A THOROUGHLY depressing night started with high hopes for Leeds fans, but ended in abject failure as the Whites were outclassed by Manchester United’s mostly reserve side in their third round Carling Cup tie at Elland Road.
There was none of the heroics of cup ties against the big boys in recent years - including the famous FA Cup win at Old Trafford - as Leeds were left chasing shadows at times and cursing their inability to defend yet again.
It always looked a mis-match between a Man United side averaging more than four goals a game in the Premiership and a Whites team still finding new ways to concede goals this season - and so it proved.
Leeds started brightly enough as they pressed their opponents and were roared on by a fan backing bordering on the hysterical.
The first chance fell to the home side on four minutes when Tom Lees and Darren O’Dea both had efforts blocked in a frantic scramble following a corner.
But the wind was taken out of their sails when the visitors’ first chance ended up with the ball in the back of the net as former England striker Michael Owen was allowed to turn in the box and managed to beat Leeds keeper Andy Lonergan with a scuffed shot that trickled into the corner of the net.
Adam Clayton had a shot from the edge of the box saved and Robert Snodgrass sent another effort over as Leeds looked to hit back, but they were again punished by Owen when with only his side’s second shot he made it 2-0.
From then it was a stroll for Alex Ferguson’s men as they were given far too much space and time on the ball and rarely had to work hard to make sure of their passage into the fourth round.
Ryan Giggs punished hesitant defending from a corner to make it 3-0 in first half injury-time and it did not get any more difficult for the visitors after the break as Leeds seemed to just go through the motions with Friday’s more important league game at Brighton in mind.
A dull half was played out with the crowd amusing themselves and Man United content to knock the ball about to themselves under very little pressure.
Owen came close to completing his hat-trick, but neither goalkeeper had a save of any note to make in the half and Leeds went 51 minutes without getting an effort of any kind on their opponents’ goal - and then it was a shot from distance that went harmlessly over.
They did finally create a proper chance in the last minute, but it summed up their night when Ramon Nunez went clear only to horribly scuff his left foot shot wide.
Manager Simon Grayson hoped the game had given his players lessons to learn from.
He said:”We tried to perform as well as we could, but we didn’t pass well enough, didn’t create enough chances, didn’t work them hard enough.
“There’s a big gulf but we can’t be too down because it’s a big task. We want to play them on a regular basis, that’s where we’re trying to get to.”
Leeds United 0
Manchester United 3
(Owen 15, 33, Giggs 45)
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Carling Cup, round three
Leeds: Lonergan, Lees, Bromby, O’Dea, White, Snodgrass, Clayton, Howson, Keogh (Vayrynen 52), McCormack (Nunez 66), Becchio (Forssell 52).
Manchester: Amos, Valencia, Fryers, Carrick, Fabio, Diouf (Welbeck 70), Giggs (Pogba 45), Park, Macheda (Cole 78), Berbatov, Owen.
Referee: Mike Jones.