Manchester United vs Leeds: Can the Red Devils continue their top four push?
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Manchester United return to Premier League action on Sunday as they take on Leeds United  in the Roses derby. Red Devils fans will be hopeful of a victory heading into the match, especially following a solid if not spectacular 2-0 win against Graham Potter's Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday night.

United head into the fixture unbeaten in their last three against Leeds, most recently dispatching the Yorkshire side 5-1 on the opening day of the season. 

However, while while many of the Old Trafford faithful would have been hoping this result would be a sign of things to come, it hasn't panned out that way for the Red Devils. It has been an underwhelming season for United, which has seen a change of manager since they last took on Leeds, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer making way for interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

Here we take a look into some of the key talking points as we head into a pivotal battle for both sides.

It seems that Leeds United capture of Dan James was inevitable. Manchester United seemingly swiped him from under the noses of The Whites, signing him from Swansea City for £15 million in the summer of 2019. The Welshman hit the ground running at the Theatre of Dreams, endearing himself to fans with a goal on his debut to round off a 4-0 defeat of Chelsea.

However, with the recent signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, James was deemed surplus to requirements and finally got his move to Leeds in the summer of 2021, joining for around £25 million. 

The winger has found himself in good form as of late, scoring two in his sides 3-3 draw with Aston Villa. James fits the mould of Marcelo Bielsa's high octane style to a tee. Always keen to press and make a nuisance of himself, Manchester United know they will have to be wary of his speed and willingness.

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Despite mainly lining up on the left or right flank for the Red Devils, in the absence of striker Patrick Bamford, Bielsa has opted to operate James as a lone striker. It will be a key battle between him and United captain Harry Maguire, as the centre-back looks to play himself into form following a few shaky performances. 

James has also notched his highest Premier League goal tally in his career sitting on four after 19 games. While at Manchester United the diminutive winger only managed three in both of his seasons at the club.

The Welshman will be hoping that he can continue his goal scoring form as Leeds look to avoid dropping into a messy relegation battle. It has been a tough season for the Yorkshire men, who have struggled greatly with injuries. They will once again enter proceedings without the services of key men Kalvin Phillips and the aforementioned Bamford. 

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  • The top four race is heating up

Going into proceedings Manchester United find themselves occupying the final Champions League place. However, the race for the top four is well and truly underway with no less than four teams having a realistic chance of obtaining the position. 

ArsenalTottenham HotspurWest Ham and Wolves all stand a good chance of finishing in the top four alongside United. Every game must be seen as a must win for Rangnick and his men, with Arsenal and Tottenham finding themselves with three games in hand on the Red Devils, finding themselves four and seven points behind respectably. 

It has been an underwhelming season by all accounts for United. Fans were left expectant of silverware, this only heightened by the marquee summer signings of Raphael VaraneCristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho

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While each of these signings have had their own struggles, each of them have started to move on from them, particularly Jadon Sancho, who has been in excellent form heading into the game against Leeds. The winger has been a standout performer in the last five games, once again providing a fantastic creative outlet against Brighton on Tuesday.

In his press conference leading up to the matchup against Brighton, interim boss Rangnick claimed: "We want to finish fourth in the league, this is the highest possible achievement we can get," while this isn't what fans would want to hear, it is the harsh reality United have left themselves in. 

With Spurs in action against Manchester City on Saturday, Arsenal taking on Brentford and West Ham taking on an in form Newcastle United, the Red Devils will be hoping to find themselves with a bit of breathing room as they take on Leeds.

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