons, Marcelo Bielsa adopted a different strategy for the return leg at Elland Road.

Often extremely focused on taking the game to the opposition, Leeds United chose to sit back and not attack on certain occasions in that fixture. They had attempted just six shots in that 0-0 draw – their second-lowest total of that season.

Known for their aggressive pressures off the ball, Leeds put their foot on the gas and improved their intensity. They recorded 276 pressures compared to the 144 in the 6-2 loss against United earlier.

It remains to be seen whether Bielsa adopts a similar approach against United at Old Trafford or goes back to playing his natural style.

Probable Playing XI: Illan Meslier, Robin Koch, Liam Cooper, Luke Ayling, Pascal Strujik/Junior Firpo, Stuart Dallas, Raphinha, Kalvin Phillips, Jack Harrison, Rodrigo, Patrick Bamford