Leeds (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United survived blowing another half-time lead to open up a four-point advantage in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League with a thrilling 4-2 win at relegation-threatened Leeds.
Harry Maguire responded to questions over his status as captain of the Red Devils by opening the scoring on 34 minutes before Bruno Fernandes added a second on the stroke of half-time.
Lost leads have been a feature of Ralf Rangnick’s interim spell in charge and United were punished by another slow start to a second half as Rodrigo’s fortunate cross and substitute Raphinha brought Leeds level.
However, United this time bounced back to find a winner when Fred smashed in 20 minutes from time before Anthony Elanga sealed the points late on.
This was United’s first league visit to Elland Road in front of a capacity crowd in 19 years and the visitors were met with a hostile atmosphere and a tricky pitch due to incessant rain.
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa decribed keeping his club in the top-flight as “an obligation” this week but took the bold decision to drop top scorer Raphinha to the bench after subbing the Brazilian at half-time in last week’s 3-0 defeat at Everton.
Another ragged defensive display leaves Bielsa’s men still just five points above the relegation zone and with a daunting trip to Liverpool to come in midweek.
– Maguire responds –
Stories that Cristiano Ronaldo was set to replace Maguire as United captain for the rest of the season were dismissed as “nonsense” by Rangnick this week.
Ronaldo ended his worst goal drought for 13 years in midweek against Brighton and missed a glorious chance to open the scoring when Ilan Meslier spread himself brilliantly to deny the Portuguese a tap in from point-blank range.
Instead it was Maguire who broke the deadlock and United’s run of failing to score from a corner for over a year with a powerful header from Luke Shaw’s delivery.
Leeds have conceded 11 goals in their two visits to Old Trafford in the past two seasons and their wide open style was allowing United to slice through with ease on the counter-attack once more.
Five minutes into time added on at the end of the first half for a head injury to Robin Koch, the visitors doubled their lead when Jadon Sancho’s inviting cross found Fernandes unmarked to head down past Meslier.
United had blown a half-time lead in three of their last four games, but on each occasion it had been a single-goal advantage.
Bielsa swallowed his pride at the break to introduce Raphinha and Leeds were level within nine minutes of the restart thanks to two goals in 60 seconds.
Firstly Rodrigo’s cross flew over the head of David De Gea into the far corner.
With the crowd still on their feet, Leeds scored again when Adam Forshaw’s strong challenge on Bruno Fernandes was not penalised and Daniel James’ cross was swept home by Raphinha at the back post.
As conditions continued to worsen under a torrential downpour, Rangnick turned to his bench in what appeared a bid to tighten up his midfield with the introduction of Fred for Paul Pogba.
But it was the Brazilian who struck the winner as a wild game had another swing when he drilled home Sancho’s pass at the near post.
Another of Rangnick’s substitutes then ensured there would not be a second Leeds comeback with a calm finish after Fernandes had robbed Pascal Struijk on the edge of his own box.
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