The rivalry between supporters of the two Uniteds
of Leeds and Manchester is one of the most bitter, passionate
and deep rooted in English football. It links followers of the
two clubs in a bizarre hate-hate relationship that goes far beyond
the customary light hearted banter and chivvying that regularly
surfaces between followers of football clubs. Most such examples
are generally based on the desire for bragging rights between
neighbouring clubs, in Liverpool, Glasgow, London, Edinburgh,
Birmingham and Manchester itself.
But the Leeds-Manchester case is an entirely different
ball game, with 40 miles and the entire Pennines dividing the
two northern cities and a desperate mutual loathing linking them.
Some claim that the enmity dates from the War of
the Roses, the 15th Century civil war between the houses of Lancaster
and York, commemorated in the red of the Old Trafford club's shirts
and the white of Leeds.
Others cite later reasons; the community.manutd.com
community forum: "If anything, the Manchester-Leeds rivalry is
more likely the result of the Industrial Revolution that saw Britain
become the 'workshop of the world' in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Cotton became king in Manchester when cheap coal transported down
the Bridgewater canal, fuelled the factories and created an empire
that covered a quarter of the world. The success of cotton ruined
England's traditional woollen cloth industry, based in Yorkshire,
East Anglia and the South West, because wool was far more costly
and not as suitable for the new machines.
"The Yorkshire weavers loathed the new wealth pouring
into industrial Manchester. In a century where civic pride was
all, the magnificence of Manchester Town Hall and other civic
buildings were symbolic of the wealth cotton had brought. Leeds
did its best to compete with its own grand buildings. Rivalry
had begun, but it took many years before football became an outlet
to vent it."
Leeds supporter and writer Rob Bagchi highlights
a modern factor: "A more accurate assessment would locate the
origins of this relatively modern football feud to onfield events
in the spring of 1965. With both sides going for the Double, they
played an FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough
that turned into a ragged, violent draw. Nobby Stiles' early dreadful
tackle on Leeds' left winger Albert
Johanneson set the tone for a game which quickly degenerated
into a series of skirmishes on and off the
ball between Jack Charlton
and Denis Law, and Billy Bremner and Pat Crerand.
"The ill feeling spread to the terraces and scuffles,
fights and assaults were reported by the city constabularies of
Sheffield and Nottingham after that game and the
replay four days later at the City Ground, which Leeds won
with Billy Bremner's 89th-minute goal. Manchester United, though,
had the last laugh, pipping Leeds to the title on goal average
while Revie's team, in their first season after promotion, were
runners up in League and Cup.
"Some of it is fairly anodyne - they accuse us of
enjoying intimate relationships with sheep, we counter by alleging
that they come from Godalming. The term 'scum' is applied to each
other by both and indeed, six years after we were relegated and
effectively become irrelevant, a match at Old Trafford rarely
goes by without the mass singing of 'we all hate Leeds scum'."
Peter Lorimer claims the bitterness came later:
"The rivalry between Leeds United and Manchester United is clearly
no pantomime but it is not the age old conflict that many people
suppose it to be. In the days of Don
Revie, the rivalry scarcely existed. Needless to say, our
games against them were very big occasions but only in the way
that major top flight matches are. I never saw them as a big threat,
despite the Bests, the Laws and the Charltons.
"That title belonged to Liverpool who, for me, were
the danger - the club and squad who we compared ourselves to and
considered the benchmark, alongside ourselves. The early 1970s
were dominated by the battle between Revie and Bill Shankly, the
first time the two clubs were at the top of the tree. Manchester
United had been successful for many years.
"The bitterness between Elland Road and Old Trafford
seemed to develop in the early '80s, a period when I was no longer
on the books at Leeds. I went to Canada for a few years and was
amazed to return home and find that this hatred had developed
to such an extent. If you'd asked me then, I'd never have described
Manchester United as our biggest foes because, in my eyes, they
"I can't say for certain how or why the antipathy
grew but in many parts of the country it has been fashionable
to hate Manchester United. That's what happens when you're successful
as a club, and I remember feeling the same when we were knocking
aside all comers 30-odd years ago.
"It was always evident that we were widely disliked,
especially by the London press ... I think they just resented
that fact that two northern clubs - Leeds and Liverpool - were
picking up the trophies season after season.
"As far as the rivalry between us and Manchester
United goes, it's clearly more deep-rooted than simply a result
of the fact that they've had a sustained period of success. Geography
must play a part I suppose. But I'll always find it difficult
to understand how we came to this point."
Whites manager Don Revie had a deep and abiding
respect for Matt Busby, the long-serving Old Trafford manager,
seeking out his advice and guidance when he was first appointed
boss at Elland Road.
That didn't prevent Revie feeling a deep and abiding
satisfaction when he snatched Johnny Giles away from Manchester
in 1963 and converted
him into one of the supreme midfield generals of the Sixties
Nine years on from the Giles transfer, Leeds United
enjoyed one of their greatest triumphs ever over the Old Trafford
club, all the more satisfying because it marked the symbolic ending
of the Reds' pursuit of the League
title, something that had earlier looked within their capabilities.
Manchester United, under the management of former
Leicester City boss Frank O'Farrell, had been early pace setters
in the title chase. They topped the table from 9 October until
the first week of January and at one stage enjoyed a five-point
advantage over second place.
By 19 February, when they faced Leeds at Elland
Road, however, their season had gone off the boil. They had not
won in the League since 4 December; their last five matches had
been lost with only two goals scored. They were fifth at kick
off, two points behind second placed Leeds.
Don Revie's men had ended the unbeaten record of
the Reds at Old Trafford with a 1-0 win at the end of October;
the Whites could also boast good recent form. They had drawn at
Everton the previous week, but had suffered just one defeat since
13 November, when they lost 2-1 at Southampton. They had won eight
of their 14 games since, conceding just five goals.
Logic pointed to only one conclusion, but few anticipated
what would happen on a day that will always be remembered with
glee by Elland Road supporters.
Don Revie was coolly confident, so assured in fact,
according to Don Warters, that "he took the unusual step of naming
his team the day before the game rather than keeping everything
under wraps". Mick Jones was recalled after a bout of flu, with
Paul Madeley dropping back to right-back in place of Paul Reaney,
but otherwise Leeds were unchanged, with Joe Jordan continuing
The visitors were at full strength with Morgan,
Kidd, Charlton, Gowling and Best comprising a star studded forward
Despite his blistering start to the season, for
George Best, 1971/72 was an 'interesting' campaign, and the rebellious
Irishman provided a stern test for countryman Frank O'Farrell's
management skills. O'Farrell later revealed: "The first thing
I did when I went to Manchester United was make George Best the
best paid player. I thought that was only right because he was
the most skilful footballer. He could win games on his own and
he did - George was that good.
"But on the flip side I inherited the problems of
George's hectic lifestyle. Some days he'd never
show up for training - nobody knew where he was. He didn't turn
in one morning and somebody said, 'Oh. George has gone to Spain
on holiday' - it was the middle of the season, but he had just
packed his bags and gone.
"Every week you were protecting him, explaining
why he wasn't there or whatever. You tried to keep it quiet, but
when it did get out, George would be on the front and back pages.
A manager's job is hard enough, and lot of my time was taken up
by George, who was a big distraction.
"It is a great tragedy. Inside the club he is perfect.
He trains well. He is likeable. All the trouble happens outside.
Who is to blame? I suppose everybody. We build superstars and
then knock them down. Perhaps it's society. I don't know."
The attendance of 45,399 on 19 February meant that
for a second successive game Elland Road was bordering on its
The crowd saw Leeds make the first moves with Alex
Stepney saving a low shot from Mick Jones and then, when Eddie
Gray's run offered Peter Lorimer a chance to play in a telling
centre, United's top scorer allowed the ball to run over the byline
before he got it across.
The Whites could and should have been well clear
by half time, if, according to Eric Todd in the Guardian, "Stepney
had not made two unpremeditated saves from Jack Charlton and Jones,
and if Dunne had not cleared off the line from Jones". Leeds had
pounded away at the Reds' defence, but the visitors somehow managed
to reach the break without conceding; it looked just a matter
of time before the floodgates opened.
And so it proved ...
Within two minutes of the resumption, the home crowd
were roaring their glee
after Mick Jones opened the scoring.
Johnny Giles got the ball just outside the left
corner of the penalty box and rolled it to Allan Clarke on the
byline. He shaped to cross first time, throwing defenders Steve
James and Tommy O'Neil off balance, and then cut inside onto his
right foot and slipped the ball to Eddie Gray. The Scot turned
smartly and his instant strike was touched onto the post by Alex
Stepney. The ball seemed to have crossed the goal line, but Jones
was on it in a flash to make sure.
Seven minutes later, Leeds were two ahead. Tony
Dunne's short ball forward sold Bobby Charlton short and Giles
won the ball in the tackle. He turned back inside and passed long
to the unmarked Lorimer coming in on the left. The Scot dropped
his shoulder and rounded O'Neil on the outside to clip over a
cross left footed. It beat both Jack Charlton and Clarke in the
middle and reached Jones who swept it goalwards. The shot left
Stepney flat footed, though the goal was awarded to Clarke for
his barely perceptible flick.
In the 57th minute, the Reds hinted that they might
be able to spring an undeserved comeback when Francis Burns knocked
the ball in off a post following a free kick from Bobby Charlton.
But Leeds were not to be denied and within a minute
had restored their two goal advantage. Bremner earned himself
space wide of Dunne on Leeds' right to loop over a high cross
to the far post. Jones rose to head the ball down and into the
net with Stepney and his defenders starting the post mortem.
The 62nd minute brought a fourth. Gray rounded Dunne
to find the byline on the right and flicked the ball back for
Lorimer to fire across goal. Jones was there to touch the bobbling
ball past Stepney to complete his hat trick.
Still they were not satisfied and Lorimer grabbed
a fifth goal after 74 minutes. Giles deftly curled a killer ball
through the Manchester defence on the left edge of the area to
find the tireless Jones running into space. The centre-forward
took it wide of his man and thumped it to the back post. The cross
struck the thigh of the onrushing Lorimer and bounced back across
goal. The Scot was first to the dropping ball and crashed it left
footed into the roof of the net.
In that first 30 minutes of the second half, Leeds
had swept Manchester United away like insipid amateurs and one
had to feel some sympathy for the shell shocked Alex Stepney.
But the ecstatic Elland Road crowd revelled unashamedly in the
destruction of the visitors. The football of their favourites
was breathtaking in its incisiveness.
As if sated by the flood of goals, Don Revie's men
were content thereafter to play possession football, effortlessly
denying the visitors any chance of even a consolation. It was
a stunning performance.
For man of the match Jones, it was a phenomenal
return. After the game, strike partner Clarke said: "I was absolutely
delighted when Mick hit his third goal, although I didn't know
until after the game that it was his first League hat trick. He's
been playing well but things hadn't gone all that well for him,
what with injuries, illness and bad luck with his shooting but
the hat trick should do him the world of good.
"He's come in for a lot of criticism by the fans
and critics during his lean spell. Now I hope he's silenced them.
He a wonderful professional - hard working, cheerful, uncomplaining
and I can't count the number of goals I owe to his willingness
to fight for what looked like a lost cause."
Mick Jones: "I can't recall when we've played better,
everything went right and chances just seemed to drop at my feet.
Although I've missed a lot of matches this season because of injury,
my job is to score, but my role involves more than that. I'm expected
to stir things up, score if the chances come, but firstly create
things for other players. Supporters sometimes lose sight of this,
but players, especially Allan Clarke, never do, and the boss appreciates
what I do and that's what matters most."
For Manchester United it was the grimmest of afternoons,
as reported by Eric Todd in the Guardian under the headline, "The
Leeds locusts eat their fill": "Yorkshiremen are not noted for
their modesty or compassion, at least in the world of sport, but
on Saturday there were few who did not feel a little sad as they
watched the tattered and dispirited remnants of a side which not
so long ago was as proficient, eager and remorseless as Leeds
are these days. Sir Matt Busby sat there thinking of the past,
of the future. If they had been attending a hanging at Tyburn
tree, they could not have looked more solemn.
"But Old Trafford, which for years and years has
known and earned unparalleled success and prosperity, should have
realised that the locusts of misfortune are no respecters of persons
and that sooner or later - later in their own case - they would
descend on Manchester United. If such a contingency had been accepted
and even prepared for, then a recent loss of form might have been
more tolerable among all concerned. The strong belief, 'It can
never happen to us,' has been exploded as many of us expected
that it would be.
"Manchester United now will be expected to plunge
into the transfer market and the picture is conjured up of O'Farrell
careering up and down the country from Thurso to Penzance waving
a cheque book and begging for volunteers or conscripts to help
shore up the collapsing establishment. At the same time, however,
he would do well to remember the ancient warning about putting
new wine into old bottles. In other words, he first must consider
what he can do with the resources he has before he brings in reinforcements.
Obviously, he needs at least two more defenders … but more important
he must find out why Charlton and Best particularly are out of
touch and out of humour. And forget all about sentiment.
"Manchester United, for all that I forecast that
they might achieve one of the day's most unexpected results -
well, maybe they did - showed fight for only half of Saturday's
game. After the interval, they surrendered unconditionally and
if this had been at Ascot or Newmarket Heath, the stewards would
have called for an inquiry. No more needs to be said about
"Nor is there anything new to say about Leeds ...
The return to form of Gray was a further blow to Manchester, and
after scoring five, Leeds were merely bored, and Manchester chased
and chased with the hopelessness of a 5-year-old in pursuit of
a butterfly. Sheer cruelty, no less."
After the game, Frank O'Farrell offered a grudging,
"The goals killed us and made them, there was no indication that
was going to happen at half time. It was just one of those days."
Don Warters in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Don
Revie's boast that Leeds United are as good as that great Spanish
side, Real Madrid, were when they took Europe by storm, was brought
well within the bounds of reality with their 5-1 humiliation of
Manchester United at Elland Road. Leeds' second half performance
against a team who only a short time ago were riding high with
a five-point lead at the top of the First Division reduced their
opponents to mediocrity.
"I cannot recall having seen a Manchester United
team quite as outclassed and outplayed as Frank O'Farrell's side
was on this occasion, yet in fairness to them it should be said
that few sides would have had much chance of surviving against
Leeds in this lethal mood. Leeds, attacking with skill and flair,
were confident and devastating.
"Often they have outplayed visiting sides this season
and had to settle for an inadequate scoreline. But this time the
floodgates opened and there can be no doubt that Revie's men deserved
this emphatic victory.
"Every Leeds man played his part, although Eddie
Gray, Terry Cooper and Johnny Giles were particularly prominent."
Tom German in the Times: "It will be meagre comfort
to Manchester United ... to know that they were laid low by what
- by Don Revie's yardstick - was Leeds United's most accomplished
performance of the season. Leeds, in such a mood, could perforate
armour plating. Yet that should not fill Manchester heads with
"Manchester's defence, bolstered by withdrawals
from up front, did well enough to keep Leeds out in the first
half, although several times it was only by courtesy of Stepney's
outstretched legs. The mounting pressure was obviously tugging
at the seams, though, and once the Yorkshiremen had scored three
minutes into the second half Manchester were never able, adequately,
to reassemble themselves.
"Leeds used the full width of the field with imagination
and skill. Bremner and Giles switched the ball around with immaculate
precision and perfection; Jones and Clarke were mobile, eager
prongs, darting at the heart of the defence; Cooper and Madeley
swept up the flanks with an assurance which underlined their unconcern
at any counter strokes which Manchester might mount.
Match of the 70s - 1971/72
Features Leeds 5 Man U 1 at the end
Also includes 1-0 defeat at Tottenham in January
"If one had to select one man for special mention
it would have to be Gray, loping out of his own territory with
the ball seemingly attached to his toes, teasing one opponent
after another and then leaving them rooted as he flitted away.
"With so many Yorkshiremen in harmony, the avalanche
had to come ... Leeds toyed with them. Clearly it needs more than
one new strut to strengthen this Manchester structure; the problem,
perhaps, is not where to start but where to end."
Brian Glanville in the Sunday Times: "The spectacle
was almost that of the matador toying with a weary bull, the delighted
roars of the crowd at each new piece of virtuosity, the equivalent
of the 'Ole's of the bullring."
Ronald Crowther in the Daily Mail: "Leeds, as we
saw in this superb display of selfless, non stop running, are
essentially a team without any exhibitionist or would be virtuoso.
They had eleven stars all clinically efficient in this demolition
of their arch rivals from Manchester."