Leeds United are growing in maturity, says Marcelo Bielsa

Another draw against one of the Premier League's big boys showed once again that Leeds United are learning as they go and very much belong in the top flight now.

Sunday, 25th April 2021, 6:51 pm
Marcelo Bielsa: Impressed with Leeds United's effort and energy.

While a goalless home draw with Manchester United will not live on as the most exciting of clashes between these two old rivals - particularly played in the still surreal behind closed doors atmosphere - it demonstrated that Marcelo Bielsa's men can live with the best.

The Reds edged it in terms of possession and chances, but with home goalkeeper Illan Meslier only forced into one serious save Leeds were never in danger of being hammered score-wise as they were at Old Trafford in the first meeting between the two sides this season.

As in the previous match against Liverpool it was hard work, effort and defensive skills rather than flowing football to catch the eye from the Whites and head coach Bielsa was delighted with what he saw from his players.

He said: “It was a very demanding game for us.

“For the game not to become unbalanced the team made a massive effort and this effort allowed the game not to become unbalanced.

“Even if they predominantly dominated, we managed that the chances on goal were similar even if they did have more of the ball to attack.

“What was touching or moving, was the effort the team made. If we didn’t bring this big energy, we wouldn’t be able to balance it.”

Bielsa highlighted the maturity his players showed.

He added: “The group of players have constructed a solid group.

“Throughout this time they’ve made errors and learned how to correct them. In the same way, they’ve learned to avoid errors that are avoidable.

“I have the feeling that there has been a growth in the maturity and experience to manage these games.”

The pattern of the game was set early with Leeds pushed back as the visitors looked to chase them down. But there were no great alarms as Mason Greenwood's header was tame and easily saved by Meslier and Bruno Fernandes's free-kick bounced to safety off England defender Harry Maguire.

Leeds had a big shout for handball in the area turned down by referee Craig Pawson and VAR ref Mike Dean after Jack Harrison's cross hit Luke Shaw. But it took the Whites 20 minutes before they managed their first effort - and that not much of one as Stuart Dallas miskicked on the edge of the box.

After Fernandes sent a free-kick over for the Reds Leeds had their first real chance with Dallas's low shot forcing keeper Dean Henderson into his first save.

Too many free-kicks and players going down too easily to win them spoiled the flow of the game and there was little further goalmouth action until right at the end of the first half.

After a high number of those free-kicks were on the edge of the home area Manchester finally came close to making one count as Marcus Rashford’s well struck shot was met by a superb flying save from Meslier.

From the resulting corner Maguire was then left unmarked only to send his header over.

The second half saw the game open up a little more with action at both ends. Helder Costa's low cross just evaded Leeds strikers before Fernandes hit a low shot wide at the other end.

A brilliant crossfield pass from Kalvin Phillips was then well controlled by Costa, who fired in a volley that was deflected inches over.

The temperature was rising with several hefty challenges bringing yellow cards and Leeds lost Costa to injury.

His replacement, Mateusz Klich, was quickly involved, latching onto Patrick Bamford’s ball to get in behind the visitors' defence only to see his attempted chip saved by Henderson.

Seconds later Luke Ayling saw a long range shot saved by the keeper.

Leeds did not manage any further efforts in the closing stages and it was their opponents who forced some late pressure. It came to nothing, however, with Greenwood's weak shot - easily saved by Meslier - their only effort.

Remarkably after this result Leeds have now drawn all five of their home games against the so-called big six teams this season - with Tottenham still to come.

Leeds United 0

Manchester United 0

Premier League

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Alioski; Phillips; Costa (Klich 72), Dallas, Roberts (Koch 76), Harrison (Poveda 68); Bamford.

Man Utd: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred (Van de Beek 89); James (Pogba 76), Fernandes, Rashford (Cavani 85); Greenwood.

Referee: Craig Pawson