The Premier League season is finally upon us. The lunchtime fixture on Saturday is an early treat for neutrals as two of the biggest clubs in the country meet. Leeds United travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. The visitors are hoping to consolidate their position in the top half of the table and challenge for European competition. Meanwhile, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will be expected to put in a bigger title challenge following some eye-catching summer transfer business.
In this fixture last season, Solskjaer showed his tactical intelligence to beat Leeds at their own game. He brought Dan James into the team to fill his front line with players comfortable in one-on-one duals. Due to Leeds playing with a man marking system, the home side looked to isolate the weakest defenders. It was a brave approach that left them open at the back, but Solskjaer trusted in the talent available to him. They ran out 6-2 winners in one of the more entertaining matches of the campaign. Despite some key players missing with injury, he will likely take a similar approach this weekend.
Leeds United were breath of fresh air last season. They are expected to push on, but they need to be wary of second season syndrome. Nobody expected Sheffield United to drop off in their second season. Although it would be a surprise for Leeds to follow in their footsteps, the first aim will be to stay up. Marcelo Bielsa is an excellent coach who will have learned from the heavy defeat at Old Trafford last season. This could be a good time to face Solskjaer’s men and he will know that.
Since arriving in England, Bruno Fernandes has averaged a goal or assist every 96.3 minutes.
Leeds United finished last season in great form. They only lost one of their last 11 Premier League matches.
There is now a star studded squad at Old Trafford. There will be a desire to challenge for the league title. The key to their chances will be Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese international has emerged as the talisman for Solskjaer and he will be hoping to lead his team to the top of the Premier League. Last season, he contributed 18 goals and 12 assists in the Premier League. Although rival fans like to talk about his reliance on penalties, there is no doubt that the midfielder is one of the best players in the division. He averaged 3.3 shots and 2.6 key passes per game. Against Leeds, he will be given space to influence the game. There is a great chance for the 26-year-old to start his season off in good form. Solskjaer will be without some of his key attackers. Marcus Rashford is injured, Jadon Sancho is being eased in and Edinson Cavani has only just returned to the country. There will be pressure on Fernandes to step up and he is a player that thrives in such circumstances.
The Brazilian was one of the best signings made in the Premier League last season. Raphinha will be hoping to impress again in front of supporters. There is a great environment at Leeds for attacking players to flourish. Some rumours emerged this summer about the Brazilian being targeted by bigger clubs, but a second season at Elland Road will benefit his development. Last season, he contributed six goals and nine assists. He averaged a goal involvement every 157.6 minutes. There will be hope that his numbers can improve in his second season, as he is now settled in the league. The 24-year-old certainly has the quality to reach ten goals and ten assists in a single league season. Manchester United were caught at the beginning of last season. They could be vulnerable and Raphinha has the quality to take advantage if they are.
Jadon Sancho is a doubt and could miss the game on Saturday. Raphael Varane is still awaiting all the paperwork to go through, so can’t feature for Manchester United yet. Cavani won’t be available following his late entry to the country. Jesse Lingard, Alex Telles, Marcus Rashford and Dean Henderson are all missing due to injury.
Diego Llorente will be missing for the opening game due to a knee injury. Liam Cooper, Robin Koch and Pascal Struijk will all be in contention to start. Junior Firpo and Jamie Shackleton are both doubts for the opener.
It should be an entertaining match to start the proceedings on Saturday. The corresponding fixture last season was one of the best of the season, with both teams playing excellent attacking football. Leeds will hope that they are now more street wise following wins over other top six teams towards the end of the season. It is crucial that Manchester United start off with a win if they are to seriously challenge for the title. It will be a difficult home game, but they should have the quality to get the three points.
Manchester United 2-1 Leeds United