Manchester City victory felt like Leeds United's second arrival to the Premier League - Daniel Chapman

HOW much can one league game mean, compared to a season?

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 5:45 am

Is it heresy to suggest that beating Manchester City this weekend, if it’s not better than promotion, maybe just might be up there with it?

Marcelo Bielsa tried downplaying it, the way he downplays everything.

Beating City, he said: “Is part of Leeds’ campaign in the Premier League ... the position that Leeds obtain in the Premier League this year will be above any one performance.”

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JOB DONE: Diego Llorente, right, and Pascal Struijk, second right, high five after Leeds United's 2-1 victory at runaway leaders Manchester City as England star Raheem Sterling, second left, looks on. Photo by RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.


But this one performance didn’t do any harm.

And, I suspect, I’ll remember this one performance much longer than whether we finished eighth or ninth in the end.

Sometimes you have to step back and see yourself as others see you to understand.

Claudio Mauri’s report for La Nacion, in Argentina, observed ‘a happiness that has not been seen since the celebrations after promotion’, and that’s even without fans in the stadiums, a sadness of both Swansea and Saturday.

Leeds’ away following would have provided some useful statistics for comparison: the proportion of travelling fans admitted to A&E, in Wales in July and Manchester now, cheerfully waving their injured limbs.

There’s no trophy to lift for taking three league points from Manchester City and, if there was, the usual fun sponges would be tutting and tapping it for sounds of tin.

For every ‘limbs’ video that does make it to social media – these days confined to filming in living rooms – comes an army rushing to police another club’s celebrations.

Don’t you think all that’s a bit much, for what it was?

They’ve never felt a brimming cup overflowing and it shows.

Everyone knows that the best way to enjoy champagne is by spraying it through a patio door while throwing family pets in the air.

The celebrations we did enjoy, analysed in a cold way, might say something uncomfortable about Leeds United’s status as subjects compared to the Citizens, but we’ve got the Premier League to thank for allowing their dominance to develop while we were away.

Older fans, who saw the Don Revie era, often dislike Leeds playing second fiddle to anybody.

Manchester could rave about their Summerbee and Best, if they wanted, but it was Leeds at the top season after season, as formidable then as City are now.

But the rest of us, even in good times, have known our glory as underdogs, often when it wasn’t warranted.

Howard Wilkinson spent heavily building a First Division team to get out of Division Two in 1990, but they were so widely and generally hated they never held top-dog status.

In Division One, everyone wanted Manchester United to win the title and, with the squad they had, they should have.

So Leeds won it instead.

That, and being dismissed as the weakest team in the Champions League while marching to the semi-finals, or winning at Old Trafford on a trip from League One, has formed the modern character of a club that is always punching upwards.

Landing this blow on Pep Guardiola’s stupendously expensive and brilliantly trained team is a significant breakthrough in that battle.

Bielsa said last week that an unfulfilled objective of this season was cocking a snook at the biggest clubs – not in so many words, but he definitely said it – and defeating City was a kind of second arrival for Leeds in the Premier League.

I’m not downplaying the achievement – it took Leeds long enough – but teams get promoted to the Premier League by beating Bristol City, Reading, Stoke.

As West Bromwich Albion are showing, it doesn’t say anything about your fitness for the top once you’re there.

A chart shared on Twitter by football finance analyst Swiss Ramble is relevant here, too.

Adding new broadcasting income to the club’s existing commercial income should put Leeds into what they called ‘the revenue elite’ – around the top 16, in fact, above Everton, Napoli, Leicester and Milan in terms of the money they’re making, with Zenit, Inter, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund up ahead.

The gap in income to Manchester City, then Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top, is still enormous. But that’s where Stuart Dallas comes in. Twice.

It has felt all season like Leeds have been making a point about their new standing, now the Championship is history.

They mean to leave it there, and that’s not easy.

It’s hard to compare the achievements and be definitive about the better: winning the Championship title with two games to go, or winning three in a row in the Premier League to secure another season here, when seven games are left.

All that was lacking from this campaign was a game, the game, and it was that game, on Saturday.

For Swansea ’20 see City ’21. Better? Maybe not.

But it’s another one worth putting up there.

Daniel Chapman has co-edited Leeds United fanzine and podcast The Square Ball since 2011, taking it through this season’s 30th anniversary, and seven nominations for the Football Supporters’ Federation Fanzine of the Year award, winning twice. He’s the author of a new history book about the club, ‘100 Years of Leeds United, 1919-2019’, and is on Twitter as MoscowhiteTSB.

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Thank you Laura Collins