Manchester United’s hopes of a top four finish were handed a significant boost on Sunday as they edged out Leeds in a six-goal thriller.
The Red Devils survived a fightback to claim a 4-2 win and three precious points in the race for a top four finish and Champions League qualification.
Ralf Rangnick made a number of eyebrow-raising changes ahead of the eagerly anticipated Premier League clash but his tinkering just about paid off.
Harry Maguire opened the scoring at a sodden Elland Road with his first Red Devils goal in over a year to silence his doubters before Bruno Fernandes headed in a second on the stroke of half-time.
Two Leeds goals in the space of a minute then flipped the game on its head.
Rodrigo’s mishit cross floated over a hapless David De Gea before Raphinha sparked bedlam at Elland Road tapping in from a drilled Dan James cross.
United then reclaimed the lead thanks to Fred’s smashed effort before Anthony Elanga sealed the vital three points for United late on.
According Daily Star Sport Below are the three big calls that Rangnick got right and the one he got wrong in the crucial win…
And three things he got right…
Paul Pogba has made an impressive return from injury in recent weeks and looked a powerful presence in the first half against Leeds on Sunday.
It was therefore a surprise to see the Frenchman pulled off after 67 minutes with Marcelo Bielsa’s side having fought back from two goals down.
Rangnick replaced him for Fred and it proved to be an inspired substitution.
The Brazilian smashed home after receiving the ball from Sancho to regain United’s lead a matter of moments after his entrance.
While many questioned the decision to make the midfield change with the scores locked at 2-2, it proved to be the decisive moment.
Anthony Elanga then added to Rangnick’s substitute delight, grabbing the fourth late on with a slotted finish.
Standing by Maguire
Harry Maguire has been on the back end of some heavy criticism this season, but the United captain went some way to silencing his doubters against Leeds on Sunday.
The centre-back opened the scoring at Elland Road in the 34th minute, powerfully heading home following Luke Shaw’s in-swinging corner
Remarkably, despite scoring six times in his last 13 caps for England, Maguire’s goal against Leeds was his first for United for over a year.
And even more remarkably, it was the Red Devils’ first goal from a corner at their 137th attempt this season.
Not only has Rangnick stood by the defender amid calls for him to dropped over recent months, but he has also continued to elect him as captain despite his role being called into question.
His goal against Leeds was a timely show of leadership.
Sticking with Lindelof
United’s centre-back situation has been hotly-debated in recent weeks and Raphael Varane’s illness-enforced absence against Brighton on Tuesday threw a spanner into the works.
Despite the Frenchman’s recovery ahead of Sunday, Rangnick opted to remain with Victor Lindelof alongside Maguire and it was a decision which paid off.
The Swedish defender looked solid at the back and played an integral role in the Red Devils’ all-important second goal, moments before half time.
Lindelof made a marauding run from inside his own half, playing a one-two with Sancho on the half-way line before returning the ball out wide to the winger.
United’s £73million man then clipped a deft cross on to the head of the incoming Bruno Fernandes to nod home and silence the Leeds faithful ahead of the interval.
And the one thing he got wrong…
Another big selection call for Rangnick was his decision to hand Aaron Wan-Bissaka his first taste of football since the beginning of January.
The 24-year-old has found himself out of favour ever since the German’s arrival at Old Trafford with Diogo Dalot proving to be the preferred option at right-back.
Throwing Wan-Bissaka back into the United fold was always going to be a big call, but doing so away to United’s fierce rivals at a hostile Elland Road was even bigger.
Unfortunately for Rangnick, it was a gamble which didn’t paid off.
Despite looking assured in the first half, Wan-Bissaka was caught out for Leeds’ second as he failed to prevent James from firing in a low cross, which Raphinha tapped home.