York City (0) 0, Leeds United (4) 5
I’ve seen enough of Leeds United‘s pre-season friendlies over the past several campaigns to know that I need to adjust my expectations to the context of a glorified training exercise, with about as much bite and passion as an elderly and feeble slug. Usually, this streak of realism (not to say cynicism) allows me to watch such games without actually ending up chewing my office carpet. But an enjoyable experience it is invariably not. Until last night, that is.
Last night, Leeds United bypassed the the usual bland, disinterested and frankly boring or humiliating prepupal chrysalis stage of their habitual pre-season development, and emerged as a shimmeringly gorgeous, fully formed aristocratic butterfly, glorious in its multi-hued splendour, dancing with the delight of effortless superiority before our dazzled and incredulous eyes and putting on an irresistibly skillful show to bamboozle the lumpen proletarians of York City.
This time last year, at the same venue, the earliest incarnation of Bielsa’s United were more like moths than butterflies, fluttering hopelessly around a candle flame, somewhat fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw. Twelve months on, and the difference is remarkable – despite a complete change of outfield personnel around the hour mark, United’s dominance continued unabated, and the youngsters were rather unlucky not to add to the five goal tally of their senior colleagues.
5-0, in the end, flattered York rather than Leeds and, although allowances must be made for the humble station of the opposition, nevertheless, United’s utter control and mastery of proceedings was deeply impressive. Helder Costa was nowhere to be seen, nor yet was there a sign of Jack Clarke, Luke Ayling or (whisper it) Kalvin Phillips – although we are told that the latter will feature in tonight’s fixture at Guiseley, amid confident whispers that he’ll be staying at Elland Road. In the absence of these luminaries, we had instead the Jack Harrison show, ably supported by the likes of Bamford, Hernandez and Roofe, with young Alfie McCalmont prominent and proficient also.
Harrison rattled in a couple of goals, the second a sumptuous finish from outside the box, and we were also treated to a sublime Pablo strike and one of Roofe’s fox in the box contributions – all before half time. After the interval, a resurgent Adam Forshaw dinkily wrapped up the scoring before the youngsters took over, with the style of football remaining the same despite the lack of further goals. The undoubted star of the show was Jack Harrison, a stronger and more effective version of last season’s flatterer to deceive, evidently determined to build upon his improved showing at the back end of our abortive promotion bid. It would seem on last night’s evidence that we can expect great things of Harrison this time around. Amen to that.
All in all, the first match of United’s pre-season has to be counted a thorough success, a performance replete with both style and substance which is hopefully a sign of even better things to come. It will be interesting, to say the least, seeing how the rest of the squad, supplemented by more hugely promising U-23s no doubt, perform later on at Guiseley. Many United fans will be eager, after last night’s extravaganza, to tune into another LUTV free live stream – and see for themselves.
Marching On Together