The pre-season campaign rolls on for Manchester United as they take on rivals Leeds United in their second game of the Australian tour. The Red Devils defeated Perth Glory 2-0 in their opening pre-season encounter, but now face a dangerous Leeds side led by Marcelo Bielsa.
As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues trying to find the perfect tactical combination, he faces his first real challenge of this tour in the EFL Championship powerhouses. These two sides have been the competitors of some classics over the decades and despite it being a 'friendly' encounter, they’ll be fighting hard for bragging rights.
The Red Devils looked in good shape against Perth Glory and despite playing two different teams in each half, Solskjaer’s unit looked a reinvigorated one. Perhaps goals from academy graduates Marcus Rashford and James Garner underlined the pattern which is going to be followed under the Norwegian.
Daniel James was named the Man of the Match by the fans for his electric showing, where he dominated from the left wing with his trademark blistering pace. Aaron Wan-Bissaka also stayed true to his 'spider' nickname, with some inch-perfect tackles and encouraging movement going forward offering promising signs.
Paul Pogba played his natural role despite rumours of leaving the side, while Mason Greenwood’s special talent was on display with stunning moments. The Red Devils didn’t seem the nervous, dejected unit they were in that horrific end-of-season loss to Cardiff City, looking much fitter and cohesive as a unit going forward.
Leeds have moved on from their Championship playoffs disappointment, starting their second season under Bielsa on a promising note by bagging impressive wins against non-league sides York City and Guiseley. Last season’s remaining core have looked deadly as ever, while new signing Helder Costa also made a bright impression with a goal against Guiseley.
Matteo Darmian and Fred are absentees after being unable to join up with the squad yet due to personal issues. Romelu Lukaku is expected to play a part after missing out against Perth Glory, while Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly were also tipped by Solskjaer to return on Wednesday. Luke Shaw should also participate after recovering from a small niggle.
Leeds have only flown out a 16-man squad for the game, with Bielsa instead keeping the others at home to work on their fitness. Not only Costa, but other new arrivals Rafa Mujica, Liam McCarron, Morten Spencer and Stuart McKinstry are all set to miss out after not flying out to Australia.
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Smalling, Young, Matic, Pereira, Pogba, James, Lingard, Lukaku.
Leeds United: Casilla, Hosannah, Cooper, Berardi, Douglas, Phillips, Forshaw, Hernandez, Harrison, Roofe, Bamford.
What to watch for
Attacking philosophies collide.
The last time Manchester United and Leeds United met was way back in 2011. Since then, the philosophies of both sides have undergone monumental changes during their struggles and successes. Solskjaer’s always maintained his attitude towards making United play an attractive, attacking style as they did under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Although the difference in personnel and surmounting problems have made things difficult, the Norwegian’s always been upbeat about his philosophy and United commendably dominated the game against Perth Glory amidst some frustrations.
Leeds have also been a fearless attacking unit under Bielsa. They’ve focused on building up play with a string of decisive passes, resulting in some beautiful goals in the Championship last season. The Argentine definitely wants them to perfect his philosophy and more to challenge for promotion next season.
Leeds won’t back down from United’s intimidating side, looking to implement their own style onto the game. Not only could discreet fireworks spark up in the field, but the battle for superiority should result in a thrilling contest.