Manchester United battle back vs. Leeds but still drop vital points in title race

MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester United fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Leeds United in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

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Wilfried Gnonto opened the scoring for Leeds after just 55 seconds before a Raphael Varane own-goal doubled their advantage shortly after half-time. Marcus Rashford's 12th goal in his past 14 United appearances got the hosts back into the game before Jadon Sancho came off the bench to earn Erik ten Hag's side a point with his first goal since September.

JUMP TO: Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid reaction

1. United battle back but drop points vs. Leeds

When Varane poked Crysencio Summerville's cross past David de Gea to put Leeds 2-0 up after 48 minutes, the visiting fans in the corner of Old Trafford were dreaming of a first top-flight away win at United since 1981. Second-half goals from Rashford -- his 20th of the season in all competitions -- and Sancho ensured Ten Hag's team didn't fall to a first home defeat in the Premier League since August, but it was still a far better result for Leeds, who had their preparation dominated by the sacking of manager Jesse Marsch on Monday.

United missed the suspended Casemiro in midfield and it wasn't until Sancho and Facundo Pellistri came on for Wout Weghorst and Alejandro Garnacho that they looked like scoring. With Casemiro banned for the next two league games and Scott McTominay sidelined with injury, it's likely Ten Hag will have to use the same midfield at Elland Road on Sunday, and that will be a worry after watching Leeds dominate large spells of the game.

Leeds, though, will fancy their chances after coming so close to a famous win over their bitter rivals from across the Pennines.

2. Adams and McKennie star for Leeds

Leeds were able to start U.S. men's national team duo Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie together for the first time since McKennie's January move from Juventus. For the first 30 minutes, they dominated United in the centre of the pitch.

Ten Hag's midfield three of Marcel Sabitzer, Fred and Bruno Fernandes could barely get on the ball during Leeds' fast start and Fernandes, in particular, struggled with the attention of Adams. It didn't help that Sabitzer, making his full debut after his deadline day move from Bayern Munich, took a while to get used to the pace of the game, but the fact that United looked so rushed was credit to Adams and McKennie.

Adams was everywhere, showing the tactical nous to drop into the back four when needed and also throwing in some crunching challenges, including one on Fred.

Without a Premier League win for more than three months, Leeds arrived at Old Trafford more in hope than expectation. However, their performance, powered by Adams and McKennie in midfield, suggests they've got the players to keep them in the English top flight as long as they get their next managerial appointment right as they look for Marsch's successor.

3. Sancho comes off the bench to help turn the game

With Antony out injured, Sancho probably would have started if he hadn't been struggling with illness, but he still managed to come off the bench to help United get back into the game. Thrown on with Leeds 2-0 up, he gave the visitors problems down the left almost immediately before scoring the crucial second goal.

Ten Hag has admitted that a dip in Sancho's confidence was one of the reasons the £73 million winger spent time away from the club during the break for the World Cup, but there was no sign of that against Leeds. He took risks with the ball in attacking areas and took his goal well after creating the chance himself with a dart into the penalty area.

United have refused to put any pressure or expectations on Sancho's return knowing that he has to be managed carefully -- at least in the short term -- but it will be a relief to Ten Hag to see the former Borussia Dortmund forward make a positive contribution. With Antony and Anthony Martial sidelined, and Weghorst struggling for form, Sancho will be needed during a hectic end to the season.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Tyler Adams, Leeds. The U.S. midfielder looked comfortable next to McKennie and covered so much ground it disrupted United.

BEST: Wilfried Gnonto, Leeds. The Italian youngster scored Leeds' first goal with a brilliant run and finish and helped create the second.

BEST: Marcus Rashford, Manchester United. It wasn't his best game in terms of all-round contribution, but he scored again.

WORST: Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United. He's been in great form recently but he struggled to have any impact and gave the ball away for Leeds' opener.

WORST: Wout Weghorst, Manchester United. Ten Hag defended the Dutchman's contribution at his news conference on Tuesday, but he struggled again and was substituted early.

WORST: Alejandro Garnacho, Manchester United. Came close to scoring in the first half but was caught on the ball for Leeds' second goal.

Highlights and notable moments

Leeds' first-minute goal starts with the sort of pressing everyone's come to expect from Adams.

If Brenden Aaronson 's free kick bends just an inch or two further inward, how different could this game have looked?

Were United enthused about getting back on level terms or expressing their joy in seeing Sancho score for the first time since September? Why not both?

After the match: What the players/managers said

Ten Hag: "Of course in the end we were happy to win a point, but we dropped two points. It's a very bad start, unacceptable. Especially in a derby, you have to be ready to battle and take responsibility. We didn't do that."

Leeds interim manager Michael Skubala: "I think [the result] instills belief in the players that they are good enough at this level. They know that and we know that, and we just need to go after every game between now and the end of the season."

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

- Gnonto's goal was just the second time Man United have ever conceded in the opening minute at Old Trafford. Edin Dzeko scored a first-minute goal for Manchester City on March 25, 2014.

- Man United's last league loss at home to Leeds came on Feb. 28, 1981.

- Rashford is the first Man United player to score in six straight Premier League home games since Wayne Rooney between February and April 2012.

Up next

Sunday will see the reverse fixture play out, with Leeds hosting Man United at Elland Road in Premier League play. Kickoff is at 9 a.m. ET.