Manchester United fell just short of another memorable comeback, overcoming a 0-2 deficit to draw 2-2 with Leeds United on Wednesday evening. Sloppy starts to each half left them in a hole, but they were able to equalize through goals from Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho. They tried and tried for a winner in the final minutes, but were unable to complete the comeback against their longtime rivals.
Leeds pressed high from the start, and within a minute scored the first goal of the game. Tyler Adams pressured Bruno Fernandes into giving the ball away, and they found Wilfried Gnoto up near the edge of the box. He created space for himself and hit a great shot low and past David De Gea.
The visitors nearly doubled their lead in the 10th minute, with a cross flicked on towards the back post towards Struijk. In the end De Gea got a hand in just in time to swipe it away, but it was indicative of the pressure United were under early on.
United finally got forward a bit after the first 10 minutes, and a free kick nearly fell for Marcel Sabitzer to volley. Shaw’s cross into the area bounced around a bit before falling to the Austrian, who just couldn't hit it cleanly as he sent it over the bar. It was however a start of a period of positive possession for the Reds. Alejandro Garnacho had a chance a few minutes later on the end of a quick break, and probably should have equalized, but sent his shot just wide of the post.
Garnacho had another chance, this time one on one. Meslier charged out, and Garnacho got around but couldn’t fire his shot past the defenders who had gotten to the goal line just in time to cover for their keeper. Leeds were holding on, but United were becoming frustrated as an end product contined to elude them. A header from Varane, and another near wonder strike from Sabitzer were both palmed away by Meslier, and halftime couldn’t come soon enough for the Yorkshire side.
Eight minutes of stoppage time added to the end of the first half, due to a couple of Leeds players going down for extended periods, but the game grew more frustrating for the Reds. Garnacho in particular struggled with Ayling, and the ball didn’t find Marcus Rashford nearly enough on the right hand side. Wout Weghorst was absent from the action as well, and it seemed pretty clear a change would have to be made in the second half to refresh the front line.
The situation quickly became more pressing as Leeds doubled their lead at the start of the second half. Summerville’s cutback pass deflecting in off of Varane’s foot and past De Gea was a frustrating but probably fitting lapse on the defensive side, and suddenly the game was even further out of reach.
The reshuffling brought on Jadon Sancho and Facundo Pellistri for Wout Weghorst and Alejandro Garnacho, moving Rashford central, and the payoff came quickly. A cross in from the right was a perfect height for him to head home past Meslier, and it was game on in front of the Stretford End. Dalot and Pellistri looked quite comfortable operating on the right, and the center forward role continues to suit Rashford much better than anyone would’ve thought coming into this season.
Marcus Rashford scores AGAIN!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 8, 2023
That's his sixth straight home Premier League match with a goal.
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Leeds nearly struck back immediately, with a Brenden Aaronson free kick bouncing back off the upright as De Gea looked on helplessly. It was a big let off, but the danger wasn’t done. Leeds seemed determined to ease the pressure on their defense, and United struggled to get the ball back at first.
They did eventually settle back into possession and control, and it resulted in a comeback goal for Jadon Sancho. A ball in towards Bruno Fernandes ricocheted off a defender, which Sancho attacked with a first time hit through the crowd and past Meslier to make it 2-2.
Jadon Sancho is BACK!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 8, 2023
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The games slowed down a bit after the equalizer, partly due to Leeds’ more defensive approach, though they did get forward a couple times. A free kick was awarded in about the 86th minuted after a hard challenge on Bruno Fernandes, whose low cross nearly found Rashford if not for a touch by Weston McKennie to knock it away for Meslier to claim.
Sancho created another opportunity a couple minutes later, cutting it back to Fred after dribbling to the byline, but the Brazilian couldn’t get it through the crowd. As the game moved into stoppage time the chances dried up. Leeds were holding on desperately to prevent a complete comeback, and they succeeded in the end.
A point a piece is probably a fair result given the sloppiness on United’s part, but they’ll be very disappointed not to have finished the job after equalizing with 20 minutes to play.
They’ll get a chance at redemption on Sunday when the two sides meet again for the return fixture at Elland Road.