Super-sub Jadon Sancho rescues point for Man Utd and denies Leeds precious win
By James Ducker at Old Trafford
There were two comebacks in one for Manchester United to celebrate here. It has been a tough road to mental and physical recovery for Jadon Sancho after three months out of the picture this season. But the sight of the England winger popping up to score the goal that earned Erik ten Hag’s side a precious point after they found themselves 2-0 down early in the second half to Leeds United must have felt cathartic for both player and club.
The deafening noise that greeted the sight of Sancho sneaking a shot under Illan Meslier to make it 2-2 was a reflection both of its importance and Old Trafford’s delight at seeing him back in the fold and flourishing. This was Sancho’s only second appearance since returning to the squad after a long “reset” period away from the club that Ten Hag, despite a shortage of attacking options, had felt was necessary to try to get the best out of the player in the longer term.
It would have been easy for Ten Hag to ask Sancho to just get on with it but the Manchester United manager sensed something more drastic was required to help a player in a fragile state in terms of form, confidence and morale. Time will tell how beneficial Sancho’s programmed absence has been but it has been an encouraging start. After being struck down by illness at the weekend, Sancho was not considered quite ready to start against Leeds. But he came off the bench to help swing this game back in United’s favour and keep managerless Leeds waiting for a first league win since early November.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed this feeling! Team showed great character to stay in the game, we go again on the weekend. 💪🏼 pic.twitter.com/UOFQQWxhLm
— Jadon Sancho (@Sanchooo10) February 8, 2023
This was the third successive game in which United enjoyed an immediate uplift in attack when Wout Weghorst made way and, with Sancho available again, it is hard to see how Ten Hag can continue to persist with the Netherlands striker. Ten Hag’s hand may have been forced in the transfer window last month, given the lack of money to sign a permanent replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo, but Weghorst is looking precisely what he is: a cheap, emergency loan signing.
The need for a top centre-forward in the summer is pressing, with United weighing up Harry Kane and Victor Osimhen, but until then United may be better placing their faith in Marcus Rashford through the middle with the likes of Sancho and Alejandro Garnacho or Antony either side. There will be occasions when Weghorst can do a job but, once again, he contributed little here. Contrast that to Sancho and Rashford, who pulled a goal back when he hung in the air in peak Ronaldo fashion to superbly head Diogo Dalot’s cross into the top corner.
Sancho’s equaliser owed much to Luke Shaw’s brilliance. The left-back was running away from goal when he turned sharply and then surged the other way before exchanging a one-two with Sancho. Shaw’s cross inside the box was blocked but the ball deflected into the path of Sancho, who shot low past Meslier.
Without the suspended Casemiro and injured Christian Eriksen, United lacked composure in midfield and Ten Hag, his side having conceded after just 55 seconds, could not believe they then shot themselves in the foot again so soon after the restart.
He had stressed the importance of a strong opening and will certainly hope for better when the teams meet again at Elland Road on Sunday. There had been 20 goals in the previous four league meetings between these sides and it very quickly became apparent that this was going to be another game not short on drama. It is fair to say Patrick Bamford will have been a lot happier than he was during the 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest at the weekend. In what proved Jesse Marsch’s final game in charge before his sacking on Monday, Bamford had complained about being isolated and a lack of runners. There were no such issues here.
United simply were not ready for their opponents’ explosive start and, when Bruno Fernandes was hounded out of possession by a combination of Tyler Adams and Pascal Struijk, Wilfried Gnonto was well positioned to play a one-two with Bamford, sweep inside Fred and thump a bullet shot low into the corner.
Michael Skubala, Leeds’s caretaker manager, had made only two selection changes but the trick was to deploy Jack Harrison through the middle as a false nine, pushing Bamford to an inside-right position and keeping a terrier-like midfield three, in which the American pairing of Adams and Weston McKennie excelled, compact. It took Ten Hag’s side a good 20 minutes before they started asking their own questions.
Garnacho had already gone close before having a shot cleared off the line by Maximilian Wober and then Meslier did well to claw away a Marcel Sabitzer shot. Given they lost both Luis Sinisterra and Struijk to injury inside 23 minutes, Leeds reorganised impressively and what a game it was: chaotic, fast-paced and full-blooded as tackles flew in. Leeds’s second came after the hosts had failed to clear and Robin Koch switched it wide to Gnonto. Crysencio Summerville slipped in behind Dalot and his intended cross was turned into his own net inadvertently by Raphael Varane. Step forward Rashford and Sancho.
Manchester United vs Leeds United: As it happened
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag's thoughts
Mixed feelings. Of course in the end we were happy to win a point - but we dropped two points. It’s a very bad start, unacceptable, especially in a derby you have to be ready to battle and take responsibility. We didn't do that."
Did the quick start surprise the players? "It looked like it but not me. [We knew] they will go aggressive, front foot, against a team on a good run they'll try to get into duels and that's what they did.
We created great chances. Garnacho twice. Sabitzer. The header of Raphael. At half-time we had to equalise. If you start the second half the same as the first half you make it really difficult.
I have to complement the team and resilience to fight back. We made two great team goals.
On bringing Jadon Sancho on:
I wanted a different dynamic. In that moment we weren't in the game. Luckily it succeeded because we scored two goals. Very happy. He's all the way back. We know he's a magnificent player. I think consistently he can have a big impact. But he has to work hard. It will motivate him to get more. I really enjoyed it, especially for him. It will strengthen him.
If you play a derby you need a different attitude. You have to start and be ready and take responsibilty, win your battles and be composed on the ball.
Leeds caretaker manager Michael Skubala speaks
Tough place to come. They are a good team. I'm really proud of the performance of the players. They worked hard. I thought we did enough to win the game.
[We put] a lot of emphasis to be aggressive and not be passive. We did that really well.
I think he [Wilfried Gnonto] is pivotal to the team. We're a team, we stick together. They stuck to the plan today."
On Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie
I thought they were good and strong. When they got yellow cards, professionally they saw the game out.
They [Man Utd] have quality with the ball. We did really well without the ball. We have to respect their quality.
They can be proud and we can take a lot. We have to go again on Sunday.
On the current manager situation
I've just been busy with this game. That's up to the board. I hope the fans and club can be proud.
Wilfred Gnonto reacts
We did a really good game. We tried to stay together and fight together. We proved we have a top team. It's a little bit mixed emotions because we wanted to win.
We always want to start games well. We want to show the opponents we're there and want to win. Of course it went well but we conceded two goals at the end. It's a shame.
I don't really know. When we go into a game we try to do our best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I don't think we did something differently.
Today was a positive game. We showed we have character. From now on we try to show our character. We can beat anybody.
FT: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
It's all over at Old Trafford.
Sancho's first Premier League goal since September rescues a point for the home side.
And managerless Leeds are able to hang for a 2-2 draw even with Ten Hag's side threatening a winner in the dying minutes.
90+4: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
That was great play from Ayling, who cuts out Shaw's ball forward to Sancho. So, so crucial as there was so much space behind the Leeds back line.
90+1: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
Five minutes have been added on.
The ball nicely breaks for Fred, but again his shot is saved by the Leeds 'keeper.
It's another poor shot from the Brazilian midfielder.
88 min: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
What a brilliant run from Sancho down the left-hand side, as he cuts the ball back to Fred but the Brazilian's shot is blocked.
85 min: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
Junior Firpo makes a clumsy challenge on Fernandes and the hosts win a free-kick... but Rashford scuffs at the chance.
82 min: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
Man Utd still have eight minutes to find a winner. It appears Linedolf is playing in midfield for the hosts.
79 min: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
Ten Hag brings on Lindelof and Malacia for Dalot and Sabitzer.
76 min: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
What a save from Leeds 'keeper Meslier!!! Fernandes whips the ball in and Varane makes good contact with a goal-bound header, but Meslier tips the ball over to deny United a third goal.
73 min: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
The hosts have their tails up and Adams has to block a Sabitzer shot. Manchester United are pushing for a winner here.
70 min: Manchester United 2 Leeds United 2
The hosts are level and it's substitute Sancho with the equaliser. What a huge moment for the 22-year-old who has struggled in recent months and only made his return to the squad, after extended leave, last week.
67 min: Manchester United 1 Leeds United 2
Rashford has started this half so sharply. He almost serves up a chance for Fernandes down the left-hand side as United chase an equaliser.
64 min: Manchester United 1 Leeds United 2
Leeds hit the post with a free-kick from distance as they push for a third goal.
62 min: Manchester United 1 Leeds United 2
Only a few moments ago, I spoke about how Rashford needed to produce a moment of magic to get his side back into the game... and he has only gone and done it!
The forward scores an outstanding header for the hosts but credit must go to Pellistri who was brilliant down the right-hand side.
59 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 2
Fred produces a teasing ball into the box but sadly nobody is there to meet it. United captain Bruno Fernandes throw his hands up in utter frustration.
56 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 2
Ten Hag is making two changes, Sancho and Pellistri making their way onto the pitch. Weghorst and Garnacho are coming off for the hosts.
52 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 2
The ball falls nicely to Rashford on the left flank, and he cuts inside, but his shot is wide of the post.
The England star needs to produce a moment of magic if his side is going to get back into this game.
48 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 2
GOOOOAAAAL! Varane OG
Leeds have started so sharply again this second half. Summerville shoots, with Varane deflecting the ball into his own goal.
What an awful start to both halves for Ten Hag's side.
47 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Sancho is warming up for Manchester United, which suggests a change for Ten Hag's side is coming sooner rather than later.
45 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
We are underway again at Old Trafford.
HT: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Leeds United's goal came inside the first minute as Gnonto fired from the edge of the box to score after just 55 seconds.
45+5 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
There is a shout for a penalty as Summerville glides past Martinez and then goes down inside the penalty area.
The referee stops the game to talk with Var... but no penalty is given.
45+2 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Martínez has left Bamford on the floor after a collision. He did appear to catch the striker in the face with his studs but is protesting his innocence to the referee.
44 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Good news for Leeds fans, Gnonto is back on and appears to be moving freely.
Eight minutes added-on time at Old Trafford.
41 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Goalscorer Gnonto is now down injured for the visitors. Martinez won the ball but appeared to catch the 19-year-old.
37 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Garnacho is in miles of space out on the left but loses possession to Ayling - and then fouls the Leeds defender.
33 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
It is now all United, with Garnacho causing chaos down the channels for the hosts.
30 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
What a chance for Sabitzer but a brilliant save from Leeds goalkeeper Meslier to deny him.
27 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
The hosts have responded well and are turning the screw on Leeds. Garnacho is causing real problems for the visitors.
25 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
There is a real edge to this game as Fred and Garnacho are both on the end of crunching tackles.
22 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Leeds United defender Pascal Struijk is receiving treatment after Marcus Rashford's shot hit him straight in the head.
The club's physios are conducting their concession checks with Junior Firpo warming up in case.
He appears dazed with the right decision being made on the pitch with Firpo coming on.
19 min Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Manchester United are improving with Dalot and Garnacho causing problems out wide.
And what a big chance for the hosts! Dalot feeds the ball into Fernandes down the right-hand side. He crosses and Garnacho has time at the back post to bring the ball down and pick his spot. However, he fires just wide.
16 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
The hosts register their first chance of the match and it's from Sabitzer. Varane and Martinez are unable to get proper shots away but the ball lands nicely for Sabitzer, who volleys over from the penalty spot.
13 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Leeds are inches away from going 2-0 up. Harrison swings in a sublime cross, following a short corner, but Struijk is unable to get his header right and De Gea tips the ball away.
10 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
The visitors are ripping Manchester United apart with Gnonto just unable to find Harrison with a return ball.
7 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
An early substitution and Sinisterra's day is done at Old Trafford. The visitors bring on Summerville who cannot quite believe he's coming on after just seven minutes played with Leeds leading.
4 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
19-year-old Gnonto has been excellent for Leeds in recent weeks and he's started this game so brightly.
It was a superb finish into the bottom-left corner.
1 min: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
Oh wow, Leeds have stunned Old Trafford into silence! Gnonto with the strike.
The visitors pressed aggressively and Gnonto was excellent in his link-up with Bamford. Manchester United were far too open.
Manchester United 0 Leeds United 0
The hosts gets the ball rolling and we are underway!
Here they come...
The two teams make their way out to the halfway line for the handshakes. The Premier League anthem blasts out around Old Trafford.
The atmosphere is building inside Old Trafford
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The warm-ups are underway
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Here's how the hosts line-up.
Erik ten Hag has made three changes since his side's 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace last weekend. There is a first start for Marcel Sabitzer who joins Fred in midfield whilst Alejandro Garnacho also comes in to replace Anthony. Diago Dalot returns to the team at right-back in place of Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Here's how Leeds United line up this evening. There are just two changes to the Leeds team that lost 1-0 to Nottingham Forest in their last game. Weston Mckennie and Robin Koch replace both Liam Cooper and Marco Roca who drop out.
Manchester United starting XI: De Gea, Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Fred, Sabitzer, Fernandes; Rashford, Weghorst, Garnacho.
Substitutes: Heaton, Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia, Mainoo, Pellistri, Z. Igbal, Elanga, Sancho.
Leeds United starting XI: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Wober, Struijk; Adams, McKennie; Sinisterra, Harrison, Gnonto; Bamford
Substitutes: Robles, Firpo, Kristensen, Gyabi, Greenwood, Aaronson, Summerville, Joseph, Georginio.
Good evening from Old Trafford
Welcome to live coverage of Manchester United vs Leeds United with kick-off at 8pm (BST).
Erik ten Hag will look to stretch his sides winning run at Old Trafford to 14 games in all competitions as they host managerless Leeds United- the first of two meetings for both clubs in the space of the week.
Both fixtures could have huge consequences towards both ends of the Premier League table. Manchester United are hoping to enter into the title race whilst their opponents Leeds United are fighting to avoid relegation.
Jesse Marsch's brief tenure at the club ended on Monday after a run of poor form. The American leaves the club sitting 17th in the Premier League table and out of the relegation zone but on goal difference only.
The backroom trio of Michael Skubala, Paco Gallardo and Chris Armas take temporary charge of the team tonight until a replacement can be found.
Ahead of tonight's match, Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani said the club needs more time in their hunt for a new manager after Marsch's departure.
The Italian had hinted on Tuesday evening that an announcement by the club was imminent, saying: "We are on it. Hopefully white smoke by Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning."
However, the club are yet to announce an successor.
The visitors have not won a league game since November and their last outing ended in a narrow 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest.
Whilst, Manchester United can draw level on points with Manchester City tonight if they claim victory over Leeds United.
Erik ten Hag's side currently sit three points behind the current champions and eight points adrift of league leaders Arsenal.
However, ahead of tonight's kick-off Erik ten Hag has been dealt a blow, as his side will have to play without midfielder Casemiro.
The Brazilian was sent off in Manchester United's 2-1 win over Crystal Palace last weekend and is now suspended for the next three matches.
Stick with us for all of the team news, build-up, and interviews ahead of kick-off at 8pm.