There’s a notion that the cross-Pennine rivalry between Leeds and Manchester United is directed only from right to left.
Little old Leeds, they say, are of little interest to Manchester United fans, especially since their sorry descent into the football league. It is suggested that Leeds’ bitterness towards those in red is built on inferiority and above all, jealousy. Manchester United fans, on the other hand, have bigger fish to fry.
Anyone building this case should be reminded of the noise protruding from the Stretford End eight years ago today.
Simon Grayson’s Leeds arrived up for a televised FA Cup third round fixture top of the third tier and emanating the sort of optimism that inspires famous cup shocks. When main man Jermaine Beckford put them into the lead with a classy 19th-minute finish, that level of optimism rocketed, not least among their ever-vocal travelling support.
As frustration circled Old Trafford, the home side wilted. Leeds dug deep in order to grind out their famous 1-0 win and as Sir Alex Ferguson emptied his bench of Premier League legends Ryan Giggs, Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen, the lesser lights of Richard Naylor and Neil Kilkenny shone bright.
Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov lead the line for a Manchester United side near the peak of their considerable powers. They would go on to finish a point behind Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea in the Premier League and lift the League Cup.
Rooney and Owen had penalty shouts turned down and as the minutes whiled away, the ire of the home fans became more vocal. This was a game they were desperate not to lose, more so than in many of their cup departures before and since. This was Leeds.
The rivalry between the two powerhouses is steeped in history as far back as the war of the roses, through the industrial revolution and into a 21st century that saw Manchester given the opportunity to thrive ahead of our proud old town.
Then there was the small matter of football. Leeds’ 1960s and 1970s heyday was at the expense of Matt Busby’s Manchester United, knocking the Old Trafford outfit from their perch with an often physical style of play that still enrages so many football fans around the country.
Leeds’ Championship-winning season in 1991/92 was in part due to the implosion of Manchester United, whose perceived arrogance of the time was beginning to increase. That Leeds are able to call themselves ‘The Last Champions’ hurts many over the hill.
The Cantona switch, in hindsight a game changing moment in the course of British football, remains a sharp kick to the gut for so many Leeds supporters and where David O’Leary’s babes threatened to challenge the dynasty of Old Trafford, it never materialised.
Manchester United are the major beneficiaries of satellite television gluttony, of course, a gold rush that proved to be catalyst for Leeds’ self-inflicted demise. Whilst Yorkshire looks on, in a footballing sense, Manchester has grown to embody everything that Leeds could have been.
By a similar token, the fact that Elland Road has retained a sense of locality, that its atmosphere remains as fierce and as passionate as ever, is a thorn in the side of Manchester United fans now used to the richly over-sanitised surroundings of corporate Old Trafford.
And then there is Beckford. Whether they admit it or not, the very mention of his name is enough to irritate a Manchester United fan, the sorry state Leeds fans left the away stand that day is still a source of huge Manc angst.
As the song implores, January 3rd 2010 is a date no Leeds fans will forget in a hurry. Jermaine Beckford’s 19th-minute strike at Old Trafford has become one of the go-to images of the fierce cross-Pennine rivalry. And make no mistake, that rivalry goes both ways.