Salford City 0 Leeds United 3: Cup demons banished as Marcelo Bielsa's Whites set sights on real Manchester United rivalry

NEWPORT County, Sutton United, before that Histon.

Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 10:55 am
ON OUR WAY: Leeds United defender and captain for the night Gaetano Berardi races away to celebrate his side's second goal in the 3-0 win at Salford City in the Carabao Cup first round. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

Rochdale, Bradford City, Hereford. The list goes on.

Leeds United have become all too familiar to being the victims of cup shocks in recent years.

But not this time - not under Marcelo Bielsa - whose Whites eased into the second round of the Carabao Cup with a 3-0 victory at Salford City as the Roses rivalry with Manchester United was again renewed with this time United's fans enjoying their moment to wind up Salford co-owner Gary Neville.

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Salford are their own entity but there are no escaping the club’s Red Devils links.

Class of 92 Gary Neville, Phil Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs all hold ten per cent shares in the club each with Singaporean business and Valencia owner Peter Lim owning the other 40.

The Nevilles, Scholes, Butt and Giggs all invested alongside Lim in 2014. Four promotions in five years and a rise from the Northern Premier League First Division North to League Two has followed since.

That, in itself, led to the tie of the round in the Carabao Cup first round draw hosting Leeds - the biggest club we have ever faced admitted boss Graham Alexander.

Neville in particular was relishing it, stirring the pot tongue in cheek on social media.

David versus Goliath, the Manchester United backdrop, Sky TV and United’s unfortunate recent habit of suffering unexpected cup dumpings.

Tuesday night’s clash at the tightly packed 5,108 capacity Peninsula Stadium had just about every ingredient of a cup upset you would wish for.

Yet after surviving some early Salford pressure, United's class rose to the top as a first Whites goal for Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah, a rare strike for Gaetano Berardi and a gem of an effort from Mateusz Klich sealed an impressive 3-0 win.With their eyes very much on renewing the actual Manchester United rivalry with a place in the Premier League next year, Bielsa made seven changes to the side that started Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest with a view to Saturday’s clash at Wigan Athletic.

Yet the Whites lined up with a very strong side despite those changes as new Arsenal loanee striker Nketiah and fellow summer recruit Helder Costa both made their full Whites debuts.

Kiko Casilla, Ben White, Kalvin Phillips and Klich also started from the side that set out for Saturday's 1-1 draw against Forest with Berardi, Leif Davis, Gjanni Alioski, Jamie Shackleton and Jack Clarke brought into the side.

Patrick Bamford and Jack Harrison both featured amongst the substitutes along with Stuart Dallas, Robbie Gotts, Mateusz Bogusz, Alfie McCalmont and Kamil Miazek who was selected as the keeper option and not new recruit Illan Meslier.

Pablo Hernandez, club captain Liam Cooper, Adam Forshaw and Barry Douglas were all given the night off from the side that started against Forest.

Salford, though, evidently also had at least half an eye on Saturday's league hosting of Port Vale with boss Alexander making four changes.

Jake Beesley, son of former Leeds United defender Paul, started in support of Leeds-born striker Mani Dieseruvwe as last season's eye-catching signing from Aberdeen and eventual top scorer Adam Rooney had to settle for a place on the bench.Salford began brightly and after an early effort from Oscar Threlkeld was saved by Casilla, Davis had to be in the right place at the right time to head a cracking volley from Richie Towell off the line from under the bar.

Leeds were bossing possession but from a swift Salford counter, Casilla was forced to produce a strong save as Beesley unleashed a fierce low effort from the edge of the box.

The towering Dieseruvwe then sent a header over the bar but Leeds gradually began to then the screw with Phillips forcing Chris Neal to tip his rising shot from outside the box over the bar.

After swapping sides with Costa to good effect, Clarke then cut in from the left before also forcing a good stop from Neal but there was absolutely nothing the Salford keeper could do about United's classy 43rd-minute opener.

The lively Shackleton supplied a perfect defence-dissecting pass for Costa who then laid on an equally pinpoint ball across the face of the goal which left Nketiah with a tap in for his first goal for Leeds.

Salford attempted to rally and Danny Whitehead saw a decent attempt deflected wide before Carl Piergianni headed over from the resulting corner.

But Leeds again upped the ante after the break and after an early Nketiah effort had been deflected wide, United doubled their advantage from the most unlikely of sources as skipper for the night Berardi brilliantly flicked home a Costa corner in the 50th minute.

Klich should have added a third when only lobbing over the bar from close range five minutes later and Salford's Whitehead then forced two excellent saves from Casilla with powerful efforts from the edge of the box.

But Klich made no mistake when handed another opportunity from a flowing counter two minutes before the hour with the Pole resisting any temptation to square the ball to Nketiah and unleashing an absolute peach into the top right corner.

Salford still weren't done and Towell's low drive produced another excellent save from Casilla before Joey Jones fired a good chance over with 15 minutes left.

By now, Salford boss Alexander had called upon the services of last season's top scorer Rooney as a 70th-minute substitute with Bielsa handing a Whites debut to highly rated 19-year-old midfielder Alfie McCalmont.

He joined the fray along with Bamford and Harrison as Clarke, Alioski and Nketiah were taken off with the result no longer in doubt.

Not that Salford were throwing in the towel with Berardi required to clear off the line after Casilla missed a punch.

Salford keeper Neal then denied a one-on-one Bamford at the other end before Casilla produced yet another excellent save to deny Towell with Rooney first to the rebound but heading wide of the post.

Salford definitely deserved at least a goal for their efforts. Neville and his class of 92 mates also deserve great credit for taking Salford up four divisions in five years.

Lim admitted earlier this summer that the long term aim is to continue the ascendancy all the way to the Premier. One day perhaps.

Leeds, though, will be hoping to see Neville's actual former club again next year.

Carabao Cup wise, job done at Salford and now on to the latest step to the top flight at Wigan in three days' time.

Leeds United: Casilla, Berardi, White, Davis, Alioski (Harrison 78), Shackleton, Phillips, Klich, Clarke (McCalmont 70), Costa, Nketiah (Bamford 78). Subs not used: Miazek, Dallas, Gotts, Bogusz.

Salford City: Neal, Touray, Threlkeld (Gaffney 62), Piergianni, Maynard, Towell, Whitehead, Dieseruvwe (Rooney 70), Pond, Jones, Beesley (Lloyd 69). Subs not used: Letheren, Wiseman, Jones, Smith.

Referee: Keith Stroud.