Trans-Pennine Unpleasantness….

Tomorrow sees the rather unfortunate resumption of another of United’s traditional rivalries against Leeds United of League One who will be bringing about 10,000 of their charming and happy-go-lucky fans across the Pennines for an FA Cup 3rd Round Tie.  This will no doubt encourage in Leeds supporters the belief that they are in some way on the road back to the Premiership, something about which I fervently hope they are wrong.  Some United fans might miss the rivalry between the clubs but to be honest, I don’t, having witnessed and suffered the dismal spectacle of Leeds’ Neanderthal fan base all too often in the past. 

Elland Road – always a dump – was never a pleasant away visit and yet I seem to have contrived to visit it all too often over the years.  Usually, we came out on top – I have particularly fond memories of Lee Sharpe scoring the winning goal in a League Cup semi-final and, more recently of a 4-0 league win when Eric got to score at the end where the scum that had baited him mercilessly throughout the game were mainly situated.  However, tomorrow’s game is at our place and I hope Fergie has the good sense to play a strong enough side to win comfortably.  Anything that increases the traditional resentment of Leeds fans is OK by me – they deserve nothing better.

Eric Cantona treats Steve Hodge of Leeds to the  traditional finger in the eye….

The problem for Leeds of course was that they were the next really successful team to follow the Busby Babes and because most of the Press had fallen in love with Busby’s United and the sheer romance associated with the club, Leeds just seemed like (and, let’s face it, were) grimy second-rate neighbours from across the Pennines, with unpleasant characters like Bremner & Hunter in their team instead of the charismatic Law and Best.  The Press didn’t like them or the obviously weird Don Revie and though Allan Clarke and Eddie Gray were decent players, Leeds taken in totality suffered by comparison with the Busby teams of the 60’s and for all their success were damned with faint praise by the media in general.

If the mid-to-late 60’s were a ‘golden age’ for English football with England’s World Cup win and United winning the European Cup in 1968, the late 60’s and early ’70’s were the new Dark Ages with the media waking up to the whole hooliganism problem and Revie’s thuggish tactics providing a suitably unpleasant counterpoint on the pitch.

Back in the 60’s: King Denis pops another one past the hapless Leeds defence

Leeds are still a really unpopular team with most people and it’s not really surprising considering their arrogant demeanour and Professional Yorkshire-ism over the years.  I have fond memories of attending a game at Old Trafford in the early 80’s where I had organised stand seats for two musicians I knew in Manchester who were Leeds natives and thus diehard fans.  United thrashed Leeds 5-0 with Andy Ritchie scoring a hat-trick and these two clowns just got up and left at the end of the game and wouldn’t even speak to me – and I was trying very hard not to be triumphalist or to gloat.

Leeds fans hate Manchester United for many reasons – the perceived canonisation of Busby and ignoring of Revie figuring prominently in their litanies of resentment – but the reason they probably hate us the most is that they have begun to understand that whatever happens they will never be as big a club as United.  Even when they were at their most successful, they were nowhere near as well-supported or as respected as we were.  Even when we had our season down in the second tier in the mid-70’s, people were still getting locked out of Old Trafford home games – doubt if that’s ever been a problem at Elland Road.

Let’s face it, Leeds United are just another reason to be grateful for the Pennines…..

A Walk in Edale, Peak District by curreyuk.

The Pennines; nature’s way of separating Manchester from Mordor

Postscript: The game finished 1-0 to Leeds which of course will be all over the web and the Press for the next week or so – and I must congratulate the Leeds players who quite clearly attached more importance to this game than we did.  Not for the first time, Ferguson got his team selection wrong – the centre of midfield was neither strong nor creative enough and  not enough urgency was shown by the likes of Gibson, Welbeck and Berbatov.  A draw would probably have been a fair result but this is maybe just one to forget as quickly as possible.  Whatever team Ferguson puts out in midweek against City in the Carling Cup semi had better perform better than this otherwise the tongues will start to wag about Fergie – I wonder if this is going to be his final season?

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2 responses to “Trans-Pennine Unpleasantness….

  1. Hi there agentcoop!

    This is your friendly Essaouira festival friend.

    Guess what – I’m a Man United fan. I remember the glory days of the Charltons (my maiden name – apparently we’re distantly related) and, of course, the best player ever – George Best (my best friend at the time was part of his wild, crazy party set).

    So, was v disappointed that they lost to Leeds United (always renowned for their violence on and off the pitch) yesterday. Fergie obviously under-rated them; a very silly thing to do.

    I also remember watching the 1966 World Cup. I was making a dress at the time and when England scored, I jumped up victoriously and all my dressing making pins flew around the room.

    We were winning 2-1 until just before the final whistle but then Jack Charlton (always playing at the edge of ‘foul-dom’) fouled a German player in the penalty box and Germany scored. Therefore, the extra time played was a nightmare until that glorious shriek by the commentator ‘they think it’s all over (after our 4th goal) and it is now.’ Spine chilling.

    Do you think we have a chance of winning this year? I’m trying really hard not to laugh as I write this. I reckon that our guys can beat any-one if they’re playing their best but that often doesn’t happen. Have a soft spot for ‘golden balls’, though. Hope he’s in the squad.

    All the best,

    Maggie K

  2. Hi Maggie,

    I’m not terribly optimistic about our chances of doing much this year and I really think that Ferguson might pack it all in before too much longer. There seems a curious malaise hanging over the club – we continue to do pretty well and yet there’s no real excitement – a testament to how much we miss Ronaldo I think. Also, I think players like Berbatov, Anderson, Nani & Tosic haven’t really delivered on a consistent basis and the continuing over-reliance on Giggs & Scholes is an ongoing worry. Also I think recruiting Michael Owen symbolises a lack of imagination at the top. The whole place needs a shot of excitement…I mean, we’re Manchester United for heaven’s sake, not Fulham or Coventry City….

    As for the World Cup, I’ll watch it when it’s on but to be honest I usually get more pleasure from watching someone like Argentina or Holland than I do from watching Ing-er-land. Beckham will be back at Old Trafford next month when we play AC Milan in the Champions League….I trust that he will get the reception he deserves; personally I wish he’d never been forced into leaving…

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