Red Devils revel in Perth winter


Tonight, in Perth, Lancashire’s Manchester United executed a resounding win against their old Yorkshire rivals Leeds United.

Leeds clung on well in the first half as they made several chances of their own in an open display of end to end football.

But they lacked the incisive penetration, control under pressure and mesmerising creativity that saw Manchester United convert their opportunities to goals.

The Lancashire behemoth’s performances have improved in each of the four halves of football they have played in the West Australian leg of their 2019 tour. It’s almost like they’ve played four games in Perth as they played a different starting XI in each half of their two games here.

Manchester United Coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, penned a love letter to Perth that was published in the local newspaper, The West Australian.

In it, he praised the hospitality the club have received stating “the local people have been as warm as the weather”, and doubted the assurances of the State Premier, Mark McGowan, that winter was like this in Perth every year. As a veteran of 14 West Australian winters, I can assure Ole that our top politician speaks the truth on this one.

But it was the Lancashire side who basked in the West Australian winter sun while Yorkshire’s finest were left in the shade, hoping for a better result at the weekend in Sydney.

Leeds, with their EPL pretensions, were given a hint of the standards they must reach if they win promotion from the English Championship next season.

Despite pre-match speculation, Paul Pogba started for the Manchester side with David De Gea out due to illness.

Pogba started despite transfer speculation. Photo: Chris Wilson/Prost

Both teams played in their traditional colours. Leeds in all white with Manchester United in red tops, white shorts and black socks.

The Perth public considered the Red Devils’ grey/off white strip, sported on Saturday against Perth Glory, to be somewhat lacking in sartorial elegance. So, it was surprisingly pleasing to see both adversaries in their customary garb.

Marcus Rashford set out his intentions early when he hit the post after 93 seconds.

The pace of Daniel James on the left was causing the Leeds defence terrible problems, giving Aaron Wan-Bissaka cover to play provider on the right, as 17-year-old Yorkshireman, Mason Greenwood, converted from close range to put Manchester United one up.

17-year-old Yorkshireman, Mason Greenwood, opened the scoring against Leeds. Photo: Chris Wilson/Prost

The Manchester menace continued as Pogba sent his free kick just wide of the right post. The free-kick arose due to Leeds defenders’ frustration at chasing the ball through Man United’s pretty triangular passing.

Solskjaer had ants in his pants tonight, constantly patrolling the coaching zone. It was sharp contrast to the Perth Glory game on Saturday night where he took 40 minutes to get out of his seat. This one obviously meant a lot to the Man United legend.

During the first quarter of the game the Red Devils played like men possessed but Leeds leaned on the ropes and gradually clawed their way back into the contest.

In the 21st minute, 22-year-old Leeds forward Jack Harrison came close but hit the side netting.

Leeds midfield playmaker, Kalvin Phillips was trying in vain to get into the game but he had three men on him every time he got the ball.

Leeds seemed to be labouring under a gulf in fitness as well as a gulf in class. Maybe the Manchester club were benefiting from their longer sojourn in Perth being less jetlagged and more acclimatised.

When the second goal came in the 27th minute it was no terrific surprise. Scottish midfielder Scott McTominay made a surging run through the middle and slipped it to Marcus Rashford on the left. Rashford had three defenders to contend with but a dummy inside swept them away as he buried it to Kiko Casilla’s left from an acute angle. 2-0.

With half an hour gone, it was hard to see a way back for Leeds. Their cultured opponents were peppering passes around like confetti.

An ironic cheer emanated from the Leeds end in the 35th minute as their favourites won their first free kick. But it came t’ nowt.

In the 41st minute Leeds displayed a wonderful sequence of play featuring Pablo Hernandez, Patrick Bamford and Phillips. They had three chances to convert in close succession but the Man United defence held firm.

In another episode of Rashford brilliance, he held off three  defenders and created the chance for the overlapping James, who hit Casilla’s right upright again.

Mata and Douglas await outcome of Rashford/Cooper aerial duel. Photo: Chris Wilson/Prost

As half time ended Manchester United were definitely on top but Leeds were still trading blows with them.

It was no wonder that Solskjaer was “having a chat” with his central defenders Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, presumably voicing his curiosity regarding how Leeds could have gone in level if they took their chances, despite the overwhelming dominance of the Red Devils.

Pity your poor reporting staff who have to get used to an entirely new Manchester United team for the second half. No? Thought not.

The 50th minute saw Leeds on the attack again.  A magnificent surging run from Harrison gave Leeds a chance to break their duck but the finish was, alas, not equal to his approach play.

A minute later, the result went beyond doubt. Doughty Manchester defender, Phil Jones, rose for a perfectly placed corner, taken by Belgian-born Brazilian Andreas Pereira, and nodded it home with an emphatic downward header, giving Catalonian keeper Casilla no chance. 3-0.

Scorer Phil Jones, here making a defensive clearance. Photo: Chris Wilson/Prost

In the 58th minute, Leeds finally got a clear-cut chance 10 yards out, but the unfortunate Harrison would have got six points in Australian football for his high and handsome effort.

In the 60th minute, we were treated to an Angelic dribble by Angel Gomes but his shot went just wide to the right.

A penalty was awarded to Manchester United in the 70th minute. Leeds captain Liam Cooper chopped down Tahith Chong, in a clumsy challenge borne of tiredness and frustration. Star French forward, Anthony Martial, converted sending Casilla the wrong way while stroking it to the left corner. 4-0.

In the dying minutes, Martial skinned his marker and made an opportunity for Tahith Chong, but there was just too much weight on the pass.

In injury time, a yellow card was dished out to Ashley Young. A totally needless and dangerous tackle on Adam Forshaw at this stage of the match. The incident caused a melee to evolve involving most of the players on the pitch, saliently highlighting the passion involved in tonight’s ‘friendly’ fixture.

Leeds struggled against both teams tonight. Marcelo Bielsa will have learned much about the problems posed by a successful 2019-20 season.

Manchester United coach Solskjaer will be encouraged by his performance and will dare to dream that next season will be less disappointing than last.

Marcus Rashford deservedly won Man of the Match.

Attendance at tonight’s game was 55,274. Just shy of last year’s Chelsea v. Perth Glory friendly which attracted 55,522, and Glory’s Grand Final in May against Sydney FC which recorded 56,371.

But with Perth blessed by winter sun, with airport, luxury hotel, stadium, training facilities and the city all in close proximity, West Australians can look forward to a glamour European club visiting each year. Liverpool are strongly rumoured to be the next visitors to these Indian Ocean shores.

Team Line-ups:

Manchester United: Sergio Romero, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood, Juan Mata, Daniel James, Marcus Rashford.

Subs: Joel Pereira, Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Axel Tuanzebe, Ashley Young, Andreas Pereira, James Garner, Angel Gomes, Nemanja Matic, Tahith Chong, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial.

Leeds United: Kiko Casilla, Stuart Dallas, Liam Cooper, Gaetano Berardi, Barry Douglas, Kalvin Phillips, Adam Forshaw, Jack Harrison, Pablo Hernandez, Kemar Roofe, Patrick Bamford.

Subs: Kamil Miazek, Bryce Hosannah, Clarke Oduor, Mateusz Bogusz, Jordan Stevens.

Referee: Shaun Evans


About Author

Scozzie reporting on A-League and other stuff from the Indian Ocean shores. St. Johnstone fan. Follow me on twitter @perthmcneela.

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