Leeds United nostalgia: McQueen’s switch to Reds still stirs up the emotions

Gordon McQueen.

Gordon McQueen.

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When Leeds United were one of the best teams in Europe, challenging for honours both domestically and across the continent, Manchester United found themselves struggling to match up to the White

There was always an ill-tempered relationship with Man Utd, epitomised best by the Yorkshire Post’s report of the 1964/65 FA Cup semi-final, which said “both sides behaved like a pack of dogs snapping and snarling at each other over a bone”.

The hatred was, however, slightly tempered by the fact that Leeds were the dominant force when Don Revie was in charge.

That made sense after all. While Leeds were winning two league titles and the FA Cup over the course of 1969 to 1974, Man Utd were sliding down the First Division. 1969/70 saw the Old Trafford club finish eighth.

By the end of the 1974 season, when Leeds won their second league championship, Man Utd had been relegated.

Leeds absolutely had the upper hand.

They won match after match against their local rivals, including a 5-1 thumping at Elland Road in 1972. Man Utd were quite simply not genuine competition.

The great Leeds team would peak in 1975 with their European Cup final appearance, a year after Revie had departed. Man Utd would win promotion at the first attempt.

With Leeds slowly moving from champions to the mid-table and Man Utd on their way up, reaching successive FA Cup finals, the rivalry went up another notch or two.

It reached new heights with the transfer of Gordon McQueen from Leeds to Man Utd on this day 38 years ago.

Speaking in 2011, McQueen said: “When I left Leeds to sign for United, I said that “99 per cent of players want to play for Manchester United and the other one per cent are liars”.

“It didn’t do me any favours because the rivalry was already intense and I probably wound people up a bit more by saying that.

“On my first game back at Elland Road with United, they were selling T-shirts with ‘Judas’ on them and there were chants of ‘Scum’ whenever I touched the ball.

“I went back to watch a pre-season game last summer and had to leave because of the stick I was getting, more than 30 years later!

“It’s a strange rivalry. At United, the big game was always against Liverpool, but Elland Road was always the most hostile and intimidating away game.

“I don’t know why the rivalry became so nasty. In my early days at Leeds, United were never a threat and the hostility wasn’t there, but it seemed to increase with United winning things and Leeds struggling.

“It has become unbearable for Leeds fans now because United have been so successful under Sir Alex Ferguson. But Leeds against Manchester United is up there with Arsenal-Spurs, Liverpool-United and it’s one that the Premier League really misses.”

McQueen had quickly followed Joe Jordan to Old Trafford.

When the two sides faced one another in 1979, McQueen had to dodge objects hurled at him by fans. The Roses rivalry had boiled over.

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