ERIK TEN HAG had a face like thunder as his United team seemed intent on making it just one win in five Premier League games.
Yet in the end, against one of Manchester United’s greatest rivals, it was all smiles from the Dutch coach.
First, when Marcus Rashford, despite not playing that well, made it 13 goals in 15 games with an 80th minute header.
But the biggest, widest grin came five minutes later when Alejandro Garnacho wrapped up this entertaining but low-quality match with the second.
The United teenager was guilty of sulking after being taken off in the 2-2 draw with Leeds in mid-week and was told by Ten Hag that he “had to score” in the game.
But Garnacho’s arrival here as a sub was a total success and when he scored the second to seal an important win for United.
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Ten Hag clenched both fists and punched the air, while grinning in the direction of Garnacho.
There is nothing wrong with the odd strop as long as players learn from it.
Equally, Rashford delivered a reminder of what a season he is having to finally break Leeds’ resistance even though the managerless home team looked more likely to score.
Michael Skubala, the Leeds interim coach, applauded the team off the pitch and they certainly fought hard despite wasting some chances.
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Ten Hag, although still hit with injuries, decided to freshen up the team by resting Raphael Varane and starting Lisandro Martinez on the bench, although he came on after an hour.
This meant Harry Maguire was handed only his ninth start of the season in all competitions and fifth in the Premier League.
Jadon Sancho, meanwhile, made his first start since Chelsea away in October although is still nowhere near his best.
Yet United still looked weak in midfield and this was illustrated with 20 minutes left when Fred backed out of a tackle with Junior Firpo who then had space to surge forward.
As you would expect for a game between these two clubs, the atmosphere was pretty tasty.
Leeds’ fans cheered every challenge won by a player in a white shirt and jeered each time a man in red touched the ball.
There were a hell of a lot of meaty challenges which went unpunished by Paul Tierney who was trying to let the game flow. Yet it was remarkable that in the first half, only Junior Firpo, Weston McKennie and Fred were booked.
One of the biggest roars of the first half came when the otherwise impressive Crysencio Summerville sunk his foot into the leg of Bruno Fernandes but he escaped a caution.
Earlier, Summerville could have sent this place into meltdown but lifted a shot over the bar when he should have done a bit better.
Rashford and Sancho were having little joy against Firpo and Luke Ayling. At one stage, the United boss called over Sancho to deliver some positional instructions.
Maguire did well enough alongside Luke Shaw although at times, still looked a bit nervous. The England centre-back was guilty of one poor mistake by losing the ball to Jack Harrison but then redeemed himself with a key tackle.
Fernandes claimed handball when his shot deflected off Robin Koch and United’s best chance of the half fell to the Portuguese midfielder.
Fernandes nicked the ball off Maximilian Wober and looked certain to score but he had too much time to think about the shot. Equally, though, Illan Meslier did well to stick out his right leg to save.
Just 90 seconds into the second half, United keeper De Gea delivered his first important stop to push away a decent effort from Summerville
Leeds striker Patrick Bamford was left unimpressed when Jack Harrison attempted to score with a side foot rather than square the ball. Bamford then made way for new signing Georginio Rutter who was handed a home debut after three away days for his new club.
Alejandro Garnacho, having just replaced Sancho, played his part in a move which led to Dalot smacking a shot against the bar
Summerville was gifted another chance but was denied by the right foot of de Gea and what a big save that proved to be.
Rashford found space between Firpo and Wober to meet Shaw’s left-wing cross and after a brief VAR check for offside, the England forward was able to celebrate yet another goal.
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Garnacho then showed his individual class by tearing clear of Wober before smacking a shot past Meslier via the near post.
Rashford’s last kick before being was subbed was to get the ball in the net but it was ruled out after a VAR check – but United’s fans were happy with just the two goals.
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