I had resigned myself that 2021 would be the first year since 1992 that I wouldn’t visit Old Trafford, but the opportunity to take in the opening game of the season against Leeds United came up, so I went for it, even though I did have anxieties about attending such a large scale event.
A lot of things have changed since my last visit to Old Trafford in January 2020, a 2-0 defeat to Burnley. It was grim.
My recent United watching record isn’t great, with two defeats in my last three visits to Old Trafford, and just one win in four under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
He’d won every match in charge before I turned up against Burnley in January 2019. Don’t look at me as it it’s all my fault.
Things were to change a week after that Burnley with the signing of Bruno Fernandes. It’s not just his footballing ability, but his character, which has driven United forward.
That is what United have needed, a bit of balls and a bit of arrogance. In 2017-2018, they beat every side in the Premier League, then beat Juventus and PSG the following season, yet still seemed inhibited, allowing themselves to be gaslighted by Scouse Journalists that they were a club in crisis, a club in decline.
Liverpool were scraping 4th on the last day of the season, but sticking slogans on buses and acting like they’ve won The Treble every year for a decade.
It’s amazing what a positive mental attitude can do. It’s felt like at times that teams have been scared of Liverpool and Manchester City.
United needed to issue a few thrashings early in the season, although a 1-0 lead would have sufficed in this fixture.
This wouldn’t be my first time seeing Leeds at Old Trafford. Curiously, the previous time i’d taken in this fixture, it was on Saturday 14th August as well, in 1999.
Back then, David O’Leary’s young team were going to be the team were going to be the Team Of The 21st Century, taking on the newly crowned Treble winners.
That game too was a lunchtime kick-off, although I only found that out when I got my ticket the day before. It was moved on Police advice, as it wasn’t broadcast live in the UK, so i’d assumed it would be 3pm.
Leeds were actually the better team but it was two quickfire goals from Dwight Yorke that secured the points for the home side on a day which saw both sunshine and torrential rain.
This would be my first time seeing Bruno Fernandes in the flesh, but it wouldn’t be my first time seeing Edinson Cavani in a United shirt, with a late return after the Copa America and Quarantine ruling him out.
There would be no new signings in United’s starting eleven, beginning with players who were at the club last season.
Just before kick-off, Raphael Varane walked out onto the pitch to introduce himself to United fans, his transfer now being officially official.
You can’t be too sure. I was there when Ruud Van Nistelrooy was unveiled as a United player, only for concerns to be raised about his knee during a medical which caused United to pull out of a transfer. Although, it was all eventually sorted a year later.
At least Varane didn’t go out in a tracksuit top and shorts, juggling a football like Michael Knighton.
Involvement in England’s Euro 2021 campaign meant that Jadon Sancho had to make do with a place on the bench alongside Tom Heaton. It just would have been rude not to mention Tom Heaton amongst United’s Summer signings.
Inside the first couple of minutes, Scott McTominay burst forward and had a shot saved, obviously determined to repeat his early double in this fixture last season.
United’s biggest attacking threat in the early stages was Mason Greenwood, usually involved in everything, being available for a pass, and scaring Leeds defenders by running them. A few shots easily saved was a warning.
Greenwood was one of three Yorkshire born players in United’s starting eleven. They all seemed especially up for it, typified by Dan James going in for a crunching tackle inside the first five minutes.
United’s early pressure looked like it was going to be rewarded when Paul Pogba was played through, set himself up with the keeper closing him down. but fired wide when Old Trafford was expecting a goal
More agonisingly for United was the number of crosses that were just evading the oncoming attacker.
Leeds weren’t totally anonymous as an attacking threat, the best they offered was a shot from Mateusz Klich that was turned out for a corner.
Eventually, United’s pressure was rewarded when Bruno Fernandes was played in behind Leeds defence, his first time shot eventually sneaking into the net, just as it looked like Leeds keeper had done enough to save it.
United were on a roll, with Dan James just firing wide, looking to silence chants from the away ned of “You’re too shit to play for Leeds”. He was doing well enough in this game for United.
Luke Shaw was continuing his good form, being mostly based on the left hand side, just outside Leeds penalty area, such was the one way traffic as United went into the break 1-0 up.
A satisfactory first-half for United, but they needed a second (maybe even a third) goal just to have of breathing space.
There would be a goal early in the second-half, but it would come for Leeds, a long range strike from Luke Ayling that nobody saw coming to make it 1-1.
Now this was a test for United. Which way was this going to go?
Too many times in the past eight years, it has gone the wrong way.
The response from United was emphatic.
Within a matter of minutes, they were back in front when Mason Greenwood got in behind Leeds defence and fired home. There wasn’t even a debate about the outcome, despite the wide angle.
It was a continuation of Greenwood’s impressive form at the end of last season. Even more impressive that it was an injury that disrupted him inbetween as opposed to the close season.
Long may that continue, especially with Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani currently unavailable.
Soon afterwards, it was 3-1, when Bruno Fernandes dummied to shoot, took Leeds keeper out of the game, despite an attempted clearance by a Leeds defender, who was behind the line rather than on it.
Due to this, there was a slight delay in Old Trafford’s celebrations.
And then, it was 4-1, Bruno Fernandes got in behind Leeds defence and smashed home. Start as you mean to go on.
1-1 to 4-1 in eight minutes. Now that’s what I call a statement of intent..
United weren’t finished there, as Fred fired home to make it 5-1, and four goals in sixteen minutes, an average of a goal every four minutes.
If they started the game like this, they would have won 22-0, and might have made it 23-0 depending on the amount of injury time. Might as well find something to complain about.
Do you remember when Paul Scholes scored a volley from a corner against Bradford City?
Well, time to feel old. That’s the day that Jadon Sancho was born.
With the three points in the bag, it was time to bring him on. He showed some neat touches, but the attacking intensity was there like it was earlier in the game due to the game being won. A nice way to ease yourself in.
It looked liked Leeds were going to get a goal back when Raphina fired wide with only De Gea to beat.
So, a good start for United. Long may it continue.
It is important to dish out a few thrashings to bring about a fear factor, so this was welcome.
When will I be back at Old Trafford? I’m not sure.
I do have my eye on the Brighton game before Christmas, but i’ll monitor how things are going before deciding.
It was hoped that this would be my second United game of the season, after taking in the European Super Cup Final against Chelsea.
The less said about why United weren’t playing in that, the better.
Hopefully, this will put Windsor Park in a good position to bid to host the Euro Conference Final in the next few years.
And talking of the Euro Conference, for crying out loud Linfield, just put the ball in the back of the net. We should have beaten Fola Esch comfortable.
To make it worse, we got denied a Thursday afternoon game I could watch while working. The dream. Oh well, onto Crusaders at the end of the month.
Normally, at this time of year, I go to Edinburgh, but I gave it a miss as the city will be a free for all. I do hope to visit Scotland at some point in the next six months. I think i’ll live at missing out on Hibs v Kilmarnock and Edinburgh City v Hearts B.
As i’m going to Brighton in November, it means i’ll miss out on Northern Ireland v Italy as I leave that day.
I’ll take it on a game by game basis for Switzerland and Lithuania.
Honestly, I can’t say i’d feel totally confident at being around some of our support in this current situation.
You know the sort, The Rugby Brigade. Football matches are the only time they’re allowed out of the house, so they get so full they can’t walk an hour before kick-off, shout “GREEN AND WHITE ARMY” out of tune and can’t sit in the correct seat. Probably think they are a “geg”.
Definitely go on the Beer Bikes once a month and RT posts by LAD. Geg.
Eighteen months into this, i’m pretty good at identifying people who look they are riddled and to be avoided. They fall into that category. An absolute embarrassment.
I know that every team has embarrassing supporters, but this lot are next level.
Let’s face it, Eventsec won’t do anything about them.
Finally, i’m quite excited about visiting Harland and Wolff’s new ground.
The big opening should have been a few weeks back, but they’ve been switching their games.
Good job I spotted that on Twitter as I was tempted to go to their match against Newry a few weeks back.
The new date is set for September. I’m sure things will align where they will be at home when Linfield have a free Saturday.
Pre-season for Linfield will conclude with a friendly against Dungannon Swifts on Saturday. I’ll give that a miss.
Now, if they could arrange one away to Bray when i’m there next week.
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