Leeds United 0 Manchester United 2: Marcus Rashford bursts Whites' balloon after 80 minutes of arm wrestling

Elland Road is rarely less than febrile on a matchday and with Manchester United in town, the bear pit was even feistier than normal.

Luke Ayling's header for Leeds United's first touch of the game elicited a huge, guttural roar. Weston McKennie, playing on the ground for the first time, showed he understood with a tackle on Tyrell Malacia that was as firm as it was fair.

They roared it to the rafters – this is what English, never mind Roses, football is all about – then howled their disappointment when referee Paul Tierney stopped play for a head – or rather whiplash – injury to the tumbling left-back.

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There were bookable tackles aplenty too – far more than there were bookings.

FEISTY: Arguments rage between Tyrell Malacia and Tyler Adams even as the bloodied Leeds United midfielder receives treatmentFEISTY: Arguments rage between Tyrell Malacia and Tyler Adams even as the bloodied Leeds United midfielder receives treatment
FEISTY: Arguments rage between Tyrell Malacia and Tyler Adams even as the bloodied Leeds United midfielder receives treatment

Sometimes the atmosphere lurched into the unacceptable, with inexcusable chants about the dead from both sets of supporters, but the main effect was to create an arm wrestle rather than a beauty contest.

Leeds had their chances, often through Crysencio Summerville, but not the ruthlessness to beat David de Gea. When Diogo Dalot rattled the crossbar it was just one reminder of the red devilment within the visiting ranks.

For 80 minutes, the pressure built and built. It was unclear which way the arm wrestle was going, if it was going anywhere at all.

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Then along came Marcus Rashford and put a massive pin in it.

AERIAL ENCOUNTER: Luke Ayling outjumps Alejandro GarnachoAERIAL ENCOUNTER: Luke Ayling outjumps Alejandro Garnacho
AERIAL ENCOUNTER: Luke Ayling outjumps Alejandro Garnacho

You could feel the life suck out of the ground as his header hit the net.

Even with the game nearly done, Illan Meslier was beaten three more times. Only Alejandro Garnacho's curling shot counted but none actually mattered.

The decisive moment had been and gone. One moment is too often all it takes against Leeds.

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The Whites are cornering the market in deflating defeats. Sometimes, for a bit of variety, they do deflating draws instead.

SCRAMBLE: Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea denies Crysencio Summerville (right)SCRAMBLE: Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea denies Crysencio Summerville (right)
SCRAMBLE: Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea denies Crysencio Summerville (right)

At least seven days on from the loss which did for Jesse Marsch, the decisive goal was more down to opposition brilliance than Leeds but again they paid for spurned chances.

One switch of play, to Luke Shaw, one cross and Rashford hanging in the air then heading in for the second time in four days was all it took.

It was marginal, video assistant referee Andy Madley having to draw the lines on his screen before the goal could be rubber-stamped, but Premier League games so often are.

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag's changes made the difference. Shaw started in central defence before moving to left-back. Rashford came inside to centre-forward; Wout Weghorst made substitute Garnacho’s goal from the hole he had been dropped into.

Even after a significant January transfer window, Leeds’s next coach will not have that scope to shake things up. Former Ajax head coach Alfred Schreuder was spotted, though whether it was as a potential Marsch replacement or a guest of his old boss ten Hag was unclear.

You can add this 2-0 loss to the long list of times they could claim plenty of positives without points.

If Leeds lacked the precision needed in top-flight football, for a long time they were not alone. Bruno Fernandes, so harsh on them in recent seasons, let the Whites off when the guard slipped a couple of times in the first half.

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He ran into too much space from Jadon Sancho’s lay-off after 20 minutes but dragged his shot wide and ended the half with a strange, unsuccessful dink Meslier held.

Robin Koch might have been punished for a header across goal had Weghorst not been dragged out of the centre, and was caught in possession by Fernandes. Meslier again denied the Portuguese playmaker and self-appointed assistant referee, and the corner ricocheted the safe side of goal off Ayling.

Summerville set the tone for what was to come from Leeds with a chance late in the half de Gea stuck out a glove to. Shortly after the restart the goalkeeper turned a shot around the post.

Jack Harrison stabbed a cross wide and a bad de Gea kick went unpunished when Fred robed Patrick Bamford. Ayling’s shot deflected after Fernandes nodded a clearance at him, as did Koch's header.

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Dalot wobbling the woodwork in the 64th minute and Fred’s shot were reminders of what happens to teams who fail to take their chances, although Leeds must know by now.

Willy Gnonto cut inside but shot at de Gea and when Junior Firpo bundled through then threaded a cute pass to Summerville, Shaw beat him to it, conceding a corner Ayling’s overhead kicked forced a save from.

De Gea also blocked with his feet from Summerville when Georginio Rutter won the ball high up.

But it all counted for nothing when Rashford headed in.

Garnacho's goal five minutes later, touched in off his near post by Meslier, felt almost as irrelevant as those Rashford and Weghorst had chalked off for offside.

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The moment had passed and it was the other United who seized it.

Leeds United: Leeds United: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Wober, Firpo; McKennie (Greenwood 86), Adams; Summerville, Harrison (Aaronson 73), Gnonto; Bamford (Rutter 59). Unused substitutes: Gyabi, Robles, Kristensen, Monteiro, Fernandez, Mullen.

Manchester United: de Gea; Dalot (Wan-Bissaka 73), Maguire, Shaw, Malacia (Martínez 61); Fred, Sabitzer; Rashford (Elanga 90), Fernandes, Sancho (Garnacho 61); Weghorst. Unused substitutes: Lindelof, Varane, Heaton, Pellistri, Iqbal.

Referee: P Tierney (Wigan).