Marcelo Bielsa admits concern at number of goals Leeds United are conceding following Manchester United defeat

Marcelo Bielsa has admitted he is concerned at Leeds United's position in the Premier League after they slipped further into a relegation dogfight with their 4-2 defeat to Manchester United.

By Tony Harber
Monday, 21st February 2022, 8:45 am
Junior Firpo clashes with Aaron Wan-Bissaka in Leeds United's big game with Manchester United.
Junior Firpo clashes with Aaron Wan-Bissaka in Leeds United's big game with Manchester United.

A fourth game without a win has left the Whites just six points above the bottom with little sign of immediate improvement on the horizon as they now take on a flying Liverpool side at Anfield then another of the top four contenders Tottenham at Elland Road next Saturday lunchtime - with little recovery time in between the matches.

Also of concern is the number of goals conceded with Leeds letting in another four against their most hated rivals on top of three let in at both Everton and Aston Villa.

"It's impossible not to be worried," said head coach Bielsa.

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Leeds United goal scorer Rodrigo gets ahead of Manchester United's Scott McTominay.

"We have conceded 50 goals. How can I not feel responsible?

"The amount of goals conceded is not linked to the individualities defensively. It’s difficult for us to prevent the opponent from creating danger. And to form a more compact block is not simple.

" The fundamental problems are in the recovery of the ball in the middle of the pitch and so we had to be without Phillips, who is a defensive midfielder, after, without Koch, who is another defensive midfielder, and after, without Pascal, who is another defensive midfielder.

"In the second half we had to put Pascal back in the defensive line and, due to the absence of three players who can do that function, the composition of the midfield doesn’t have a defensive profile and that had an influence on the defensive behaviour of the team today."

Despite the latest defeat coming against the team the fans hate to lose to the most there were some positives to take from the game, notably the way the side fought back from two down with two goals in a minute scored by Rodrigo and Raphinha.

Although they could not quite maintain the momentum the players were cheered off at the end as supporters knew they had given everything in energy sapping conditions with heavy rain falling throughout the match.

“The effort the team made you can evaluate,” explained Bielsa.

“The relationship between what is produced and what you get is enormous in football.

“The fight indicates commitment, it’s indispensable to construct a performance. Other elements complete this.

“We missed a very clear chance to make it 3-2 and in the response of that play they went down the other end and scored.

“Either way, the general transmit of the game, they missed very few chances and they were very efficient.

“We were less efficient and the difference comes through that. We had seven or eight chances to score a goal just like the opponent, but they scored in a higher proportion and us not in the same proportion.”

Roared on by an expectant and aggressive crowd, Leeds made a strong start and could have been ahead inside five minutes when Mateusz Klich's chip over the visitors' defence was met by Jack Harrison, but the winger could only send his half-volley wide.

Paul Pogba saw his low shot well held at the other end by Illan Meslier, but the lively start that was interrupted when Robin Koch suffered a head injury following a challenge from Scott McTominay deemed a foul, but not serious enough to warrant a card by referee Paul Tierney.

After a long delay in which Koch was patched up with a headband the action resumed with Leeds again making the running only for Adam Forshaw to see his shot beaten away by keeper David de Gea.

A big chance came the visitors' way when Pogba easily beat Forshaw on the left flank and his low cross was met by Ronaldo, but the record goalscorer amazingly could not beat Meslier from inside the six-yard box.

The Whites were forced to make a change soon after with Koch having to go off, to be replaced by Junior Firpo. It meant a reshuffle in positions with Luke Ayling going to centre-back, Stuart Dallas to right-back and Pascal Struijk into midfield and Leeds lost their way after the changes.

After Bruno Fernandes saw a 20-yard shot turned round the post by Meslier the visitors opened the scoring from the corner that followed, a simple header by Harry Maguire finding the back of the net as Leeds' failing from set pieces came back to haunt them again.

Forshaw shot wide as Leeds had a brief spell in attack again before half-time and Klich sent a 25-yard shot well over, but it was Manchester celebrating another goal in the fifth minute of injury-time, Fernandes heading home from close range after Victor Lindelof's run out of defence had not been checked and Jadon Sancho sent a perfect chip into the box.

Bielsa responded by putting on two half-time substitutes with Raphina - surprisingly left out at the start - and Joe Gelhardt brought on to beef up the attack. It was Harrison and Llorente making way with Struijk now back in the back four.

The subs certainly lifted the crowd and on the pitch there was an immediate improvement. Klich was getting into some good positions and saw one effort deflected wide and another go wide from a difficult angle.

Leeds pulled a goal back when Rodrigo was sent free down the left by Firpo and his mishit cross caught out de Gea with the ball arrowing into the far top corner of the net.

Within a minute they were level. Forshaw won the ball in midfield, Dan James attacked down the left and his superb low cross was fired home from close range by Raphinha.

There was a brief pause in the celebrations as VAR checked the goal, but there was no foul by Forshaw in the build-up and it was 2-2 with the roof virtually lifted off at Elland Road - and a possible riot avoided.

Gelhardt offered the next threat on the visitors' goal when he ran at defenders and got a low shot in that was well held by de Gea.

Sancho saw a shot deflected wide at the other end before the Whites had another good chance only for James to mistime his leap in a bid to head in Firpo's cross.

The miss proved costly as within a minute the ball was down at the other end and sub Fred beat Meslier at his near post after being set free by Sancho to restore Man United's lead.

Leeds still offered plenty in attack, but after being found in space in the area Klich could only send his shot straight at de Gea.

Gelhardt then had a shot blocked, but the bookings were now beginning to outdo the efforts on goal as the game became more stop-start and Tierney was dishing out cards all over the place to home players, although strangely not issuing so many to the opposition.

McTominay did finally receive a yellow card, but two more subsequent fouls from him somehow avoided further punishment and he was somewhat lucky to stay on the pitch.

When the football returned Klich yet again had a half-chance, but it summed up his day when his well hit effort this time was tipped over by de Gea.

Rodrigo sent a strike from distance over and it was all over for Leeds in the 89th minute when Anthony Elanga was sent clear to score after Struijk had been caught in possession just outside his area.

(Rodrigo 53, Raphinha 54)

(Maguire 34, Fernandes 45+5’, Fred 70, Elanga 89)

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Premier League

Attendance: 36,715

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente (Gelhardt 45), Struijk, Dallas; Koch (Firpo 31), James, Forshaw, Klich, Harrison (Raphinha 45), Rodrigo.

Man Utd: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay; Lingard (Elanga 67), Pogba (Fred 67), Fernandes, Sancho; Ronaldo (Varane 85).

Referee: Paul Tierney