The first meeting between Manchester United and Leeds United since 2011 resulted in a comprehensive Reds victory, thanks to goals from Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones and Anthony Martial (pen).
While the Tour 2019 match was only a friendly, it was played in front of 55,274 fans amid a lively atmosphere at Optus Stadium, where both sides competed in a manner that befitted the fixture’s history.
Energy and intensity were again features of the performance from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. Some of the attacking football, particularly on the counter, was really pleasing on the eye.
Once again, the boss handed out valuable playing time to 23 members of his squad and he also started new signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James together for the first time. Axel Tuanzebe was the only unused substitute, while the ill David De Gea and injured Lee Grant, Luke Shaw and Romelu Lukaku were all ruled out ahead of kick-off.
The victory adds further confidence to the squad and attention now turns to this Saturday’s bigger test, against Internazionale in Singapore.
It was a bright start from Solskjaer’s men and the deadlock was broken soon after, with an excellent goal that began via a delicious through-ball from Paul Pogba.
Wan-Bissaka latched onto it and played a fine pass into the six-yard-area for Greenwood to slot home his first senior goal. The 17-year-old has been tipped by the boss to score goals in 2019/20 and he definitely looked sharp.
The Reds kept up the early pressure and Pogba was in the thick of it, bending a free-kick from 25 yards just wide of the post before stinging the palms of Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla with a rasping drive moments later. The Frenchman looked hungry and energetic in the centre of midfield.
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa – who named a 16-man squad for the friendly and intriguingly flew to Australia after his players – was visibly encouraged as his Championship team began to press up the pitch while the half wore on. Jack Harrison went close to equalising with a left-footed shot that flew into the side netting and Patrick Bamford then saw a close-range shot brilliantly saved by Romero.
The Yorkshire club’s profligacy in front of goal was punished in the 27th minute, after Rashford rounded his marker to execute a smart finish from Scott McTominay’s pass on the counter attack.
The Reds’ pace was proving to be effective on the break and a third goal almost arrived on 44 minutes, via the right foot of new signing Daniel James. He had burst forward up the flank and, frustratingly, saw his low shot bounce off the post in the last meaningful moment of first-half action.
Solskjaer made 11 substitutions at the start of the second half and that fresh side began with the same intentions as the men they replaced – to attack and score. After seeing a shot from range tipped over the bar, Andreas Pereira earned an assist from the resulting corner when his in-swinging cross was powerfully headed home by centre-back Jones.
Angel Gomes was playing in the no.10 position, just behind striker Martial, and the diminutive Academy graduate showed several glimpses of his natural talent on the ball, most notably when cutting inside from the right and dragging a left-footed shot just wide of the post.
A lengthy break in play ensued as a result of Leeds player Stuart Dallas receiving a sizeable cut to the head, following an accidental collision with Martial that forced him off for immediate treatment.
When the game eventually resumed, a fourth goal arrived: the lively Tahith Chong was blatantly upended by Liam Cooper’s rash sliding challenge and Martial duly did the honours from the penalty spot, slotting the ball into the bottom left corner as the goalkeeper dived in the opposite direction.
Solskjaer’s United have now confidently earned two successive wins during Tour 2019 and proudly, all six of the squad’s goals so far have either been scored or set up by an Academy graduate, including the spot-kick earned by Chong and converted by Martial.
The squad is set to fly from Australia to Singapore on Thursday afternoon for the second leg of this hard-working pre-season tour.
Serie A giants Internazionale await on Saturday, in a match that will provide a more detailed assessment of the progress that is being made by Ole and his staff.
Manchester United First-Half: Romero, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Lindelof, Rojo, McTominay, Pogba, Greenwood, Mata, James, Rashford.
Manchester United Second-Half: J. Pereira, Dalot, Smalling, Jones, Young (C), Matic (Garner 78), A.Pereira, Chong, Gomes, Lingard, Martial.
Sub Not Used: Tuanzebe.
Leeds United: Casilla, Douglas, Forshaw, Cooper, Roofe, Bamford (Bogusz 63), Dallas (Hossanah 66), Hernandez (Stevens 77), Harrison, Phillips, Berardi.
Sub Not Used: Miazek, Oduor.
What Next For Manchester United ?
Manchester United will travel to Singapore to face the Inter Milian (Internazionale) at the Singapore National Stadium. As the Red Devils began first International Champions Cup for the 2019/20 season.