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Erik ten Hag’s side look lethal on the counter-attack, while Leeds’ form has dipped in recent outings.
Back Manchester United to score in both halves on Sunday (+108)
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After matchday seven was postponed by the Premier League following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, English soccer is set to return this weekend. Games taking place in London could be called off due to potential policing issues, but those matches scheduled to be played outside of the capital – including Manchester United vs Leeds United at Old Trafford on Sunday – look set to go ahead, although there has been no official confirmation at the time of writing.
United’s last Premier League encounter was successful, as they beat Arsenal 3-1 at Old Trafford. Mikel Arteta was proud of his team’s performance and the Gunners were indeed on top for long periods, but United’s clinical edge in and around the penalty area proved to be the difference. It was their fourth win on the bounce in the Premier League and one which lifted them up to fifth place in the table, boosting their Champions League qualification hopes in the process.
The most interesting thing about United’s start to the season has been the pragmatism shown by their new manager, Erik ten Hag. With a background at Ajax, the Dutchman was depicted as an ideologue when he was appointed as Ralf Rangnick’s successor at Old Trafford. But while Ten Hag will want to move towards a possession-based style of play in the long term, he has had short-term success by encouraging his United team to play on the counter-attack.
A reactive approach in which his side sat a little deeper and broke forward at speed paid dividends in victories over Arsenal and Liverpool. United will have more possession against Leeds on Sunday, but their speed in transition remains a major weapon – and one that Ten Hag, despite his reputation as a possession-promoting purist, has been only too happy to embrace up to now.
After taking seven points from the first nine available, Leeds United have suffered a dip in form of late. Their last three outings have produced two defeats and a draw, with Jesse Marsch’s side losing to Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford (the two teams that beat Manchester United in August) and collecting a share of the spoils against Everton.
Those recent results mean Leeds have sunk back to mid-table, but it has still been a bright start to the season for a team that was among the pre-season favorites for relegation according to the best online sportsbooks.
It should not be forgotten that Leeds lost their two best players over the summer, as Raphinha joined Barcelona and Kalvin Phillips was sold to Manchester City. Yet they still made a strong start to the campaign, thanks in part to the smart recruitment conducted by Marsch and his superiors at Elland Road.
Marc Roca and Tyler Adams have already formed a useful midfield partnership, while Brenden Aaronson has brought energy and dynamism in the final third and Luis Sinisterra has shown early promise after recently breaking into the starting XI. Rodrigo Moreno, now in his third season in English soccer, looks to finally be reproducing the form he showed for Valencia in La Liga.
Marsch has made changes to the team and style of play he inherited from Marcelo Bielsa, but he has been cautious to ensure he does not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Leeds are no longer so open defensively now that they have swapped man-marking for the zonal variety, but they have retained the hard-running intensity that made Bielsa’s team so difficult to play against.
Manchester United, then, can expect to be put through their paces on Sunday. But the Red Devils will draw confidence from their record against their upcoming opponents since they were promoted back to the Premier League in 2020: Manchester United have won three and drawn one of the last four meetings, conceding five goals but scoring 15, including 11 in two games at Old Trafford.
This will be Leeds’ first game against their rivals since Marsch replaced Bielsa, so we should not read too much into those results above. But United’s threat in transition, which is aided by the penetrative passing capabilities of Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes, should give them the edge against Leeds. If the home team goes 1-0 up early, they will be able to exploit the extra space that becomes available as Leeds start to push up the pitch and take more risks.
The best bet, in our eyes, is United to score in both halves, something they have done in each of their wins against Leeds in the last two years.
|Manchester United vs Leeds United
|Old Trafford, Manchester, England
|Sunday, 18 September 2022, 09.00 AM EST
|How to watch
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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