Leeds United vs Manchester United: The 10 Most Brutal Wars

The two great rivals have had some battles over the years. Here are 10 of the best remembered.
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The two great rivals have had some battles over the years. Here are 10 of the best remembered.


Whilst this dissection of a footballing rivalry between Leeds United and Manchester United that transcends generations, may appear biased in one West Yorkshire-based direction, it is with respect to our Red Rose antagonists that I acknowledge their part in this deep-rooted conflict. I may have missed out their 1977 FA Cup Semi-Final win and Andy Cole’s Elland Road winner in 2000 when Beckham was famously dropped, but in the interests of balance I have also omitted some of Leeds finer moments. Namely the Christmas Eve win in 1995 and other notable home scalps in 1997 and 2002. So read on and absorb the bitterness, acrimony and resentment of the centuries old battle between Red and White.

1. March 31st 1965 FA Cup Semi-Final Replay (City Ground) Leeds 1 Man Utd 0

Four days after the first bruising encounter at Hillsborough, the two met again at the City Ground. Bremner’s acrobatic back header two minutes from time won the game for newly-promoted Leeds. The aftermath of the game is remembered for the famously brusque Jack Charlton skipping into the Manchester United dressing room, with impeccable timing, to inform his disconsolate brother Bobby that he had also been selected in the England squad for the first time. Manchester United went on to pip Leeds to the title on goal difference.

2. March 26th 1970 FA Cup Semi-Final 2nd Replay (Burnden Park) Leeds 1 Man Utd 0

Five years later and they are at it again. After two goalless draws during which a Rizla paper could not be placed between them, this was the clubs third meeting in 12 days. Again, a nervy game was settled by Bremner, demonstrating his knack for scoring vital goals, this time after just eight minutes. This monumental three-part tussle is famous for the part Paul Reaney played in shackling the wizardry of George Best, and later lead Best to declare Reaney as the only defender he never got the better of.

3. February 19th 1972 Division One (Elland Road) Leeds 5 Man Utd 1

With the game goalless at half time, Leeds scored five goals in 27 devastating second half minutes, which saw them play a period of utopian football, remembered by many as topping the more famous 7-0 rout of Southampton in the next home game two weeks later. Mick Jones scored a hat-trick as Leeds steamrollered their rivals, who had topped the table only a month earlier.

4. February 28th 1981 Division One (Old Trafford) Man Utd 0 Leeds 1

With neither club the force they once were, this meeting was significant only for the fact that it remains Leeds last league win at Old Trafford. Manchester United laid siege on the Leeds goal throughout the game, with big money flop Garry Birtles missing countless chances, and remaining a stranger to the scoreboard operator. Leeds, outlandishly flouting convention by playing in Black Manchester United shorts, managed one madcap foray from their 18 yard box in the 85th minute, whereupon Brian Flynn notched the only goal, rendering all things Red dumb-founded, and the Leeds fans delirious amid a storm of spittle and coins in the Scoreboard End.

Lee Sharpe broke away in the 88th minute to settle the tie and charm the Lowfields Road terrace with his most odorous and ill-judged celebratory ‘dance’ routine, prompting the most poisonous reaction to an opposition goal I can ever remember.

5. February 24th 1991 League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg (Elland Road) Leeds 0 Man Utd 1

Following Leeds fun-filled sabbatical in the second tier, hostilities renewed in 1990, and what better way to get re-acquainted than a venomous two-parter for a place at Wembley? With Manchester United leading 2-1 from the first leg, pretty football was at a premium in the acidic, snake pit atmosphere Elland Road. If any Leeds fan had forgotten what the rivalry was all about, this was perfectly summed up when Lee Sharpe broke away in the 88th minute to settle the tie and charm the Lowfields Road terrace with his most odorous and ill-judged celebratory ‘dance’ routine, prompting the most poisonous reaction to an opposition goal I can ever remember.

6. January 15th 1992 FA Cup 3rd Round (Elland Road) Leeds 0 Man Utd 1

This was the third and final game in the 17-day epic trilogy that created an interlude to Leeds last title-winning campaign. Having drawn in the league and been comprehensively beaten in the Rumbelows Cup, Leeds dominated this game but Manchester United won it again with a Hughes header just before half-time. Of perhaps more significance is the fact that Leeds top scorer Lee Chapman broke his wrist in the game and missed four vital matches. This lead manager Howard Wilkinson to scour the loan market, bringing in Tony Agana, and a temporarily retired, unknown Frenchmen called Eric Cantona.

7. September 11th 1994 Premiership (Elland Road) Leeds 2 Man Utd 1

Despite brief prominence over their cross-Pennine rivals, Leeds had still not beaten Manchester United since the Old Trafford Last Stand of 1981. That fact was omni-present in the build-up to this game and to the relief of those in White the inevitable happened. Goals from Wetherall and Deane put Leeds 2-0 up but a disputed Cantona penalty set up the longest last ten minutes in any Leeds fans existence. It seemed fated that Leeds would be denied again but amid a cacophony of collective will, they held out and gifted fans of a certain generation a brand new experience.

8. September 7th 1996 Premiership (Elland Road) Leeds 0 Man Utd 4

For any Leeds fan this was a painfully symbolic game where Manchester United’s class and brutal superiority was undeniable. Sergeant Wilko had systematically dissembled a title-winning squad and the misery of this afternoon was compounded by the inconceivable spectacle of watching Rush and Hateley toil fruitlessly upfront, whilst Lee Sharpe demonstrated, in the intolerable adornment of a white shirt, why his career was plummeting unrelentingly backwards. Leeds were so bad that they made Karol Poborsky and Jordi Cruyff look world-beaters, and with Cantona bagging the fourth in the last minute and standing proudly infront of an apoplectic Kop, only the sack for Wilko could possibly follow, and on Monday morning it did.

9. October 27th 2001 Premiership (Old Trafford) Man Utd 1 Leeds 1

Amid the pursuit of titles and Champions League places, Leeds had still to notch a league win at Old Trafford since 1981, so when Mark Viduka gave Leeds a deserved second half lead, hopes were high that this ambition would finally be executed. With Dominic Matteo and Rio Ferdinand imperious at the back Leeds withstood everything Manchester United threw at them, that was until perennial killjoy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came off the bench and equalised with two minutes left.

10. January 3rd 2010 FA Cup 3rd Round (Old Trafford) Man Utd 0 Leeds 1

Whilst I am not overly fond of the ‘romance of the cup’, for once here we were on the right side of a stupendous giantkilling, that in simple terms, for Leeds fans is unlikely to ever be bettered. Eternal bragging rights are undoubtedly ours, as surely only on a Playstation are Manchester United ever likely to be two leagues below Leeds and beating us at home. Our third tier workhorses showed what hard graft can do, punctuated with the touch of class that saw Jonny Howson’s 50-yard pass find Jermaine Beckford to thread in the only goal. Time stood still as 9000 Leeds fans watched the ball trickle over the line, but in it went and many have never come down to fully contemplate the enormity of this result.

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