Euro 2020 Special

Manchester United vs Leeds United: History of the Pennines Derby

Manchester United vs Leeds United has been an intense rivalry which began in the early 1900s. To understand the inception of this hatred, one needs to go way back in history to the 15th Century. The War of Roses was fought between the House of Lancaster (Red Rose) and the House of York (White Rose). The two lands on either side of the Pennines were created with sourness due to this war. Hence the Manchester United vs Leeds United match is called the Pennines Derby or the Roses Derby.

The Beginning

Manchester United was founded in 1878 while Leeds United were founded in 1919. When the ‘Red Devils’ of Manchester clash against the ‘Mighty Whites’ of Leeds there’s only one thing on the agenda, out and out war. In football, the first time the animosity between the two clubs began was in January 1906 when Leeds won 3-0. The first top-flight meeting came in the 1925-26 season with the Whites yet again were victorious 2-0 at Elland Road.

Matt Busby vs Don Revie

Despite the initial few wins for Leeds United, Manchester United dominated the early stage with an eleven games unbeaten run, but things were about to change very quickly. In 1964, Matt Busby’s five-time domestic champions of England went up against Don Revie’s newly-promoted Leeds for the first time. The young Leeds team proved too good for Busby’s United and Billy Bremner’s goal knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup and put Leeds through to the finals of the competition.

In 1968, Manchester United went on to win the European Cup but still, the Champions of Europe were no match for the Whites. Three months later, Leeds were the champions of England for the first time in the history of the club. Manchester United were no longer the sole dominant force in their domestic league, there was a new king in town in the form of Don Revie’s Leeds United. Sir Matt Busby’s United went head-on against Revie’s Leeds 19 times and only managed to win twice.

Sir Matt Busby retired after 25 years in 1969. United asked Don Revie to replace the legendary figure at the club and the Englishman said no. Leeds went on to lift their second English title in 1974 and Manchester United were relegated to the second division in the same year after losing the final matchday ironically against their neighbours Manchester City in a fierce Manchester Derby.

Post Don Revie Era

After 13 beautiful years, Don Revie left Leeds to manage the English national team. For the 1975-76 season, Manchester United were back in the top division and with vengeance on their minds. In the 1979-80 season, the ‘Red Devils’ were back at their best and needed a win to stay alive in the title race. Leeds denied Man United the title after winning at Elland Road.

The 1980s saw the dominance of Manchester United and a somewhat of a downfall for Leeds United. Manchester United went on to win two FA Cup titles in 1983 and 1985. 1986 saw the entry of Sir Alex Ferguson as the new Man United manager. Leeds, on the other hand, were relegated to the second division and lost the playoffs final against Charlton in 1987.

The 1990’s

1990 was a fairly successful season for both the clubs. Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson went on to lift Manchester United’s seventh FA Cup title and Leeds won the second division and returned to the top-flight. In what was dubbed as ‘The Winter Trilogy’, Leeds were all set to play Man United three times in the span of 18 days across different competitions in 1991. Manchester United came out on top on all three occasions. Fergie’s Reds won the battle but it’d be Howard Wilkinson’s Whites who won the war. Leeds beat Man United to the first division title with a game to spare and won its first top-flight league since 1974.

This was just the beginning of the animosity starting to get worse between the two clubs. In November 1992, Eric Cantona decided to leave Leeds United for Fergie’s Red Devils and that didn’t go down well with the Leeds’ faithful. Six months later, he won the first-ever Premier League title with Manchester United.

From that period, Manchester United were the dominant force in Europe and it was difficult for any club to stop them let alone Leeds United. Still, the trip to Elland Road was never easy for the Red Devils and they always received a hostile welcome there.

Turn of the Century

In 2002, in a major move in English football, Rio Ferdinand left Leeds and joined Manchester United for a record fee of 30 million pounds. As you’d expect that didn’t go down well with the Leeds fans either. In the same season, Arsenal and Manchester United were neck to neck in the title race at the business end of the tournament. Arsenal were playing Leeds at Highbury, they needed a win to stay in the title race whereas Leeds needed a win to stay in the Premier League. An 88th-minute winner from Mark Viduka kept Leeds afloat in the Premier League but ironically secured yet another title for their fierce rivals Manchester United.

Viduka’s goal in that season would only delay the inevitable, Leeds United were relegated to the Championship the following season while the golden days of Manchester United were just starting to begin. After 16 long years, these two English giants would meet again in the top flight of English football to reignite the Pennines Derby albeit without the support of their passionate supporters at the venue. It is a new era as Manchester United are rebuilding under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Leeds are newly promoted under Marcelo Bielsa. It promises to be a fascinating encounter and would refuel a historic rivalry.




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