When Jermaine Beckford scored at the Stretford End in 2010, people sitting around Brian Flynn told him that his record as the last Leeds United player to claim a winning goal at Old Trafford had gone.
“Not true,” Flynn replied. “This is the FA Cup and I scored in a league game.” He openly admits that he “lived on my goal for a long time. You would, really, wouldn’t you?”
The 1-0 victory over Manchester United earned by Flynn’s goal in 1981 has been chosen by the Yorkshire Evening Post’s readers as the finest Leeds United match of the 1980s, a fallow period in the club’s history.
The Welshman provoked scenes of pandemonium behind Manchester United goalkeeper Gary Bailey by running onto Carl Harris’ inviting pass and finishing the opportunity in the 90th-minute. It would prove to be Leeds’ last win at Old Trafford for almost 30 years.
“All I had to do was pass the ball into the net,” said Flynn. “That’s not me being modest. The chance was on a plate.
“I spread the ball to Carl Harris out wide and he did the rest. At the time I thought ‘if he opens up and puts the burners on, I’ll never catch him.’ But the pass into the box was perfect and the rest was easy.”
Video footage of the goal tells a different story – of Flynn burying Harris’ delivery with clinical precision before Bailey could move.
Leeds had ridden their luck throughout the Division One game, under pressure for long periods as Manchester United’s Peter Davenport wasted a succession of chances to settled the contest.
“Poor Peter, he should have put them out of sight,” said Flynn. “Let’s be honest with ourselves we were lucky to be in the game when I scored.
“They had so much of the ball and all of the chances but any time you go to Old Trafford you have to be brave and you have to hang in there. It was proper smash-and-grab.
“The scenes behind the goal when I got the goal were crazy. It felt like there were about 15,000 Leeds fans there. We had the whole of one end of the stadium and the place went up.”
The match at Old Trafford attracted almost 50 per cent of votes in the YEP’s Match of the Decade poll, well ahead of United’s extra-time defeat to Coventry City during a dramatic FA Cup semi-final in 1987.
Leeds’ 6-0 rout of Oldham Athletic in 1984, a result inspired by the performance of Peter Lorimer, pulled in a 13-per-cent share, with the 1987 play-off final defeat to Charlton Athletic and Gordon Strachan’s debut against Portsmouth in 1989 finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
Flynn’s strike against Manchester United was one of 11 he scored in five years with Leeds and by some distance the most memorable.
“It was my best goal for Leeds and one of my most memorable in general,” he said. “The only other goal that compares was the one I scored on my international debut for Wales against Scotland. I put them joint first.
“But the memories of Old Trafford are crystal clear, even now. I felt like a special goal at the time and I still like to talk about it. A friend of mine managed to get a DVD recently and it was great to be able to watch it properly and relive the moment.
“Obviously Beckford went on to score at Old Trafford and I was there to see it. I thought ‘good on the lad, I know how that feels.’ But he hasn’t taken my record. My goal was in the league!”
Result of 1980s Match of the Decade poll:
Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1 (1981) – 46 per cent
Coventry City 3 Leeds United 2 (1987) – 29 per cent
Leeds United 6 Oldham Athletic 0 (1984) – 13 per cent
Leeds United 1 Charlton Athletic 2 (1987) – 8 per cent
Leeds United 1 Portsmouth 0 (1989) – 4 per cent