It was a classic trap game for Manchester United on Wednesday as they drew 2-2 with Leeds United at Old Trafford with the glaring takeaway being the lack of depth the Red Devils currently have. Leeds were led by caretaker manager Michal Skuba and American Chris Armas after dismissing Jesse Marsch and they wouldn’t wait long before Willy Gnoto opened the scoring in the first minute of play before Crysencio Summerville forced Raphel Varane into an own goal to open the second half. United would fight back with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho scoring to draw level but the dropped points are critical in the top four race with the team clearly not boasting the depth needed to turn around 2-0 holes. United are currently third with 43 points, just seven away from leaders Arsenal, but their top-four cushion over Tottenham is just four points.
Without Casemiro, Christian Eriksen, and Anthony Martial, Erik ten Hag’s side struggled to open the match, falling prey to Leeds United’s press. It was the most organized match that the visitors have played this season but it was one that showed how narrow their margins are for success. Weston McKennie received his first start of the season alongside Tyler Adams and it was a strong showing with the duo turning defense into attack and keeping the team ticking over.
They took advantage of the inexperience of Alejandro Garnacho and the unproven partnership of Fred and Marcel Sabitzer to press and score with ease. But when United turned up the presser with Sancho on the pitch, Leeds’ defense came unstuck. But not able to find a winner, the Red Devils have opened a door for Tottenham to make the top four with this being a poor result on paper as ten Hag could be seen holding up his hands as he saluted the home supporters, essentially apologizing for the performance after the game.
Wout Weghorst was signed as an emergency striker but despite constant crosses to him in the box, he wasn’t able to register a single shot in the match. In four Premier League matches for the club, he is still seeking his first goal. While Rashford was able to score when Sancho came on and he went to lead the line, United can’t rely on Rashford every match or they’re one injury from failure this season. Sabitzer did show some flashes though, forcing a tough save with a clever shot in the first half.
Reaching the business end of the season, ten Hag will need to determine his best rotation as Casemiro will miss two more matches and Eriksen is still out for over a month. With another loss, United’s top-four advantage could be down to one point and with tough games remaining, these depth players can’t hide for United. They will have to step up and show more from the onset as the Red Devils have won just one of their last four league names.
It’s why the light January transfer window from the team was questionable but if they gel, the summer will be much better. If they miss out on a top-four place, it could set back the progress that the team has made this season, all the while seeing the club’s ownership future up in the air.
United return to the pitch Sunday against Leeds at Elland Road.