If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it. Leeds United came away from Old Trafford on Wednesday night with a game plan which evidently worked and I would not be minded to make too many changes to personnel or system.
There is the issue of enforced alterations, however. It remains to be seen whether any of Liam Cooper, Marc Roca or Luis Sinisterra will be fit to play any part in Sunday’s match.
For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t even take a risk with the latter duo. With less than four full days between Wednesday’s full-time and Sunday’s kick-off, issues which kept them out of the game are unlikely to have disappeared entirely in that time frame.
More pertinently, there are other options in the squad who can shoulder the load while they sit on the bench, if they really feel their bodies are holding up okay. Cooper is different in that he is captain, Pascal Struijk was concussed in midweek and the alternative would be Junior Firpo.
While the left-back has taken steps forward in 2023, it still feels like a risk to expose the left flank at Elland Road in that way if the team captain has put his hand up to play. I’m loath to break up Robin Koch and Max Wober’s German-speaking stranglehold in the centre, but needs must.
If Cooper isn’t up to it physically then Firpo is the man I would have to put my faith in, with the reassurance Wober and Koch would at least be there in the centre. Further forward, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams have something to build on.
Sports science would suggest the former is only getting fitter with the more minutes he plays too. I like the bite and character he brought to the middle of Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Crysencio Summerville did enough from the bench in Manchester to remind us what he has in his burgeoning locker. The Dutchman takes the right flank for me, with Georginio Rutter actually given his full league debut inside him.
Jack Harrison improved in the week, but I still want to push the envelope with the French record signing. There have been flashes of brilliance from his cameos.
Beren’s XI: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Wober; McKennie, Adams; Summerville, Rutter, Gnonto; Bamford.
I was pleasantly surprised by the lift in performance on Wednesday after a difficult few days at Throp Arch. The Whites played with energy and freedom at Old Trafford and I wouldn’t be straying too far from the line-up that secured a point against the Champions League chasers.
In fact, most of the changes I would make are enforced, with Pascal Struijk and Luis Sinisterra picking up injuries in the first half against Manchester United. Whether Liam Cooper is fit or not, though, I’m not sure I’d be rushing him back into the side.
That’s nothing against the club captain, who was arguably Leeds’ best against Nottingham Forest last weekend, but I just want to see Wober and Koch play together again in the middle of defence. The pair haven’t had a bad game together yet and, while Cooper has so much to offer in terms of leadership, right now I’m finding it hard to look beyond the German-speaking pair moving forward.
Struijk is out, which leaves Junior Firpo to come into the side at left-back. Firpo has built up a bit of form in recent weeks and he’s earned his shot.
McKennie and Adams is the obvious call in the middle of the park and I liked what Harrison had to offer in that advanced number 10 role against the Red Devils. He couldn’t always produce an end product, but he asked plenty of questions with his running game and close control.
Summerville looked strong enough on the right after replacing Sinisterra in the eighth minute of the contest, while Gnonto’s selection goes without saying. The only other change I’d make comes up front, with Rutter replacing Bamford as the club’s lead striker.
Bamford claimed an assist at Old Trafford in the first minute of the game, but he struggled to find openings as the game progressed. I’d like to see Rutter given a go in that role, with his pace and ability on the counter providing something a little different on the ball.
Will’s XI: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Wober, Firpo; McKennie, Adams; Summerville, Harrison, Gnonto; Rutter