Manchester United will look to consolidate their all-important position in the top four of the English Premier League standings when they take on lowly Leeds this Sunday.
Despite the disappointment of an early FA Cup exit, United have quietly moved into a coveted Champions League qualifying berth in the Premier League.
The Red Devils currently sit in fourth spot, but are being chased by the likes of West Ham, Arsenal, Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur. It all adds to the importance of this weekend’s clash against 15th-placed Leeds as United aim to maintain their momentum in the league.
Ralf Rangnick’s team will travel to Elland Road fresh from gaining a much-needed three points in midweek with a 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion, which saw Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes back among the goals.
Rangnick will hope to have Raphael Varane available for this Sunday’s clash after he recovers from illness, while Eric Bailly is also on the comeback trail and has been pictured in training. Edinson Cavani is still a potential doubt, though.
Meanwhile, Leeds have been beset by injuries this season, with captain Liam Cooper, midfielder Kalvin Phillips and forward Patrick Bamford all still on the sidelines.
Stuart Dallas and Leo Hjelde were added to the injury list during Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Everton, but Junior Firpo could come back into contention after recovering from a hamstring issue.
Things won’t get any easier for Leeds after this weekend, with matches against title-contenders Liverpool and top-four hopefuls Tottenham to follow after Sunday’s visit of United.
However, there is still plenty of pressure on Rangnick to continue United’s upward trajectory, and it will be interesting to see if the interim manager opts to select Fred to anchor the midfield in a game where energy and matching Leeds’ physicality will need to be the order of the day.
Scott McTominay could also be deployed in a starting role, and while this may mean Paul Pogba is left on the bench again, it would leave him fresh for the Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night.
“Another intense game is coming up against Leeds,” Rangnick commented. “It will be high speed football for 95 minutes and we need to recover and be in form for Elland Road on Sunday.”