Leeds United 0-0 Manchester United: 5 Talking Points as Red Devils drop points at Elland Road | Premier League 2020/21

Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League
Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League
Sai Teja

It was a strange afternoon at Elland Road as Manchester United and Leeds United — two of the most historic rivals in English football — played out a frustrating 0-0 draw.

The last time the two sides met was at Old Trafford, where the Red Devils ran riot over Marcelo Bielsa's side as they won 6-2 on the night. On Sunday, however, the game was at the other end of the spectrum as it was bland, lacking a cutting edge, and didn't live up to the lofty expectations of a game between two of the most entertaining sides in the league.

Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League
Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League

The first half, in particular, was a difficult watch for the neutrals as it was poor in many ways. Barring a stunning free-kick attempt from Marcus Rashford, which Illan Meslier excellently parried away, there was not much else of note.

Leeds were definitely the side with a more physical approach during the game, and saw two of their players, including captain Luke Ayling, receive yellow cards for a couple of rash challenges on Rashford and Dan James.

The game opened up a lot more in the second half as the spaces in behind were opening up for the Red Devils and their fierce rivals. Bruno Fernandes came close to scoring with a superb attempt from close range but dragged his shot just wide, and Mason Greenwood squandered a great chance after being released by Fred.

Dan James was guilty of missing out on a couple of great opportunities, which were arguably some of the best for either side on the afternoon. Leeds were resilient in defence, and it was a much more mature display from Bielsa's men as they marshaled the threat carried by Manchester United's attackers excellently.

Manchester United took their point tally for the season to 67 for the season as they take one step further towards UEFA Champions League football next season. On the other hand, Leeds are on course to finish in the top half of the Premier League table — a remarkable achievement for Bielsa and co.

Here are five major talking points from the game.

#5 Manchester United's lack of creativity without Paul Pogba

Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League
Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League

The first 45 minutes was a dismal watch as the Red Devils were extremely sluggish and failed to create any opportunities of note. Leeds United did an excellent job at blocking out all their avenues in central areas, forcing Manchester United to try and break them down from wide areas.

This was certainly a game that was craving for a player of Paul Pogba's ilk to dominate. The Frenchman has been in fantastic form over the last few weeks and was rested for this game with the UEFA Europa League semi-final coming up in midweek.

His absence was sorely missed as Manchester United lacked precision in the final and were frustrated by Leeds' excellent defensive organization. Perhaps the game would have panned out differently had Pogba started in place of James, as he could have provided more of a threat around the box.

#4 A nightmare return to Leeds for Dan James

Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League
Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League

Dan James was just a few hours away from sealing a transfer to Leeds United in 2019 before moving to Old Trafford next summer. On Sunday, he was handed a start against the club that he almost joined, and it was anything but an auspicious game for the Welshman.

James had a very poor game, spurning a couple of great opportunities for Manchester United, which could have led to a possible opener. Bruno Fernandes spotted his darting run into the box, and his poor touch gave Ezgjan Alioski enough time to recover and steal the ball.

The second was a mix-up with Fernandes during which both players left the ball for each other, but James would have been better suited to take the shot. James' attacking threat on the night was nearly non-existent apart from these two chances, and his poor decision-making cost his side on several occasions. A forgettable evening at Elland Road for the Welsh winger.

Also read: 5 Legendary footballers who had their shirt numbers retired

#3 Late substitutions hurt Red Devils

Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League
Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made late substitutions during several games this season, and the fixture against Leeds is the latest addition to this list. The Norwegian sent on Paul Pogba in the 76th minute, Edinson Cavani in the 86th minute, and Donny van de Beek in the 89th.

Given the sheer quality and firepower available to Solskjaer from the bench on Sunday, it was a questionable move to make substitutions that late into the game. Such little time wasn't enough to give the fresh players any time to make an impact on the team and open Leeds United up. This has been a recurring issue for Solskjaer, who has been criticised for repeatedly throughout the campaign as he's left substitutions until it's too late into the game.

It would be a different story if they were leading the game by a couple of goals and wanted to see it out, which was not the case on Sunday, as they were in search of a breakthrough against Leeds. A questionable decision from the manager. Van de Beek's change in particular — given that he is unlikely to start against Roma in midweek — was a baffling one as he was handed just about four minutes.

#2 Kalvin Phillips makes amends for the reverse fixture

Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League
Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League

Back when these sides met at Old Trafford, Kalvin Phillips was run ragged by the likes of Bruno Fernandes as he dragged him out of position to create acres of space for his fellow Red Devils. The Englishman was so poor that he was hooked off at half-time by Bielsa in favour of Pascal Struijk.

On Sunday, Phillips made amends for the horror show at Old Trafford by delivering a fantastic display for Leeds against their storied visitors. He was excellent both offensively and defensively and put in a stunning display for Leeds, topping the charts for most ball recoveries, tackles, successful long balls, and a host of other metrics.

The 25-year-old's pass to find a darting Helder Costa from his own half in the second 45 minutes was one of the best passes of the season. Phillips was everywhere for Bielsa's men, and, most importantly, he was pivotal in completely neutralising Bruno Fernandes' threat on the afternoon. The Englishman didn't give Fernandes any breathing room, which helped the hosts marshall Manchester United's attacking threat.

#1 Manchester United's defensive unit stands out again

Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League
Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League

Since the turn of the year, Manchester United have evolved into one of the best defensive units in Europe. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, and captain Harry Maguire have been at the top of their game and have helped Manchester United keep more clean sheets than any team in Europe, bar Chelsea, and Manchester City, with 30 across all competitions.

Their resolute backline was on full display once again as they blunted any and every attacking threat carried by Leeds. Maguire and Shaw, in particular, were sensational on the night. The skipper's brilliant ball carrying ability and line-breaking passes were some of the only highlights in the first half, with Maguire often finding himself near the 18-yard box. Shaw created more chances than any player on the pitch at Elland Road.

Victor Lindelof was also impressed in the game and managed to find Rashford with a few raking long balls in the first half while managing to keep a close watch on Patrick Bamford. Overall, it was an excellent outing for the ever-improving Red Devils defence against Leeds United.

Also read: 5 Great footballers who played for multiple national teams

Edited by Sai Teja
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