The tactical problems Manchester United pose Leeds United - Paul Pogba, defensive solidity and a friendly structure

In the latest in a series for the Yorkshire Evening Post, Jon Mackenzie takes a deeper look at Leeds United's next opponents - Manchester United.

Saturday, 24th April 2021, 4:10 pm
Manchester United celebrate at Old Trafford. Pic: Getty

A lot has changed since Leeds got turned over by Manchester United at Old Trafford in the first fixture between these two sides.

In many respects, that game proved to be the turning point for Marcelo Bielsa, who has implemented a slightly more pragmatic approach in the wake of that result.

Now, Leeds play a little more mute in their pressing, particularly in the midfield areas, where Stuart Dallas now operates more as a zonal player than a man marker.

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The question is: will it make a difference against a Manchester United team who have proven to be a little bit harder to beat in the second half of the season?

Here are three aspects of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s system to look out for on Sunday:

1. Harder to break down?

Last time around, Manchester United were able to pull the Leeds United midfield around at will to such an extent that Kalvin Phillips got hooked at half-time.

Much of the problems that day were caused by Rodrigo’s struggles in the press, and since then, Bielsa has approached things a little more pragmatically with Dallas’ more permanent shift into the midfield area.

The return fixture on Sunday, then, is a real test of whether the new system can stand up to a test that the old system failed so badly.

2. A friendly structure

For most of the season, Manchester United have played in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

This structure suits Leeds quite well because it allows them to match up player for player through their own 4-1-4-1 formation with the two midfields aligning quite nicely.

Of course, player for player, Manchester United certainly have the capacity to cause problems within this structure all over the pitch.

But this time around, let’s hope the more muted press is better equipped to deal with them.

3. The Pogba prospect

Paul Pogba didn’t play the last time these two teams faced one another.

For many Leeds fans, Pogba is probably less worrying that his team-mate Bruno Fernandes. Fernandes, as we know, is an incredibly creative player, using his passing to get the ball into dangerous areas.

Pogba, however, is a slightly different prospect.

Operating from the wide left areas, he has the capacity to force the issue in games, generating good chances through sheer ability on the ball.

If Leeds can keep him quiet, they’ll go a long way towards keeping Manchester United quiet.