Manchester United faced Leeds last weekend at Elland road to grab the easy 3 points, only to settle for a draw. On an afternoon when Manchester City was all but handed the title, the home team settled in on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side who couldn’t move a bit.
Marcelo Bielsa does not have a backup plan. His plan B is to improve on plan A, or is this result indicative of Leeds' maturation as a Premier League team? The first clash between these two teams was a full thrashing, with United coming out 6-2, as winners. On the reverse, the 90 minutes at Elland Road demonstrated the true tactical discipline and further evidence of Bielsa's brilliance. The Argentine coach has transformed Leeds into a team that can defeat Manchester City with 10 players and keep United to their standards while still having a Championship squad and a comparatively low budget. This wasn't a fluke; Leeds defended beautifully, keeping to their game plan and denying a few of the division's finest attacking talents a sniff at the goal. It wasn't pretty to watch, but this is exactly the kind of match Bielsa would enjoy.
VAR ≠ Consistency?
In certain ways, it feels good to be talking about real football once more. Following the events of the previous week, which highlighted the game's greater depredations off the field, this weekend has shown that there are several issues on the field as well. The most important is VAR and the game's rules. Video Assistant Referee fans have had a field day this weekend, with a slew of perplexing actions in the round. We thought it couldn't get any worse than Arsenal's offside on Friday, but then Callum Wilson had a goal disallowed for offside at Anfield. And, to top it off, Luke Shaw handled the ball inside the Leeds area this afternoon but escaped punishment. Even when, referee Craig Pawson's request for VAR to examine the replays more closely were followed.
It was a perplexing decision, particularly given the decision against Wilson just over 24 hours prior. The lack of consistency among referees this season has been astounding, and it must improve for next season.
Lack of Fans
The Merseyside derby, Aston Villa vs Birmingham, Arsenal vs Spurs, and the Old Firm. These are among the most ferocious and intense derbies in British football, and Leeds vs Manchester United is up there with them. United's most-hated rivals may be Liverpool and Manchester City, but genuine heads know that Leeds has always been at the core of United's Hate List. That's why seeing this game at a deserted Elland Road felt so out of place and disheartening. We've been watching the Premier League without fans for 11 months now, and while we've grown accustomed to the sight of empty turnstiles, it's times like these that we miss the added spark of a rarefied atmosphere.
With Leeds competing in the Premier Season for the first time in 16 years, a raucous Elland Road, packed with passionate Yorkshire fans cheering on their team against their biggest rivals, would've been the perfect antidote to a dreadful year. Thankfully, Marcelo Bielsa has kept them in the Premier League for another season.