Manchester United saw a five-match winning run in the Premier League come to a halt as they had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Leeds United on Sunday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had been far too hot for their trans-Pennine rivals to handle in the December meeting at Old Trafford, Scott McTominay scoring twice inside the opening three minutes in a stunning 6-2 triumph.
However, a first league trip to Elland Road since October 2003 failed to provide anywhere near the same level of drama and excitement.
The Red Devils do extend their unbeaten away run in the Premier League to 24 games – Arsenal’s domestic top-flight record of 27 is well within their sights – but the draw leaves them 10 points behind leaders Manchester City, who could now clinch the title as soon as next weekend.
Angus Kinnear provided more entertainment in his programme notes than a tepid first half played out in pleasant late-April sunshine, Leeds’ CEO having heavily criticising the “self-proclaimed big six” of English football for their involvement in the breakaway European Super League.
Illan Meslier reacted quickly to turn away a powerfully struck Marcus Rashford free-kick, while the only attempt on target for the hosts before the interval saw Stuart Dallas shoot straight at Dean Henderson from the edge of the penalty area.
Leeds felt a penalty should have been awarded when a Jack Harrison cross struck Luke Shaw on the arm, but a check by video assistant referee Mike Dean ruled it not to be deliberate.
Bruno Fernandes – closely watched for much of the game by Kalvin Phillips – was only to drag his attempt wide of the target following good work by Aaron Wan-Bissaka as the visitors showed greater urgency after the interval.
Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani was introduced late on but there was to be no breakthrough, Leeds again showing they can compete with those connected to the failed Super League having previously drawn at home this season with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and champions-elect City.
What does it mean? United come up short
After a week dominated by a Super League U-turn and the announcement of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s impending departure, Manchester United’s players failed to deliver the type of performance that would take the focus away from off-field matters.
They have failed to score in the opening half of five consecutive Premier League games for the first time since February 2017. Indeed, only Fulham (16) and Wolves (15) have had more scoreless fixtures at half-time this season than the Red Devils’ tally of 13.
Hosts show battling qualities
Leeds struggled in the opening 45 minutes in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Monday – a game played out amid the backdrop of the Super League announcement – but improved dramatically after the interval, Diego Llorente’s late goal pegging back the Reds.
This time, though, they were not quite able to up the tempo. Still, Marcelo Bielsa’s well-drilled team remained resolute to secure a point in a clash that badly missed the presence of a full house.
The Portuguese playmaker found the determined Phillips casting a shadow over his actions, though he still had five attempts and two key passes. Wan-Bissaka’s delivery presented a clear opportunity that went begging, much to Fernandes’ obvious frustration.
Instead it was Shaw who looked the most likely creator for the away team, the in-form full-back providing 12 crosses, four of which found a team-mate. England manager Gareth Southgate, watching on inside the ground, will no doubt have taken note.
– There have been eight goals in Premier League meetings between Leeds and Man United this season, despite today’s 0-0. In the competition’s history, only Blackburn Rovers versus Sheffield Wednesday in 1997-98 saw more goals scored when one of the two meetings finished goalless (nine).
– Leeds had only six shots in this match, their joint-fewest in a league game at Elland Road under Marcelo Bielsa (also six vs Barnsley in July 2020).
– Man United have drawn seven league games 0-0 this season; only in 1980-81 (eight) have they been involved in more goalless draws in a single league campaign. United have the most goalless draws of any side in the Premier League this season.
– Shaw has created 11 chances in his past two league games; in 2021, he has created the most chances of any player in the Premier League (50).
– Harry Maguire has not missed a single minute of Man United’s past 71 Premier League matches, equalling Gary Pallister’s club record in the competition among outfield players (Nov 1993 to May 1995).
Manchester United have a Europa League semi-final first leg against Roma at Old Trafford on Thursday, followed by a home game against rivals Liverpool next in the league. As for Leeds, they travel to Brighton and Hove Albion next Saturday.
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