Stalemate At Elland Roads Ends Tumultuous Week For Manchester United
It was a dramatic week in the history of Manchester United, for all the wrong reasons, and it ended with a 0-0 draw with bitter rivals Leeds United, in the first meeting at Elland Road since Marcelo Bielsa’s men returned to the Premier League.
It was the Reds who had the better of both the possession and goal-scoring chances during Sunday’s match, but couldn’t find a breakthrough.
But Leeds played well, limiting Solskjaer’s men to few clear-cut chances – namely a Marcus Rashford free-kick and a Bruno Fernandes shot which went wide.
Despite bringing on Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek as substitutes, United had to settle for a point, as United extended its unbeaten run in away league games to 24 matches.
Goalless Draw Unexpected
After eight goals in their Old Trafford encounter earlier in the season, nobody tuning in expected a goalless stalemate, especially United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“There are no guarantees in football, that’s for sure! I thought we played well. I thought we played really well, especially second half. I thought we dominated. We didn’t really give any chances away, we just didn’t have the ball fall correctly for us [in the] second half, in the big moments we had. We had some decent chances but unfortunately we couldn’t take them. I thought up until the last 18 metres or yards [we were excellent]. That’s where it stopped; the quality or the decision-making let us down just in that last moment. The game was played in their half in the second half. Then it is hard to get the big openings. I thought we had a good chance with Bruno and Dan had a couple of decent opportunities. Apart from that, we spoke about it before the game that there would be blocks and blocks and blocks, because they are good at following their men. They did well at their defending.”
Fitness The Key
Leeds have used their fitness to boss teams in the latter stages of matches, particularly at home, so United’s manager was particularly pleased with the way his side stood strong in the second half.
“When two teams meet, you create problems, you solve problems, the opposition gives you things to think about and I think also we made them adjust to us. Of course we had to adjust to them, because they are a unique team, but I thought we did that really well. We put a really big shift down and they worked hard. Normally you see Leeds in the second half running over teams, steamrollering teams, with their fitness and how strong they are. I thought my boys, or our boys, looked really strong, like athletes with desire and confidence. We just couldn’t get the goal, unfortunately,” added the manager.
A Case For The Defence
United’s much-maligned defence has improved as the season has gone on, and is no forming the bedrock of a solid foundation.
On a day where chances were hard to come by, the defence stood strong.
“It is hard to concede when the ball is in their half. We did well today, I thought we were assured with the ball as well – Victor, Harry, Dean, Luke and Aaron. When it is one against one, the times when they win the ball and break forward, it is exciting. I am disappointed we didn’t get three points, but I am very pleased with the performance.”
“Of course you’re disappointed that we don’t get the three points, but I think the boys know they put a shift down. We really have a lot of respect for the way Leeds play, and we know the results that they’ve had lately. So this is not something we’re going to look back on as derailing our season. Definitely not.”
Europa League Semi-Final The Focus
Manchester United now turn their attention to a Europa League semi-final showdown with Seria A outfit AS Roma, with the chance of a first trophy of the Solskjaer reign tantalisingly close.
“Let’s keep it going, because we have got important games coming up and hopefully we can carry on with this form. We are looking forward to the [Europa League] semis. We have felt the disappointment too many times in semis and we are looking forward to attacking these games. They are challenges for us and great tests for the group,” concluded Solskjaer.