Manchester United

Man Utd's clash with Leeds settled by strange but effective substitutions

Jude Summerfield
A satisfying afternoon for Ralf Rangnick - eventually
A satisfying afternoon for Ralf Rangnick - eventually / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

Manchester United don't do things the easy way.

If you've seen anything from them in the last few years, you'll know they love to hit the self-destruct button.

In Sunday's clash with Leeds, it looked like more of the same. Even when they're 2-0 up, the club's fans won't rule out some kind of nonsense taking points off their side.

Headers from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had United 2-0 up and cruising, but a calamitous start to the second half saw Rodrigo score a freakish goal with a cross before substitute Raphinha converted at the back post for the equaliser.

At that point, there only looked to be one winner. With their fans behind them, all steaming up with their heads looking likely to explode, Leeds looked well set to go and grab a third and push themselves further away from the relegation zone.

Thankfully for United, they took the sting out of the contest until Ralf Rangnick played his hand.

In bringing off Paul Pogba for Fred, it looked like he was trying to win a poker hand with a 7-2 offsuit. The Frenchman had been running the show and ruining midfield opponent Adam Forshaw all afternoon, dribbling to his heart's content.

As one infamous visionary put it, it didn't scream "match-winning sub". It looked like United might have been happy to come away from a frantic encounter at Elland Road - turned even more ludicrous by the horrific weather - with another draw.

It wouldn't have helped their Champions League qualification cause, what with both Arsenal and Tottenham winning on Saturday, and while those changes seemed strange to the neutral sitting at home, they turned out to be deadly effective.

Type 'much-maligned Fred' into Twitter and you'll find plenty of posts from enraged United fans, but on Sunday night he'll be the toast of the red side of Manchester as they tuck into their roast dinners with a healthy glass of red Beaujolais wine.

The Brazilian midfielder charged into the box to smash past Illan Meslier from Jadon Sancho's perfectly-weighted lay-off, reestablishing the lead the Red Devils had so carelessly thrown away at the start of the second half.

Rangnick has come under pressure for overseeing a few too many 1-1 draws but on this occasion the hand that looked like a 7-2 offsuit turned out to be a royal flush. (Slight disclaimer: this writer actually knows nothing about poker).

Anthony Elanga, who came on alongside Fred in the 67th minute, later put the seal on the victory as Fernandes slid him in and the 19-year-old tucked the ball past Meslier.

On a day where Cristiano Ronaldo and Jesse Lingard - the latter making his first league start of the season - failed to fire, Rangnick had to call on alternative options, and the faith he showed in a player so often scapegoated like Fred and a youngster still learning their trade like Anthony Elanga deserves some praise.

Substitutions don't always work out as they did on Sunday, but Rangnick's sharp and astute thinking got United all three points.


For more from Jude Summerfield, follow him on Twitter!

facebooktwitterreddit