Ralf Rangnick favourite set for Old Trafford return in Manchester United vs Leeds fixture
Man United are looking to continue their strong home form against Leeds on Wednesday and here are five things to look for.
Armas on the sideline
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There was genuine shock from America when Ralf Rangnick appointed Chris Armas as his Manchester United assistant. Armas had just been sacked at Toronto after the worst defeat in the club’s history and he’d also been sacked at New York Red Bulls prior to that.
Those across the Atlantic felt Armas was grossly underqualified for a position at Old Trafford and their suspicions were shared on British shores, where Rangnick failed to inspire improvement from a squad that got progressively worse.
United recorded their lowest-ever points total in the Premier League last season and Rangnick, although inheriting a broken dressing room, had to accept a portion of the blame for that failure, as his tactics and approach simply did not work.
READ MORE:Man Utd could be stung by Jesse Marsch sacking
Some in the dressing room did not respect Rangnick and that extended to his coaching staff, including Armas. It’s understood the American was derided during his time at the club and yet he’s set for an unlikely Old Trafford return on Wednesday night.
Armas, who worked with Jesse Marsch at New York Red Bulls, was added to Leeds’ backroom staff last month and the club’s announcement statement read: “Armas spent time as an assistant at another Premier League club, working under Ralf Rangnick.”
Marsch was sacked at Elland Road on Monday and Armas has remained, for now, as part of the caretaker staff. Leeds chose to refer to United as just ‘another Premier League club’ when appointing Armas, but it seems the Reds will have the last laugh.
A glaring weakness
Leeds have struggled at defending set pieces since regaining their Premier League status in 2020. They conceded 19 goals from set pieces last season, which was the joint-worst record in the league, and they haven’t fared much better this term.
After the halfway stage of the campaign, they’ve conceded seven goals from set pieces and only three clubs, Southampton, Aston Villa and Bournemouth, two of which are in the relegation zone, have a worse record in that area.
It’s an obvious weakness that United will look to exploit and perhaps Wout Weghorst or Raphael Varane can capitalise.
Sancho’s full return
Jadon Sancho received a warm reception at Old Trafford when he returned from his layoff against Nottingham Forest last week. The player could not wipe the grin from his face and it was clearly an emotional moment after a three-month absence.
Prior to that return, Sancho was last named in a matchday squad against West Ham in the Premier League on October 30 and he spent time away from the squad throughout November, December and some of January, as he looked to refocus.
Ten Hag has insisted Sancho will be ‘important’ for the remainder of the season and there will be no better place for the winger to repay the Dutchman’s patience than against Leeds, who he seems likely to be handed a start against.
Sancho could start.
READ MORE:Frenkie De Jong has desire to join Eric Ten Hag side.
Antony has been ruled out of the game with injury and that should give Sancho an opportunity to start for the first time in months. Anthony Elanga and Facundo Pellistri are the other options on that side but they are not the calibre of Sancho, who provided two assists and was named man of the match in United’s 4-2 victory against Leeds at Elland Road in February last year.
Leeds’ awful record
Leeds have defeated United just twice since the turn of the millennium and they were certainly a soft touch in the meetings between the two sides with Marcelo Bielsa in charge, conceding 15 goals across four matches.
The West Yorkshire club have suffered a 6-2 defeat and a 5-1 defeat at Old Trafford since returning to the Premier League and they will be fearful of another humiliation following the dismissal of Marsch earlier in the week.
Casemiro picked up a red card against Crystal Palace at the weekend and he will serve a three-match ban, which starts against Leeds on Wednesday. His absence was felt against Arsenal last month and this contest will be interesting without him.
Since the Manchester derby loss at the Etihad in October, Casemiro has started every match in the Premier League, with the exception of Arsenal, and United have suffered just one league defeat (Aston Villa) when he has started.
Casemiro is key in protecting the backline and he gives Bruno Fernandes the licence to roam forward, so it remains to be seen whether Fred will be able to deputise, as it’s likely the midfield could feel unbalanced in his absence.
However, a doubleheader against Leeds and a match against Leicester don’t seem the most problematic fixtures for Casemiro to be suspended for.