Player Ratings, Reaction and Highlights : Manchester United 6-2 Leeds

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Manchester United recorded a resounding win against fierce rivals Leeds United at Old Trafford – Scott McTominay scored two goals within 180 seconds to set the tone for an entertaining game which moves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team up to third.

Leeds came with an attitude that was as brave and stubborn as it was foolhardy; the tone was set by a bombastic start from the visitors, but the hosts responded in kind, and took advantage of the first counter attack in devastating fashion.

Bruno Fernandes laid the ball off to McTominay who was 25 yards with lots of work to do – his shot was beautiful, clean, and flew into the corner. Just seventy seconds were on the clock.

And less than 3 minutes had been played by the time McTominay made it two; this one was just as technically laudable, as he controlled a Martial pass with a clever step-over and finished across the keeper.

In the 20th minute United countered again, this time Fred leading the charge – Martial was blocked off, but Bruno Fernandes was on call to drill the ball into the net.

That attack had come off the back of an offside goal scored by Bamford for the visitors; there was no question about that decision, but it was symbolic of the ambition of Leeds who had already created a couple of chances Bamford could have done better with.

Raphina then tested De Gea, before another counter won a corner for Solskjaer’s team. Shaw’s corner was flicked on by Martial and put into the net by Lindelof.

Leeds got the goal their first half efforts deserved when Liam Cooper shrugged off Fred with a little too much ease to head in a corner. United’s counter-attacking game had worked a treat but there was still enough of a visible threat to say that they would need to concentrate in the second period.

There were a couple of timely reminders early – Martial missed a good chance after good work to get into the position in front of goal. Leeds went up the other end and Raphina had another effort – De Gea was again equal to it and kept it out.

If United were ever really in need of another goal to kill the game off it came in the 66th minute when McTominay found James with a clever pass. James was starting his first league game for a while and did very well to find space away from his defender. His finish was as accomplished as his first touch.

The goal sparked another flurry of activity; Martial won a penalty two minutes later, which Fernandes converted. Martial then missed another chance before Stuart Dallas grabbed a tremendous consolation goal from distance.

It remained 6-2, despite both teams looking for more goals – and Cavani, Maguire, Telles and Fred might have all thought they could have done much better with chances that came their way.

Selection

A few changes for Solskjaer and a few eyebrows raised as McTominay and Fred played in midfield and United seemed to be more pragmatic. De Gea was also recalled while Paul Pogba was put on the bench.

You could not question this approach – without the defensive screen, there is every reason to believe United could have been vulnerable as they have been at home this season. At the risk of being boring in repetition, United are not so good they can afford to take games for granted, and you can’t ignore the role that has played in the below-par results this season at home.

The recall of De Gea was understated, as it should be – this writer was concerned much more would be made of Henderson’s dropping after his error in midweek, but that wasn’t the case, and I’m happy to be proven wrong.

The omission of Pogba was notable. But Solskjaer was rewarded with two fine midfield performances, including arguably McTominay’s best for the club.

The selection of Dan James felt like a ‘shop window’ game but the winger made a positive impression.

Guarding against complacency seemed to be very much present on the mind of the players considering the efficiency of their scoring in the first half.

Can one conclude from this that Solskjaer is closer to knowing his best team? Can we deduce that he is coming to the conclusion that it is always better to pick the team for the game and not necessarily just the team that should play for United at Old Trafford? It feels like it we are, although it was not emphatically positive, despite the size of the scoreline.

The old vulnerabilities were there – the ease with which Bamford found space from Lindelof early on was a concern, and though United were able to extinguish that with a number of goals of their own, we’ve seen often enough that they aren’t always so fortunate or clinical.

This is not to be downbeat – there are plenty of positives to be taken from today, not least the identity of the opponent and the size of the scoreline. And in a period where it is sometimes difficult to ascertain if things are moving forward or backward, we can definitely say this was a very positive day indeed for United.

Ratings

De Gea 7

Wan-Bissaka 6

Lindelof 6

Maguire 7

Shaw 7

McTominay 9

Fred 7

Fernandes 8

Rashford 7

Martial 6

James 7

Subs :

Telles 6

Van De Beek

Cavani

Goals

Wayne Barton

Wayne is a writer and producer. His numerous books on Manchester United include the authorised biography of Jimmy Murphy. He wrote and produced the BT Sport film 'Too Good To Go Down'. In 2015 he was described by the Independent as the 'leading writer on Manchester United' and former club chairman Martin Edwards has described him as 'the pre-eminent writer on the club'.

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