This December will see the return of a great rivalry to the top-flight stage, with Leeds and Manchester United clashing in the Premier League for the first time in sixteen years.
Teams as prolific as Manchester United seldom want for rivals, especially in the post-1992 ‘Premier League’ era of top-flight football, where the rewards for scooping the ultimate prize have grown exponentially over the years.
In the Premier League era alone, Leeds presence on the Premier League’s summit at the dawn of 2000 added new context to an existing rivalry, and makes the current 16-year gap between top-tier clashes of Leeds vs Manchester United all the more inexplicable.
The 2020/21 Premier League season began in September, but even months ahead, certain fixtures promise to command a great audience and provide a memorable spectacle.
What to expect from United v Leeds in 2020/21
The current betting odds available on FOX Bet paint a curious picture. Manchester United’s odds to win the title lag way behind their former peers Liverpool and Manchester City, while Leeds are considered much likelier to avoid relegation than the two other newly-promoted sides – West Brom and Fulham.
The more optimistic Leeds fan may see this as a narrowing of the gap between their heroes and Manchester United. Furthermore, many media outlets will undoubtedly reflect many highlights from the two clubs’ first period of Premier League coexistence, and do everything they can to connect them in some way to the upcoming brace of league clashes.
A goalless draw seems unlikely, with both clubs having a point to prove. Under Marcelo Bielsa’s management, Leeds have unconditionally stuck to an attacking approach regardless of the opposition. A brace of 4-3 scorelines to start this season, with defeat at Anfield and a home win over Fulham, demonstrated this philosophy well.
Manchester United’s opening duo also produced four or more total goals, with United’s defensive line looking highly vulnerable to a team with Leeds’ endeavors.
Manchester Untied’s recent results vs Leeds United
War of the Roses
In a footballing context, most Leeds fans of a certain age will assert that the 1970s – when Leeds United manager Don Revie turned them into a powerhouse, and dethroned Matt Busby’s excellent ‘Busby Babes’ of Manchester United – is the real catalyst to this ongoing feud.
Revie’s Leeds side were famed for being combative (or simply ‘dirty’ to their top-flight peers), and are seen as a product of the time, as football in the 1970s was a violent, ugly affair on and off the terraces. The pure talent of Manchester United legend George Best, who was undoubtedly Busby’s greatest muse of the era, had become less relevant in the face of brutality from Revie’s most feared lieutenants.
The likes of Norman Hunter and Billy Bremner intimidated all in their wake on the pitch, and the peak of the pre-Premier League rivalry arguably came during the 1977 FA Cup semi finals, when scores of fans from both clubs clashed violently outside the stadium. However, that same year saw Liverpool emerge as the dominant force, and they gradually replaced Leeds as Manchester United’s primary rival of the 1970s, remaining so to this day, with 39 league titles between them.
Classic game: Leeds 3-4 Manchester United in 2002.
Hopes for ‘packed’ Elland Road in April
Leeds will relish the fact that the first league meeting of this season is taking place at Old Trafford. Memorably, Leeds won on their last trip to Old Trafford as a League One (third tier) club, knocking them out of the FA Cup in January 2010. Meanwhile, the return – and potential staging in front of an Elland Road with attending fans – comes in late April.
This will further fuel justification for going against bookmakers’ odds, and backing Leeds to strike the first blow, in this new era of a great and long-standing rivalry. Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will also remember well some of the standout clashes between red and white he was involved in as a player, further enriching the sense of legacy attached to this feud.