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Matches
31 March 1965 - Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1
FA Cup semi final - City Ground, Nottingham - 46,300
Scorers: Bremner
Manchester United: P Dunne, Brennan, A Dunne, Crerand, Foulkes, Stiles, Connelly, R Charlton, Herd, Law, Best
Leeds United: Sprake, Reaney, Bell, Bremner, J Charlton, Hunter, Giles, Storrie, Peacock, Collins, Cooper

Denis Law shows the effects of battle after the first gameprinter friendly version

The first clash between Manchester United and Leeds United in the FA Cup semi final of 1965 had ended in a bitter and rancorous goalless draw, with both sides more intent on kicking opponents than seizing the chance of a Wembley place.

As Eric Stanger reported in the Yorkshire Post: "Perhaps it is as well there is a replay at Nottingham on Wednesday. At least it will give both sides opportunity to show that they can play good football and redeem themselves for a shabby, bitter FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough on Saturday. There were no goals but there were 24 free kicks for fouls given against Manchester United and 10 against Leeds. Two Manchester players, Stiles and Law, had their names taken and altogether too many players on both sides behaved like a pack of dogs snapping and snarling at each other over a bone."

Leeds manager Don Revie chose to paper over the controversy, saying: "We shall do better on Wednesday now we know what it is all about. Remember this is our first semi final. I was a bit worried at half time but we played much better against the wind and I am sure we can win the replay and get to Wembley."

Despite many fitness doubts on both sides following the bruising encounter, the only change to either team was Terry Cooper replacing the injured South African Albert Johanneson on the Leeds left wing. Cooper had been unlucky to miss the first match through injury having featured regularly over recent weeks as either left-back or left winger, and the bloody minded assaults on Johanneson at the weekend made Cooper's recall a formality.

Referee Dick Windle had been heavily criticised for losing control of the first game, but was officiating again. This time he seemed determined to take a much firmer approach to matters and clamped down on any misdemeanours from the start. His change in approach quickly reaped rewards and the players showed much more discipline. There were again far too many fouls, 20 against the Mancunians and five against the Whites, but most were for petty offences, rather than aggressive play.

As The Times reported, "This may sound like Dante's Inferno but by comparison with last Saturday both sides trod a primrose path. We were no longer truly at a ringside and the ball was now a ball and not a time bomb; yet it was still a hard battle, razor keen, a true passage of arms with all the deep qualities of a taut Cup-tie. Both sides regained some stature and though there was a free flow of free kicks, most of them were of a technical nature. The gloss of the game had now returned and with it both sides had apparently learnt a little wisdom, a little patience and tolerance. Both still took as well as gave, but what was now given was cleaner, even if it was still no tea party where people are treated with an elaborate manner."

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Matters were helped by the marked improvement in playing conditions. At Hillsborough the players had to contend with a churned up bog of a pitch, sticky and holding and mitigating against expansive play. Nottingham's City Ground offered a fast, dry surface that the players were thankful for, taking the opportunity to rise above barbarism and opting instead for skill.

Once again, Leeds seemed content to rely on their defensive excellence to see them through, with Bobby Collins dominant. The Yorkshire Evening Post's Phil Brown noted that Collins "was again invaluable, pulling United out of trouble at one end of the field, and touching off their attacking at the other", while Eric Stanger of the Bremner, Hunter, Sprake, Bell and Charlton are all concentrating on keeping the ball out as Manchester United attackYorkshire Post called the Scot "the cool, masterful general, who extricated Leeds from many a tight corner".

Leeds saw to it that the skillful Pat Crerand never got the chance to control the game. Jim Storrie: "Terry Cooper played at number 11, but had to mark Crerand. Crerand was a great passer could land the ball on a beer mat from 40 yards. So we cut off his supply. It was like starving a deep-sea diver of oxygen and meant that Stiles and Foulkes, who were less gifted, had to put balls through. And instead of the goalkeeper being able to find Crerand, he had to kick it upfield where Jack Charlton would win it in the air. Best, Law and Charlton were locked in their own half of the field.

"In the previous match, Pat Crerand had been at the hub of almost every United attack. When Leeds were on the attack, he would fall back, not playing any part in his side's defensive play, but staying spare so that United could find him with a clearance. Terry's job was to move infield and pick up Pat, and in the first half this had the desired effect of choking the supply of passes to him.

"Pat was fouled by Terry on one occasion, and made the mistake of chasing after him to get his own back. He forgot about his duties, with the result that Charlton and Law were forced to come deep in an effort to get the ball themselves."

The Peacocks had little option but to go for a rearguard action, for the Red Devils seemed determined to make up for missing out first time around and took control of the game early on. Stanger: "It was rich, rousing Cup football. Manchester United began as if they would make a meal of Leeds, switching play forward or across the field with fine dexterity. Early on Leeds owed much to Sprake, who made fine saves from Herd and Bobby Charlton. Leeds might well have been a goal down before they found their feet. But even thus early it was obvious that their defence would take a terrific amount of punishment without breaking."

After that opening burst, however, with Johnny Giles taking a controlling interest, Leeds came more into the picture, going close on several occasions. Most of their chances, though, were achieved by pumping high balls into the heart of the Manchester penalty area for Alan Peacock to contest. By half time there was little to choose between the two teams, although there was a yawning gulf between the quality of football being played this time against that which had masqueraded deceitfully under that term in Sheffield.

Again, Matt Busby's men started the better after the break, but this time their dominance was total and for the first twenty minutes there was only one side in it.

The Times: "Soon after the change of ends a superb long through pass by Charlton found Best's head, from the centre-forward position, but the ball was grabbed with masterful ease under the angle of crossbar and post by Sprake. Then a quick triangular move, three pass rat-tat-tat between the quicksilver Law and Herd saw Law cut through the middle and close in, like a flash. It was any odds on a goal but the Manchester roar of 'goal' was choked as Sprake made a remarkable point blank save from the Manchester captain. Almost at once Law broke clear once more down the right, pulled the defence apart, momentarily only, for Herd to blast wide into the side netting with Best standing unmarked on the goal line. A quiet look then by the centre-forward and Manchester must have been ahead.

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"Hardly was that over than Law beat three men in a sizzling run, passed square across the goalmouth, and once more Herd, with time and space on his side, shot wide, left footed. In those moments did Manchester live and die, on firm, perfect conditions that should have suited their style of play. Law, supported by R Charlton and Crerand, had the genius to win this match, but it escaped him and his side."

But the Leeds team of 1965 was nothing if not resolute, and Jack Charlton, Paul Reaney and Willie Bell were playing like Colossuses in front of Gary Sprake. Bobby Collins, Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter and Terry Cooper did what they could to provide some respite when the opportunity arose, but were little more than additional conscripts in defence.

Jim Storrie and Alan Peacock defended manfully from the front, while Johnny Giles played wonderfully well to maintain a grip in midfield, popping up all over the place to keep Leeds hopes alive.

Gradually, the storm abated, and the Yorkshiremen sensed that the Mancunians were beginning to doubt they could pierce the resilient defence. Stanger: "Leeds turned the game. Manchester were surprised in one raid when Jack Charlton headed a free kick from Collins inches wide of a post. It proved the flashpoint for Leeds' match winning rally, though they had one uneasy moment when Sprake dropped Connelly's corner but recovered to turn the ball over the bar as Law went in for the kill."

Manager Don Revie was never one to let an opportunity pass him by and noted with Billy Bremner heads the winner in the 1965 FA Cup semi finalrelish the change in fortunes. He could see that Matt Busby's men were fading and issued his orders to capitalise on the moment. He pulled Giles back to a deeper, more central role, moved Storrie out wide on the right and thrust Bremner forward as an auxiliary attacker. Bell and Reaney were encouraged to push forward on the overlap at every opportunity, giving the Whites valuable attacking options.

The tide had definitely turned. At first, Leeds merely held their own and assumed equality in terms of possession, but as the game moved into its fateful last quarter, they came to dominate matters, attacking with passion, pace and fire and throwing the Red Devils back on their heels.

Stanger: "Back went Leeds again, and in the last ten minutes they attacked continuously. Three times Pat Dunne had to turn the ball over his bar and then did the same with a tremendous volley from Cooper off the fifth successive corner Manchester had been compelled to yield."

The seconds ticked by with still no goals to show for all the effort, and the uncertainty of extra time beckoned. The match moved into its final two minutes of normal time, and Nobby Stiles floored Bremner with a late tackle in the centre circle, seemingly happy to trade a long-range free kick for the certainty of stopping a quick break. Giles floated the ball unerringly into the heart of a crowded goal area.

Bremner, mind working overtime, weighed up matters more speedily and precisely than his opposite numbers. He flashed past three or four defenders and moved in on the steepling place kick. With his back to goal he twisted artfully under the ball and nudged it miraculously with his head past Pat Dunne, through a tiny chink in the defensive wall and into the top corner of the net.

For what seemed an eternity but was in reality milliseconds, things seemed to move in slow motion with an eerie silence before an explosion of noise and sound. Then, without quite understanding how he got there, Bremner found himself out on the touchline, being mobbed by excited team mates, in joyous celebration of what was certain to be the winning goal. Leeds had done it! They had broken the deadlock with a stunning goal owing much to sharp thinking and speedy reactions, but most of all to their never-say-die resilience and spirit.

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The Times 1 April 1965 featuring the victorious semi final replay against Manchester United and Billy Bremner's decisive goal

The Red Devils tried a last-ditch, all out assault to regain equality, but Leeds were in no mood to surrender their hard won advantage and repelled the feverish attacks.

When referee Windle blew his whistle to signal the end, the crowd swarmed onto the pitch, Leeds followers jubilant at the result and Manchester fans angry because of what they saw as one-eyed refereeing. Windle was struck by a Reds supporter and fell to the ground, requiring attention from ambulance men and protection from the police as the culprit was apprehended.

The Leeds party was just beginning, oblivious to what was going on around them, and they celebrated furiously. As commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme remarked memorably, "Don Revie's gone mad!"

For Jack Charlton, finally out of the shadow of his famous younger brother, it was a memorable day. He had withstood everything that Manchester United could throw at him for 270 long minutes, counting the win in the League at Old Trafford in December, and had proven himself possibly the best defender in the country, contributing manfully to three clean sheets secured against the finest forward line in Europe.

He had other good news to share, as he explained in his autobiography:

"Right after the game Don (Revie) told me that I had been selected to play Billy Bremner celebrates his semi final winnerfor the national squad. I was so delighted that I didn't think, I just had to tell our kid. I went straight round to the Man United dressing room and said, 'Hey, I've been selected to play for England!'

"I'm smiling all over me face, and there's all the Manchester United team sitting round looking miserable. There was a bit of a pause, and then Bobby went, 'Ah, yeah, well, congratulations, great.' 'Now, f*** off out of here,' said someone else.

"And I suddenly realise what I'm doing, so I said, 'Excuse me,' and left. That's the tact I'm famous for."

Big Jack could be excused for forgetting himself on an evening that went down in history as the moment that Leeds United finally made it into the big time, entering football's elite by securing a first ever appearance at Wembley, the Mecca of English football.

Don Revie: "My proudest moment in my career was when the whistle went and Leeds United were in the final. Manchester played some absolutely scintillating football. I thought we were going to crack and we were certainly lucky not to go two down but we came through it, and according to my instructions, if there was still no score, Jim Storrie switched to the right wing and Bremner moved into the attack. It might not have come off, but it did. What pleased me most was that Leeds kept their heads."

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