It’s a rivalry steeped in drama with Man Utd and Leeds doing battle once again at Elland Road this weekend, with two of football’s tactical trailblazers adding a fascinating subplot to a fixture that tends to deliver. Ralf Rangnick and Marcelo Bielsa are two of the game’s great thinkers, but who will win this battle of wits in West Yorkshire on Sunday?
Man Utd currently sit fourth in the Premier League, but a level of frustration has been bubbling under the surface and the tension almost palpable at Old Trafford. Rangnick is yet to convince in the hotseat, with the Red Devils looking jaded and disjointed in their recent outings, notably that FA Cup exit to Middlesbrough.
Leeds likewise have flattered to deceive at times this season and are very much 2021/22’s Jekyll-and-Hyde club, battering West Ham 3-2 one week, before losing 1-0 to Newcastle the next. It’s that level of unpredictability that saw them recently draw 3-3 with Aston Villa, then lose 3-0 to Everton. Bielsa must generate some consistency if his side are to salvage anything from this campaign and put some serious distance between themselves and the drop zone.
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Leeds vs Man Utd: Match Stats
Leeds are as industrious as they come, a key facet of Bielsa’s press-and-possess system. And few encapsulate this mode of thought more than Stuart Dallas — only Christian Norgaard (84) and Tyrick Mitchell (69) have registered more tackles in the Premier League this season than the Leeds man (63). So, Man Utd cannot expect a game where they will get much time and space in possession, with Dallas likely to be huffing and puffing throughout the 90 minutes. In fact, only Brighton (451) have registered more tackles than Leeds this campaign (438).
Leeds (62) and Man Utd (52) rank first and third respectively for yellow cards in the Premier League this season, so the man in black could be busy on Sunday. With Bielsa and Rangnick both advocates of pressing football, expect plenty of challenges to be flying in.
Man Utd started this season in style, battering Leeds 5-1 in the opening game, which looked to set Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side up for a campaign in which they could genuinely ask questions of the upper slopes. That momentum eventually fizzed out, but it gave Man Utd fans temporary bragging rights in this derby, with Bruno Fernandes famously netting a curtain-raising hat-trick.