Leeds United Nostalgia: Whites left to count the cost of referee’s errors

Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez is held back by Teddy Sherringham as he tries to confront referee Graham Barber after he committed a foul on Leeds United's Ian Harte.

Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez is held back by Teddy Sherringham as he tries to confront referee Graham Barber after he committed a foul on Leeds United's Ian Harte.

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It is fair to say that most football fans have long memories – that memory is enhanced when controversy dominates a game against your biggest rivals.

Referee Graham Barber will likely never be on many Leeds fans’ Christmas card lists after he essentially came to define the next 15 years of Leeds United.

When the end of the 2000/01 season came about, Leeds fans will have looked at the league table in dismay, having missed out on a Champions League place by a solitary point. Their impressive displays in the Champions League that season had suggested that they may have deserved a permanent seat at Europe’s top table, but it was not to be.

Fans are prone to thoughts like this, but it would have been entirely reasonable to look back on the points Leeds missed against Manchester United and run from there.

On two occassions in the game at Elland Road, Leeds were denied a decision in their favour that was absolutely game defining.

They both could have gone the way of the Whites, and both would likely have secured an additional two points that would have taken Leeds into the Champions League.

Another season of that would have avoided much of the debt accumulated by the club to chase a top-four finish the next season, and that may have avoided the destructive financial collapse that still hangs over Elland Road.

The first incident saw Fabian Barthez take out Ian Harte and give away a penalty kick.

It seemed as though it was a guaranteed sending off, due to the nature of the challenge, and because Barthez lashed out at Harte in the aftermath, but Barber felt otherwise.

He booked Barthez, and when Harte had recovered enough to take the spot kick, the French international dived low to his right to save the effort.

In added time at the end of the game, Wes Brown then turned a Lee Bowyer cross into the back of his own net to seemingly give Leeds the win, but Barber ruled it out for offside.

It’s fair to say manager David O’Leary was not happy with Barber’s display.

He said: “The offside was a shocking decision, and I don’t know how Fabian Barthez was still on the pitch to save the penalty.”

Aside from the two flashpoints, Leeds dominated the tie but fell behind after frustration started to creep in.

Man Utd substitute Luke Chadwick broke the deadlock after an error from the usually dependable Nigel Martyn.

Ole Gunner Solskjaer was put clear by Paul Scholes. Martyn then saved his shot but spilled it, and Chadwick was left to knock in a simple opportunity.

Leeds kept fighting and got the equaliser they deserved in the 83rd minute.

Danny Mills, as he often did, burst down the right flank before firing in a cross.

Bowyer got an important touch to put it on a plate for Viduka, who spectacularly dived to head the ball home.

The Whites sustained the pressure, but they were unable to make it count, not least due to the referee’s decision to rule out what seemed a perfectly valid own goal from Brown, a carbon copy of the one he gave away against Valencia.

As far as defining moments go in Leeds’ history, it is hard to look past the moment the linesman raised his flag.

MATCH STATS

Leeds United 1

(Viduka 83)

Manchester United 1
(Chadwick 63)

Premier League 
March 3, 2001

Leeds United: Martyn; Mills, Radebe, Ferdinand, Harte; Bowyer, Dacourt, Batty, Matteo (Smith 45); Keane (Kewell 45) Viduka. Unused subs: Robinson, Bakke, Kelly.

Manchester United: Barthez, G Neville, Brown, Stam, P Neville; Beckham, Scholes, Butt (Chadwick 45), Irwin; Sheringham (Yorke 68), Solskjaer. Unused subs: Rachubka, May, Greening.

Attendance: 40,055.