Raphinha's Old Trafford fury latest example of Leeds United winger's heart-on-sleeve nature

Manchester United had just scored again, Old Trafford was jubilant and Raphinha was angry.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 4:45 am
ANGRY MAN - Raphinha has worn his heart on his sleeve during games ever since joining Leeds United from Rennes last September. Pic: Getty

Leeds United’s winger was standing at the touchline near halfway letting Pablo Quiroga, one of Marcelo Bielsa’s assistants, know all about it.

The Brazilian engaging in an animated debate is not a new sight, nor is particularly rare. He often wears his heart on his sleeve and that has resulted in verbal exchanges with team-mates, match officials or even Bielsa himself.

At Manchester City last season Raphinha had just been felled by the most cynical of Fernandinho fouls, a challenge that would keep the Leeds man out of action for three games, and Bielsa was yelling at him to get up and play on.

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The head coach was watching his 10 men lead 2-1 going into the very final stages against the Premier League champions elect and presumably could see only a need to have every one of them on their feet, contributing to the defensive efforts. It was the kind of moment you anticipate cropping up, unprompted, in a future Bielsa press conference as he issues a lengthy apologetic explanation.

Raphinha’s response was to convey to his boss the message that he was, in fact, experiencing considerable pain.

On Saturday his fury was caused not by physical anguish but the mental kind, brought on by growing, relentless frustration.

A few moments after Leeds conceded that fourth goal Raphinha looked for all the world like a man whose head had gone entirely as he pursued Luke Shaw until he could foul him, one of three flicks of his boots doing the trick and earning him a yellow card.

At 4-1 down and in the middle of what was one of his worst appearances since a 2020 summer deadline day move to Elland Road, Raphinha was visibly fed up.

His mood, as revealed by his body language, only worsened as he strove to get back and stop Paul Pogba from finding Fred for the fifth.

The resignation in his gesture did not signal surrender, however.

He was not enjoying himself, he clearly despises losing, but at no stage were there any signs that he gave up.

Raphinha was not good by any stretch of the imagination, his passing was off and he came off a distinct second best in his duel with Shaw, yet he was still involved in almost all of the good things Leeds created.

Given his stellar debut season, with its six goals, nine assists and countless moments of brilliance, expectations are sky high for the 24-year-old.

When he picks up the ball at Elland Road this season there will be a buzz in the air, so the sight of so many wayward passes at Old Trafford was deflating for the adoring public he’s yet to fully meet.

A poor touch killed an early one-two with Robin Koch, a lazy pass to Pascal Struijk very nearly put Manchester United in for the opener and his attempted ball into an off-balance Rodrigo set the hosts away through the middle before Pogba sidefooted wide with only Illan Meslier to beat.

It was clear from early on that he didn’t fancy taking on and beating Shaw, spurning the first opportunity to do so - albeit without a huge amount of space to build up a head of steam - in favour of that problematic pass to Struijk.

Instead, Raphinha began to look inside, passing to the middle or cutting inside to try and switch the ball left.

He combined for a nice four-pass move with Rodrigo in Leeds’ first real attack and played a smart ball into space for Mateusz Klich to break away, the Pole eventually testing David Dea Gea from distance.

Shaw was sticking tight and not going away and what’s more, he was desperate to get forward himself as Leeds’ right flank creaked under the pressure.

The only real pressure Raphinha could exert in the first half, with his passing radar flickering off and on, was from set-piece situations.

A dangerous free-kick deserved a little more than Rodrigo’s off-target header and a nice cross from a short corner looked ideal for Koch, who couldn’t connect.

As the situation began to grind him down, Raphinha continued to ask for the ball, even if what he did next was unsuccessful more times than not.

Ironically it was from another over-hit switch to the left that Leeds ended up cancelling out Bruno Fernandes’ opener - Manchester United making a mess of their throw, Stuart Dallas feeding Luke Ayling and the right-back scoring a wondergoal.

Football giveth and it taketh away - a useful looking ball into the area from the boot of Raphinha was headed away and as Shaw picked it up the Brazilian made a move towards Pogba before deciding to cover the flank instead.

The ball, of course, went to the unmarked Pogba, he looked up and sent Mason Greenwood away and it was 2-1.

A third goal, then a fourth followed and Raphinha saw red, keeping himself in check just enough to be shown only yellow.

He was hopping mad, literally, yet still pressing, still sprinting to try and force turnovers and disrupt.

At 5-1 down he was haring back to his own area to cover the run of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, turning nicely to finally go past Shaw and then popping up in space to fire a glorious chance past the post.

Half a wry smile ghosted across his face in the wake of that one as he presumably made peace with the fact that it was one of those days.

On and on he went, however. In the final minutes there was a smart one-two with Junior Firpo, urgent running to press defenders and a lovely outside-of-the-boot ball into Tyler Roberts who probably should have had a penalty.

It cannot be said that Raphinha gave anything close to 100 per cent of his ability against Manchester United, but he gave all of his effort.

One disappointment is that he waited until the final minutes to try and beat Shaw on the outside. Leeds fans, who want to see him taking full-backs apart, can wonder ‘what if’ he had tested the full-back’s pace in the early minutes.

Few positions on the pitch hold such promise of excitement and joy as a winger. When the man holding down that spot has the speed and skill of Raphinha, a love affair is likely.

Saturday will allow him to introduce himself properly to Elland Road, against visitors in Everton who know all about his ability - he scored and caused problems in both meetings last season.

Whites fans will accept an angry Raphinha because they get it, they passionately hate losing too.

They’ll applaud a belligerent Raphinha who refuses to give in.

They’ll fall in love with the Raphinha who marries quality with effort.

If he shows the best of himself, he’ll see the best of Elland Road.