THE pressure is off at Elland Road as far as this season is concerned with the remaining six games merely set to determine a finishing position that will not be in the play-ofs or dropzone, bar a miracle at MK Dons.
It was a vastly different story 12 years ago this weekend when United won 2-1 at Blackburn Rovers for what remains their last victory in the Premier League.
United’s predicament looked grim after six-straight losses between December and February but Leeds approached the April clash at Ewood Park following two victories from their last three games – against Manchester City and Leicester.
And goals from Steven Caldwell and Mark Viduka at Blackburn then left third-bottom United in the relegation zone but only separated by goal difference from Blackburn and Portsmouth with all three teams three points ahead of second-bottom Leicester.
United lined up with Paul Robinson in goal, ahead of Caldwell, Gary Kelly, Michael Duberry, Dominic Matteo, Ian Harte, Alan Smith, Seth Johnson, Jermaine Pennant, James Milner and Viduka.
A Blackburn side managed by Graeme Souness featured Andy Cole up front and Brad Friedel in goal.
And within two minutes Friedel was picking the ball out of the net when a corner was played short to Kelly who delivered a deep cross to the far post where an unmarked Caldwell nodded home.
The Whites began strongly with Smith then forcing a fine save from Friedel with his 25-yard half volley.
Blackburn’s only first half chance fell to Jon Stead who volleyed straight at Robinson after being picked out by Cole’s header. At the other end, a Johnson effort flew narrowly wide before a Kelly effort evaded the crossbar.
Johnson then limped off at half-time to be replaced by Erik Bakke and the Whites continued where they left off in the second half.
A weaving run from Smith carried him into the penalty area with the striker then laying the ball off to Milner whose effort smashed the crossbar with Pennant not able to bury the rebound.
Blackburn began to rally with Robinson smothering the ball from Cole whose later overhead kick was also brilliantly saved. Viduka continued to threaten for United and put a shot narrowly wide of Friedel’s goal. But the Australian bagged what proved the game’s decisive goal with one minute remaining when slotting home a Pennant cross from the byline that Smith had left to his strike partner.
The strike proved crucial with Blackburn immediately responding when Craig Short headed home Paul Gallagher’s free-kick to make it 2-1.
Blackburn, though, ran out of time with Leeds suddenly within touching of safety with six games left.
But just two points in their next five games sealed the club’s fate with a 1-1 draw at home to Everton – for whom a young Wayne Rooney netted – followed by thrashings at Arsenal and Bolton, either side of a 2-1 loss at home to Bolton.
The Whites were then relegated after a 3-3 draw at home to Charlton in the penultimate game of the season, which preceeded a final day 1-0 loss at Chelsea.
Relegated trio United, Leicester and Wolves all finished on 33 points – six adrift of Everton. Blackburn, meanwhile, who won four straight games after their Whites loss, ended up 15th, 11 points clear of Leeds.
That didn’t look likely 12 years ago on the Saturday evening of April 10.
Blackburn Rovers 1
Leeds United 2 (Caldwell 2, Viduka 89)
Premier League April 10, 2004
Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Amoruso, Short, Gray, Emerton, Tugay, Flitcroft, Reid (Gallagher 45), Cole, Stead (Jansen 68). Subs not used: Todd, Andresen, Enckelman.
Leeds United: Robinson, Kelly, Caldwell, Duberry, Harte, Pennant, Seth Johnson (Bakke 56), Matteo, Milner, Smith (McPhail 90), Viduka. Subs not used: Radebe, Simon Johnson, Carson.
Referee: S Dunn (Gloucestershire).