Matt Abbott: As a Leeds United fan I despised Man Utd before I understood what hatred was

When I was in primary school, we lived in a terraced house in Horbury. We lived there for five years and during that time there were two occasions when the neighbours had to knock on through sheer concern, writes Matt Abbott.

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Saturday, 24th April 2021, 6:00 am
The biggest game...Leeds play Manchester United this weeked. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

The first was when David Wetherall nodded past Peter Schmeichel on September 27 1997.

I was listening on Radio Aire, and even though it was in the 34th minute, I knew it’d be the only goal of the game. Apparently, it sounded like I’d somehow caught fire.

The second was when Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored in the 96th minute of the 1999 Champions League final. Apparently, it sounded like there’d just been a significant death in the family.

And when my dad tried to explain, they just huffed and shook their heads.

My point is, with that lot, it’s different. All the handsome, popular boys who played up front for the school team – they all supported Man U.

The most irritating duty managers at my weekend jobs did as well. Smug Yorkshire-born glory hunters who all conveniently had an uncle from Manchester who took them to their first game.

I learnt to despise that club, viscerally, before I fully understood what hatred was. And when I first went to a ‘Roses derby’ – March 3 2001 – I experienced first-hand how Elland Road transformed when that lot were in the South Stand. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.

And when Wes Brown’s late own goal was disallowed for offside, with the score at 1-1, I learnt the true meaning of heartbreak.

I’m sure some Man U fans will take it as flattery that we feel so strongly about them.

Next to our ground is the world’s only branch of McDonald’s without any red inside it. It’s really is a game like no other.

But we’ve all heard the Stretford End sing about how they ‘all hate Leeds’ when we weren’t even in the same division, so don’t let them tell you it’s one way.

It goes without saying that seeing these old foes go toe-to-toe at an empty Elland Road on Sunday will irk somewhat.

And if we do manage to avenge the December defeat, it’ll almost feel bittersweet once the dust has settled.

Not that I’m looking for any other outcome, though, obviously.

We’ve taken four points from champions elect Manchester . Drawn against Chelsea and Liverpool at home and beaten Leicester away.

We’ve proven that we can do it. And we know that we’re well clear of relegation. So, let’s mark the week of Peter Lorimer’s funeral in a way that’s truly fitting for the man. Get into ‘em, show ‘em what we’re about. And hopefully, alarm my new neighbours…