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Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1

January 4, 2010

Leeds United celebrate the early goal that led to a great victory - Sky Sports

Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
FA Cup Round 3
3rd January 2010
Old Trafford

In April last year, Sir Alex Ferguson was criticised by many for taking his club’s traditional FA Cup rotation policy to extremes after his Manchester United side were beaten on penalties by Everton in the semi-final at Wembley.

On that day United’s severely weakened side – including the da Silva brothers, Darron Gibson, Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda – held Everton to a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes. Yesterday a stronger team than that (again featuring Gibson, Welbeck, and Fabio da Silva, but also Berbatov, Rooney, Brown and Neville) fell at the Cup’s first hurdle against an efficient Leeds United.

Leeds showed why they are sitting comfortably at the top of League One, with neat passing and disciplined pressing, and Jermaine Beckford showed why he may he on his way to a higher division earlier than the rest of the team. He opened the scoring at the end of an even opening 20 minutes, latching onto a Jonny Howson long pass forward and slotting nicely past an advancing Kuszczak. A Beckford move this month looks likely.

The predictable United onslaught never materialised, as Gabriel Obertan and Danny Welbeck toiled without enough ability on the wings. Obertan got past the Leeds defence but rarely found a decent final ball, and Welbeck constantly turned onto his right foot when when a quick cross with his left looked necessary. The central midfield of Gibson and Anderson was ineffective and Leeds manager Simon Grayson will look back on the achievement as a notable tactical victory.

Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney could not inspire a lacklustre United - BBC

Wayne Rooney, so often United’s catalyst, came closest to scoring but was mostly poor. He was not helped by his strike partner Berbatov, who, some nicely weighted passes aside, looked unlikely to create anything decisive.

It was Leeds that created the best chances – in the second half Beckford shot wide as he got past Brown (who was fortunate not to be sent off for persistent fouling) too easily in the second half and substitute Robert Snodgrass hit the bar with a free kick.

Patrick Kisnorbo and Jason Crowe were solid at the back for the visitors and Gary Neville’s lack of pace was exposed down United’s right.

The introduction of Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia did little to help: Valencia, as Ferguson acknowledged later, was the only one in red who could be content with his performance, but he was not supported. Michael Owen, who came on with 20 minutes left, looks rusty despite his hat-trick in Wolfsburg and needs games. Whether he will be given them remains to be seen.

Leeds, though, survived sporadic United pressure for the final half-hour and certainly deserved their win in the team’s first meeting since February 2004. Then, Alan Smith equalised for the visitors in a 1-1 draw. How times change.

Last year Ferguson was berated for ‘devaluing’ the cup in front of 88,000 spectators, but in reality the decision was vindicated when United went on to win the league and reach the European Cup final.

Then, of course, he could rely on Cristiano Ronaldo to return and strengthen an already decent team. Now he cannot, as United stagger into the New Year and look to hold off a surge from Arsenal, lying closely behind with a game in hand.

However, a Ronaldo-less United lie two points behind league leaders Chelsea, are in the semi-final of the Carling Cup and have five weeks to prepare for the first knockout stage of the European Cup. They may not be playing very well but there’s little need to worry just yet.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. George Gilbert permalink
    January 4, 2010 9:28 pm

    Hi Ben,

    Like the blog, really well written and i think the analysis is also really good – i enjoyed your latest post. Keep up the writing.

    George

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