Sunday, 3 January 2010
Man Utd v Leeds Utd Jan 3rd 2010
What a way to start the new decade by beating the Salford Yanks in their own backyard. Unbelievable! It all started with a nervous but hopeful group of whites fans packing onto the Manchester bound train on an early frosty Sunday morning. The Quiet One was resplendent in his Leeds scarf to keep out the bitter chill. The train was packed before it got to Leeds where even more fans piled onto the bulging train. The first of many choruses of MOT reverberated around the carriage as we left Leeds behind and headed across the snow topped Pennines. The general feeling amongst the whites fans was that if we at least got one goal we'd be happy...........anything else would be a bonus. After all the last time Leeds won at the Theatre of Shite was back in 1981 when Princess Di was a blushing bride and John Lennon was posthumously topping the charts with Imagine. A sobering thought for even the most optimistic Leeds fan.After catching the tram for the final leg to the stadium the tension began to build. Could we really be playing the mighty Salford Yanks?
The draw seemed an eternity ago and now the kick off was less than an hour away the nerves began to bite. HC, the Quiet One, twizzler and I sauntered past the massed Reds fans outside the Trafford pub singing a little ditty about hating Leeds.....................I had to smile, which seemed to irritate them more, guess what? I smiled a bit more and waved until a nice constable suggested we move on.Inside the ground the fantastic away support were soon in good voice but would the team respond positively? Wouldn't be the first time we've frozen at a big game. We soon had the answer as Leeds started well and looked good in the first ten minutes. The Leeds pressing game clearly rattled the reds and when Leeds had the ball they played with all the assurance that their League record deserves.
Looking down from the highest seat in the away end I felt I had to pinch myself. we were mixing it with Rooney, Berbatov et al..............seems a hell of a long way from the trips to the likes of Brighton, Brentford & Wycombe. Early signs were that the Ref was not going to give us anything as he fully respected Sir Alex Rednose's wish to have every decision go to the team in red.
The home team went near as Danny Welbeck floated over a teasing cross but not for the last time in the game the effort went tamely wide.
As the game approached the 20 minute mark Naylor won a ball back from a red shirt that he had no right to get.................Howson picked up the ball and looked up...................Beckford was on Wes Brown's shoulder 40 yards away............Howson pinged a perfect ball over Jermaine's left shoulder as if he placed the ball in his path.......................his first touch was not the best but Becks has electric pace and he strode away from the despairing Brown and slotted the ball neatly past the advancing goalie...........for the next 5 minutes the ball seemed to roll agonisingly slowly towards the net...............as it nestled in the corner of the net the Leeds end exploded in a cacophony of unbridled joy. This wasn't really happening I must be in a dream. When the massed hordes of Leeds fans recovered from the celebrations they belted out a magnificent sound "1.0 in yer Cup Final" Music to my ears. That goal will stay in my memory for years to come as that was the time that I knew Leeds are on their way back.
Teams are most vulnerable when they've just scored but Leeds regained their composure quickly and a neutral observer would have had difficulty in identifying which team was the Premier League one.
A combination of Ankergren and Crowe were soon thwarting the fat Shrek lookalike when he scampered free from the vice like Leeds defence as the away team grew in confidence. At the other end headers from Becchio and Johnson sailed wide. As the half ended Leeds trotted off to a standing ovation. Fergie was not amused and I'm sure I saw him pulling a hair dryer out of his kit bag as he made his way down the tunnel.
So we were 45 minutes from pulling off the shock of the round/decade/year so far. Strangely I was confident we would do it on the evidence of the first 45 mins and as the half got underway we had to withstand an initial burst of post hair dryer energy from the reds. The challenges were now flying in and how Brown stayed on the field after his over the top lunge on Doyle is beyond me. Surely the script said dirty Div 3 side Leeds would be the one's resorting to kicking lumps out of the opposition? The game opened up as both teams weren't afraid of throwing players forward. Giggs and Valencia entered the fray soon to be followed by Owen, but the resolute Leeds defence held firm magnificently led by Kissy & Naylor. As the reds threw everything they had at Leeds it was actually the away team who had the clearer chances as Beckford nearly sealed the game with another intelligent run and shot before Snoddy came off the bench and rattled the bar with a superb free kick.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes the tension became unbearable.............Manure were creating chances but a mixture of heroic defending and distinctly average finishing by the multi million pound strike force kept Leeds in front as the game entered 5 minutes of Fergie time. Seemed like a lot of added time but I wasn't that worried. After all we'd look more than capable of keeping another clean sheet all afternoon so another 5 mins would be easy............and it was. The final whistle went and the fellow 9,000 fans inside the ground were left celebrating an unlikely victory. This fan had to find a suitable rafter to swing from as promised. Even keeping us back for 45 minutes after the game didn't dampen spirits as we sang our hearts out. Once we'd run out of songs a Mexican wave was started, with requisite booing of the now deserted Manure stands for not continuing the wave. The performance of the team today was awesome but special mention for Becchio, Beckford, Ankergren and Kissy who caused Manure problems every time they touched the ball. First game of the what I believe will be Grayson's decade at Leeds. His creditability as a manager just grows with each passing month and hanging onto him will be much more important than any other player who may or may not leave in the transfer window.
The journey home was longer than some of our trips to London but everywhere we went we recognised Leeds fans, not because they were wearing their colours, but because they were sporting a massive grin from ear to ear. Now for our notorious "doom and gloom" fans that's some achievement!
The draw for the next round was observed from a boisterous Wetherspoons in Leeds station. Spurs away was met with great delight by the well oiled whites fans. Another away day and another Premier League team. Can't wait.