After an exciting summer of international soccer, the Premier League is back this weekend. Highlighting Match Day one is a battle between Manchester United and Leeds United. Not surprisingly, Manchester United is a heavy favorite home at Old Trafford with the latest moneyline set at -184. Meanwhile, Leeds has a moneyline of +512 while the moneyline for a draw is listed at +368.
While there have been plenty of doubters and skeptics during the Ole Gunnar Solskjær era, the Manchester United manager was given a contract extension this summer. Solskjær appears to have things moving in the right direction after the Red Devils finished second in the Premier League last season. Of course, that has raised expectations for United coming into the 2021-22 season
The Red Devils didn’t make a lot of moves this summer, but the ones they did make were massive. On the attacking front, Manchester United brought in forward Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. The 21-year-old adds speed and another match-winner to an attack that already includes Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Daniel James, and Mason Greenwood. That’s a lot of speed to play off of a midfield that includes playmakers like Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Fred, and Nemanja Matic. The likes of Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek also provide intriguing wild cards to the Man U lineup at the start of the season. To put it another way, Solskjær isn’t lacking options when putting his starting lineup together.
On the defensive side of things, the Red Devils also made a bold move this summer by bringing in Real Madrid center back Raphael Varane. With his transfer taking some time to complete, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be ready for the season opener. However, there’s nothing wrong with the Red Devils using the same back four that carried them through most of last season with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof at center back. Plus, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw still form one of the better full-back tandems in the Premier League. United is also likely to start David de Gea at goalkeeper with Dean Henderson struggling to return to full fitness after a bout with COVID-19.
Leeds United was perhaps the biggest surprise of the Premier League season. They finished ninth in the league, just three points off of a spot in a European competition, which is a tremendous accomplishment for a team that had just gained promotion. In fact, the 59 points the Peacocks collected under Marcelo Bielsa were the most by any newly promoted team since 2001. While expectations will be raised for Leeds this season, the core of the team is largely intact.
All five players who scored at least five goals for Leeds last season are back with the Peacocks this season. Most notably, Patrick Bamford put 17 goals in the back of the net and will lead the attack once again. Leeds was able to make Jack Harrison’s stint with the club a permanent one this summer, making him one of the club’s biggest acquisitions. Harrison and Stuart Dallas both scored eight goals each last season while Harrison was also second behind Raphinha with eight assists during the 2020-21 campaign.
Of course, it was the defensive side of things where Leeds has some room for improvement. Midfielder Kalvin Phillips will do his best to protect the back four after an impressive Euros with England during the summer. The other piece of good news is that Leeds will have a chance to find some more consistency defensively with key figures like Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Diego Llorente, and Pascal Struijk all returning for a second straight season in the Premier League. The Peacocks also have a new face to throw into the mix with 24-year-old Dominican international Junior Firpo joining from Barcelona.
As well as Leeds United played last season, they are in even better shape heading into this season because virtually the entire squad is back after gaining a year of experience in the Premier League. Also, with fewer international players, the Leeds squad should be a little better rested and more fresh for the start of the season. The Peacocks are also one of the hardest-working teams in the league, which could catch Manchester United a little off guard in the season opener. In short, Leeds is too tricky for the Red Devils to be favored at -184. At the same time, Leeds United offers a ton of value at +512 because they are good enough to take down a big club.
Leeds United 3-2