A TRICKY mid-week cup tie awaits Garry Monk’s men tomorrow evening, with another EFL banana skin in store at Luton Town of League Two.
But an altogether different league was on United’s minds 16 years ago this Wednesday, when the Whites sealed Champions League qualification with a 1-0 victory in 1860 Munich and a 3-1 win on aggregate.
After finishing third behind runaway champions Manchester United and runners-up Arsenal in the previous season’s Premiership campaign, United bagged the final qualification spot to compete on European football’s grandest stage following two consecutive seasons in the UEFA Cup.
But David O’Leary’s young side first had to negotiate a potentially dicey qualifier, with the Whites drawn against a side who had finished fourth in the previous season’s Bundesliga, behind Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburger SV.
A crowd of 33,769 flocked to Elland Road for the first leg on Wednesday, August 9 which appeared to be going swimmingly when Alan Smith gave the Whites a 39th-minute lead.
Better still, Munich’s Ned Zelic was then sent off two minutes later, and United then doubled their lead through Ian Harte 19 minutes from time.
But late red cards for Olivier Dacourt and Erik Bakke handed Munich a lifeline and Paul Agostino’s late header gave the Germans a potentially crucial away goal heading into the return leg at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, August 23. The Whites lined up with Nigel Martyn in goal, ahead of a solid defensive line up of Ian Harte, Gary Kelly, Lucas Radebe, Danny Mills, Jonathan Woodgate, Michael Duberry, Lee Bowyer, Alan Smith, Matt Jones and Mark Viduka.
Academy product Jones would make just four more appearances for Leeds before being sold to Leicester City in December for £3m.
By that point, United were in company with Real Madrid, Lazio and Anderlecht in the second group stage of the Champions League, thanks to a rock solid performance in the second leg in Germany and Smith’s 46th-minute winner.
Both sides had chances in the first half with Viduka twice going close for Leeds who were denied claims for a penalty when Daniel Bierofka bundled down Duberry.
At the other end, Martyn was required to make a great save to keep out Agostino and the hosts then hit the crossbar on the stroke of half-time through Thomas Hassler.
But it was the Whites who bagged the overall tie’s crucial fourth goal one minute after the interval when Smith pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the Munich area and neatly beat keeper Michael Hofmann.
Munich now needed two goals just to take the game to extra-time but Leeds held firm with Martyn making another brilliant save from Agostino before Mills cleared off the line.
Woodgate was also required to make a goalline clearance in injury time but by then United’s work was done.
The Whites were through to the Champions League group stages, the start of a magical run that would continue all the way to the semi-finals against Valencia the following May. Immediately speaking, Barcelona, Milan and Besiktas were next, in a group that would see the Spanish giants dumped out as the Whites marched on.
1860 Munich 0
Leeds United 1 (Smith 46)
(United win 3-1 on aggregate)
Champions League qualifier wednesday, August 23, 2000
1860 Munich: Hoffmann, Passlack, Puerk, Max, Haessler, Cerny, Mykland, Stranzl, Borimirov, Agostino, Bierofka. Subs: Tyce, Winkler, Greilich, Beierle, Riedl, Pfudere, Jentsch.
Leeds: Martyn, Kelly, Harte, Radebe, Woodgate, Viduka, Bowyer, Smith, Mills, Jones, Duberry. Subs: Bridges, Huckerby, McMaster, Molenaar, G. Evans, Hackworth, Robinson.
Referee: C Larsen (Denmark).
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