So, it wasn’t the game we’d hoped for at Elland Road on Sunday, but if ever there was an indicator of how far we’ve come as a team this season then this was it.
That 6-2 hammering we got at Old Trafford is a memory that will haunt for a long time, but it was game that was light years away from Sunday’s re-match. That one could have ended 10-6 such was the reckless nature in which we defended – and also attacked – and when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said before the game last weekend that he expected goals, I think we all thought the same.
Instead, we saw a much a more robust Leeds defensively, and it was clear early on that there wouldn’t be a repeat of what we saw earlier in the season.
Manchester United did make most of the running in the game, but whereas they cut us open like a knife through butter last time, they couldn’t make any real headway on Sunday. My old team-mate. Jamie Carragher spoke about the lack of quality from both sides in the game – and I don’t disagree, but I didn’t think Leeds got enough credit for making life difficult for Man United.
Kalvin Phillips was excellent and we did the simple things well. We got in our blocks, made our tackles, and generally made things difficult for them. Diego Llorente is definitely looking better the more he plays and apart from one stupid foul on the edge of the box, Pascal Struijk was equally solid.
We also can’t forget yet another wonderful save from Ilan Meslier. He really has blossomed as the season has gone and thankfully he’s a player that seems to have slipped under the radar a bit in terms of his importance to the team. Good goalkeepers are hard to find – especially at such a young age – but the recruitment was absolutely spot on in bringing him in and it would great to think he can become a mainstay in this Leeds team for years to come.
It’s a telling stat that we have not lost to five of the ‘newly christened’ big six at home this season, although we still have that huge club Tottenham to come and I’d fancy us to beat them, especially if they look as clueless as they have done for much of the second half of the season.
Of those games against the top clubs, Man City are the only club to have scored at Elland Road as well with Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Man United all drawing blanks.
With five games to go we’re above where we expected to be and we still have a lot to play for in terms of where we can finish. We are above as Arsenal as it stands and are six behind Tottenham which might sound a lot, but given that we’ve got to play them still, is perfectly do-able. Qualifying for Europe is a push, but we can certainly finish on the fringes and will have a good solid platform to build on for next season.