Leeds United: Mick Jones looks back on his 15 minute hat-trick against Manchester United INTERVIEW

Mick Jones.
Mick Jones.
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MICK Jones had many great matches for Leeds United, but perhaps the best was the 15-minute hat-trick against Manchester United. Leon Wobschall chats with the striker.

SCORING a hat-trick against the old enemy of Manchester United in a crushing victory at an ecstatic Elland Road would represent the perfect scenario for thousands of Leeds United supporters – if dreams could happen and they could play for their heroes for just one day.

Boys Own stuff may be spectacularly far-fetched, but, just occasionally, the incredible occurs and fiction becomes fact. As it did one fateful winter’s day in 1972 when one man firmly etched himself into club folklore.

Mick Jones was the name on every Whites fan’s lips on the afternoon of Saturday, February 19, 1972 when one of the most selfless forwards of his generation was dramatically thrust into the limelight, courtesy of a 15-minute hat-trick which helped to floor the red side of Manchester.

A crippling miners’ strike may have ensured that many homes and businesses were without electricity that week, but United and Jones in particularly, illuminated proceedings in a sensational 5-1 drubbing of the Red Devils.

after a bout of flu, Jones was recalled to the starting line-up for the hosts, who went into the game in pretty impregnable form, having lost just once in 23 matches since mid November.

The visitors, on the other hand, were in freefall. Without a league victory since December 4 and coming to LS11 on the back of a five-match losing streak. the pressure was being heaped on the shoulders of beleaguered Reds boss Frank O’Farrell by the week.

It was all a far cry from the first half of the season when the Red Devils set the pace at the top of the old Division One, heading the table from early October until the first week in January when the wheels came off in a major way.

To the layman, the Lancastrians were ripe for the taking. And so it proved with Jones the chief protagonist as he destructively made hay in front of goal following a season hitherto blighted by injury, illness and sheer bad luck.

In front of a near capacity – and mostly parochial – Elland Road crowd of 45,399, the hosts battered O’Farrell’s ailing outfit, who somehow managed to hold out thanks to the heroics of keeper Alex Stepney until Jones touched home from near the goalline after Eddie Gray’s shot was palmed onto the post just after the break.

Seven minutes later, Allan Clarke flicked in a second and despite Francis Burns almost immediately pulling one back, the Whites’ two-goal cushion was restored within a minute when Jones headed in Billy Bremner’s cross in trademark fashion.

On 62 minutes, it was 4-1 when Jones was again on the spot to slot home to complete a hat-trick – his first in the league – inside 15 bewildering minutes with the Reds firmly on the canvas ahead of the coup de grace arriving when Jones turned provider to enable Peter Lorimer to crash home a fifth 12 minutes later.

Outclassed from start to finish, it represented a seasonal nadir for Manchester United and softly-spoken Irishman O’Farrell, who was sacked later that year in December after another five-star humiliation, this time a 5-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

That February day firmly belonged to the Whites, with most of the delirious supporters shouting: “Easy, easy” long before the visitors were put out of their misery with the shrill of the final whistle.

unassuming frontman Jones says scores of seasoned supporters still remind him of THAT day – and he expects a few more to do so in the run-up to resumption of Roses rivalry when Leeds and Manchester United meet in the Carling Cup in 10 days’ time.

Legendary target man Jones, now 66 and still a regular at Elland Road on match-days, said: “it was such a memorable match for me as Man United were still very big then.

“I think I also got hat-tricks against Swindon and Lyn Oslo in what is now the Champions League – then the European Cup – in my Leeds career. But obviously, the United hat-trick is the one that sticks out and something you get remembered for.

“I can’t particularly remember the hat-trick, more the bout of flu beforehand as I hadn’t played for a few games! It was more or less all in the second half and what I do remember was they had (George) Best playing and Paul Reaney always used to say he was the best player he played against. but Paul always used to do well against him.

“I can’t remember about the ‘easy easy’ chants. In those days, we used to get full houses of around 47,000 and 5,000 locked out and the atmosphere was always tremendous.”

Jones added: “People still talk about that hat-trick and the ‘good old days’ now, which is nice.

“Many of the people who go to the Leeds games now who are taking their children to games were kids when we were playing. It’s gone up to another generation. Many were five to 15 in those days and are now say 40 to 50 and 60 and it’s nice that they still speak about us and what we achieved.”

While the remarkable 1973-74 campaign will be seen by many as the high point of Don Revie’s majestic Elland Road tenure, with the Whites’ 29-game unbeaten run at the start of that season having long since entered footballing folklore, many savvy observers have ventured that the 1971-72 campaign when United lifted the FA Cup and went desperately close to the double that they deserved – and would have probably got if the Football League had been more sympathetic to their fixture schedule – represented a pinnacle in terms of performances.

Looking at the evidence, one can see why with Manchester United one of many sides to be given a bewitching lesson, with the Whites simply irresistible, particularly in the winter/early spring of that season.

After a narrow 2-1 defeat against Southampton at the Dell on November 13, 1971, United lost just once in 23 games in all competitions until the start of April, with their intoxicating football encapsulated when Match of the Day cameras called into Leeds on March 4, 1972 to see one of the most one-sided exhibitions of pure football even seen in England as the hosts exacted cruel revenge for defeat at Southampton with a 7-0 routing.

The run yielded 15 victories and seven draws, with eventual champions Derby County and reigning double-holders Arsenal blown away along with Manchester United in the West Riding, with six also put past Nottingham Forest.

Just for good measure, Liverpool were also beaten twice, in league and cup, at their Anfield fortress and while the rivalry with the Red Devils was undeniably intense, within the walls of Elland Road, it was Bill Shankly’s outfit who were the biggest and more potent northern threat.

All told, during the Revie era, the Whites lost just three out of 23 matches against the red side of Manchester and got to Wembley at their expense in 1965 and 1970.

Jones said: “When we played Manchester United, it was a big period and everyone also remembers the famous game a few weeks after when we beat Southampton 7-0. We went to Cardiff in the FA Cup just after and won and I think we scored about 15 or 16 goals in three games. We were really on song and playing well.

“In that period, we probably peaked as a team and we should have done the double that year. We played some fantastic football and got some fabulous results at that time and were the best team in the country.

“Yes, there was big rivalry with Manchester United then, as there is now. But in those days, I don’t think they hardly ever beat us.

“In terms of the rivalry, I don’t think the fans then were as bitter as they are now. In the modern era, if a Leeds player goes to Man United, they don’t forget and vice-versa. I remember Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen going to Man United and while there was a bit of ill feeling, I don’t think there was the bitterness that there is now amongst the fans.

“there was a big rivalry on the pitch in my day. But also respect.

“I remember the three games against them in the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 1970, I think we had a game at Bolton where Billy (Bremner) got the winner to send us into the final against Chelsea, one at Villa Park and the other at Hillsborough. It was always special to beat them.”

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