Date: Saturday, 14th September 2002.
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds.
English Premier League.
United 1 Manchester United 0
United: Kewell. Manchester
Leeds United: Robinson; Mills, Woodgate,
Matteo (Radebe), Harte; Bowyer, Dacourt, Barmby (Bakke); Smith, Viduka (McPhail), Kewell. Unused Subs: Kelly, Martyn.
Manchester United: Barthez;
O’Shea, Ferdinand, Blanc, Silvestre; Beckham, P. Neville, Butt (Chadwick), Giggs; Van Nistelrooy (Forlan), Solskjaer. Unused Subs:
Pugh, Roche, Ricardo.
Referee: Mr J.Winter (Newton Aycliffe).
This was a day that will
live long in the memories of Leeds United fans. Leeds victories are rare commodities and
to do it when the club’s record signing returned wearing the red shirt of the
arch-rivals made it all the sweeter. Ironic taunts of “You were just a stand-in
for Woody” were quite prophetic after United youngster
Jonathan Woodgate outshone the returning Rio
Ferdinand by a country mile.
United had started the
season in winning mode with two wins over Manchester City and West Bromwich
Albion, but then slumped to unexpected defeats at the hands of Sunderland and
Birmingham City. This was followed by a brilliant 2-0 victory at Newcastle
United when manager Venables was able to field his
first choice team for one of the few times in that injury riddled and debt
ravaged season and United went into the clash sitting in third place and the
luxury of a full-strength team.
Jonathan Woodgate was just one of many fine performers in the United side, his never-say-die attitude typified the spirit
on display, and the single goal victory was more than deserved. The win said a
lot about Leeds’ character than even the 2-0
victory at Newcastle just three days previous had done. While
United had relied on the counter-attacking approach at St James’ Park they
opted to take the game to Manchester in this game and, apart from a lean
spell just prior to half-time, they did it well.
It was fitting that Harry Kewell should score the decisive goal that sent Elland Road into raptures midway through the second half. Kewell had looked a rejuvenated player under Terry Venables and clearly revelled in
playing for a manager who believed that he had more to offer than just
patrolling the left flank. The winning goal was created by another of United’s unsung heroes, Ian Harte.
The Republic of Ireland defender had his fair share of critics, but he
too had looked an improved player under Venables.
Olivier Dacourt was also showing a return to his
best, while Alan Smith and Paul Robinson were in awesome form, and there was an
unerring confidence running through the club at that time. It would be unfair
to single out any one player, though, because once again it was a team effort
added to Terry Venables’ tactical nous
rather than individual brilliance that carried Leeds to victory. In previous times they
would have capitulated after spending the final twenty minutes of the first
half under the cosh, but they simply re-grouped at
half-time, listened wisely to Venables, and returned
to dominate the second half.
The critics were already
claiming that the Ferguson’s Old Trafford Empire was
crumbling, but they still had a squad capable of taking on all-comers. They did
miss the injured Juan Sebastian Veron and several
other stars, and Nicky Butt was no Roy Keane in the middle of the park! Rio Ferdinand,
who had gained all the pre-match headlines also turned in one of his worst
displays at Elland Road and was guilty of three major
errors that could have proved costly. Maybe the barracking did get to him, but
hostilities were nothing like as bad as predicted and by the time the clock
ticked past the ninety minute mark most Leeds fans had forgotten he was even
The England star had a disappointing afternoon
by his high standards, but at least he could walk away knowing he had not
reacted to the initial hostile atmosphere. Sadly the same could not be said for
his international captain, David Beckham. His apparent elbow on Lee Bowyer was
a disgraceful incident and the FA should have reviewed the incident again.
Referee Jeff Winter, who seemed to revel in the limelight of a live TV game,
frequently halted play for the slightest thing yet, unbelievably, only awarded
a free-kick. He just allowed Beckham to escape without a single word of warning
in respect of the incident. It was the only sour moment in the game, unless you
count Butt’s bizarre appeal for a penalty when he bounced off United
centre-back Jonathan Woodgate. Those incidents came
at a time when Manchester were heavily on top.
They dominated the first half and should have been at least one goal to the
Paul Robinson denied Ruud Van Nistelrooy with a superb
save after the Dutchman had weaved his way through the home defence,
while Jonathan Woodgate and Ian Harte
both made vital goal-line clearances. Van Nistelrooy
was again thwarted by Paul Robinson at the start of the second half, but
represented Manchester’s last serious effort on goal and for such a
quality side two clear cut chances was a poor return.
Leeds came our fighting again after the
break and were finally rewarded on sixty-six minutes when Ian Harte’s in-swinging right foot cross from the left was met
by the head of an unmarked Harry Kewell and Elland Road erupted. It was a special moment
for the Leeds faithful, they had waited since
1997 to see off the old enemy, and their response was to roar their side to
The visitors did rally but
lacked invention and the closest anyone came to scoring another goal was when
Ferdinand generously teed up Harry Kewell, but the
Aussie was unable to apply the finishing touch. Ironically, while Ferdinand’s
return was a major talking point, another former favourite
was back at Elland Road. Ex-manager David O’Leary watched
from the Sky-TV commentary box as Leeds recorded their first win against Manchester
United in five years and could have been forgiven for wondering what might have
been. After all, O’Leary tried and failed eight times against United’s arch-rivals. Terry Venables
had beaten them at the first attempt.
Harry Kewell climbs
majestically to head the winner giving Barthez and
the static Manchester defence no chance of stopping it
Harry Kewell scores
the only goal of the game and then he and his team-mates celebrate the fine
Eirik Bakke beats David Beckham
saves miraculously Ruud Van Nistelrooy is pursued by
Lee Bowyer beats Ruud Van Nistelrooy to a
header Mark Viduka holds
off Nicky Butt
The Beckham/Bowyer incident
Harry Kewell scored a
deserved winner Jonathan
Woodgate was superb Olivier
Dacourt returned to his best
Terry Venables beat
Alex Ferguson at the first attempt Paul Robinson and Alan Smith were in fine
Lee Bowyer appeared to get Ian Harte crossed
Sebastian Veron was Fabien Barthez was in goal
an elbow the winner one of many missing stars
John O’Shea and Mikael
Silvestre were the full-backs Rio Ferdinand was paired in central defence with Laurent Blanc
The midfield comprised David
Beckham, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs
Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar
Skolsjaer were the strikers Lee Roche was an unused substitute
Chadwick and Diego Forlan were used as
substitutes Goalkeeper Lopez Felipe
Ricardo was unused
Danny Pugh was also unused substitutes. Danny Pugh later played for Leeds.