LIFTING THE LID: Leeds face Man United on Sunday so we caught up with former Leeds striker Brian Deane to relive his memories of this famous fixture from his own playing days.
When Leeds United welcome Manchester United to Elland Road on Sunday afternoon, the visitors can be sure of one thing: an almighty atmosphere is set to await them.
“It’s a huge game over this side,” ex-Leeds striker and local boy Brian Deane tells BETDAQ. “For the Leeds fans and the city of Leeds, they look at that game as their biggest rivalry.
“I’m not sure it’s viewed quite the same in Manchester, they’ll look at Liverpool as being their biggest game, but it’s a huge game here.”
Deane should know that more than most about a fixture which originates from the strong rivalry between the historic counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire and is believed to have its origins in the 15th century’s Wars of the Roses.
Born in the city, Deane enjoyed two separate spells at Leeds and has fonder memories than most Whites players to have featured in the heated rivalry, having played his part in two famous wins over the Manchester side, scoring in both games.
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“It’s one of those where you feel as if you can’t lose as a Leeds player, so there’s always an extra incentive from our side and point of view,” Deane said of the fixture which is sometimes referred to as either the Roses or Pennines derby. “It’s up there with all the rivalries I played in. Manchester United is the fixture that the Leeds fans look out for at the beginning of the season and ask, ‘when are we playing them?’
“So it really is huge and we knew it was a game we had to perform well in. We knew we weren’t always going to win the games, but we always had to give a good account of ourselves and a good representation of Leeds United.”
It certainly isn’t a game that Leeds fans always expect to win, having picked up just two victories against their rivals in their last 19 meetings.
Rewind the clock and as Deane and his Leeds team-mates headed into their Premier League clash with the Red Devils at Elland Road on 11th September 1994, it had been over 13 years since the Yorkshire club had held the bragging rights.
“I was on the bench for that game, which I was little bit surprised and hurt by,” Deane recalls. “But Noel Whelan played really well in that match and it was Noel who set me up…”
Deane was brought off the bench after half an hour by Howard Wilkinson, by which time the hosts were 1-0 up thanks to David Wetherall’s opener. Shortly after the break, Deane made it two to the delight of the Elland Road faithful.
“I managed to hook myself around Dennis Irwin to get to Noel’s ball and get it past Peter Schmeichel,” Deane says. “I was delighted. When you get dropped you want to make a statement and that was me making a statement at the time.”
An eventful game for Deane would see him also give away a penalty to offer United some hope, which Eric Cantona converted with 16 minutes to go. Much to Deane’s relief, Leeds held on for a famous victory.
“I gave away the penalty but it was outside the box!” Deane says. “Everybody apart from David Ellery, who was not my favourite referee if I’m honest, thought it was outside the box. So we felt a sense of injustice there.
“But the fans that day were great, it’s a huge rivalry for them. I’m a huge believer in whatever the club is doing reflects on the citizens of the city and I remember they were absolutely over the moon, really pleased that we’d beaten United. It was a great feeling to share with the fans.”
After 13 long years for Leeds fans, they wouldn’t have to wait much longer for further glory over their great rivals. Their next Premier League home game against the Red Devils the following season on 24th December 1995 was an even more enjoyable affair for the Whites as they ran out 3-1 winners this time, with Deane once again on the scoresheet.
“Gary McAllister and Tony Yeboah scored in the first half and we then really dominated them in the second half,” Deane recalls.
“We had a move down the right-hand side… Carlton Palmer got to the byline and pulled it back, Tomas Brolin chipped it in, and the ball was at the perfect height for me to redirect it back into the goal. I ran off celebrating and the crowd were going wild. It was another fantastic atmosphere at Elland Road that day. It was packed, and we did a really gob job of silencing United’s fans.”
Deane adds: “It was a great game. We had a really good team back then – Tony Yeboah had come in. We had some really good options – Tony, Phil Masinga, Rod Wallace, Noel Whelan, Tomas Brolin… We were competing with everybody in the league and were chasing Europe.
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“That day we were just too strong for United in every department. It was on Christmas Eve, which was really unusual, and it was a great performance from us. When we came out of the tunnel, you looked across at United, some big names and personalities, but I just had the feeling that we still had a really good chance of winning. We started the game on the front foot and it was a great performance.”
The two victories were made even sweeter for Leeds fans given United were the best team in the country at that point. Going into the 1994 game United were English champions, while they would end up top of the pile in the season that Leeds inflicted the 1995 defeat on them.
“Everybody wanted to beat Manchester United,” Deane says. “They were under pressure every week. You look at the team they had then, the characters, with the likes of Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Eric Cantona… You almost had 11 captains and 11 players that at any time could be a match winner. But we wanted to show what we could bring to the table. We weren’t as consistent as them, but we were up there and on our day we fancied ourselves against anybody.”
While Deane treasures those two Elland Road victories, he and his Leeds team-mates had less luck when travelling across the Pennines to Old Trafford.
“Old Trafford was always a tougher place to go,” he says. “It’s one of those places where the characters United have come into their own. They made it difficult for anybody to play in that stadium. It was about a 60,000 capacity back then, whereas most of the other stadiums were around 40,000. So it made a huge difference going out in front of a crowd like that and not being used to playing in front of such a large crowd. But those were the games you wanted to be involved in.”
But while Deane was able to be involved in such games and regularly test himself against United, the same can’t be said about too many Leeds players over the last two decades.
With Leeds suffering relegation from the Premier League in 2004, the two rivals met just twice in cup games over the next 16 years. With Leeds returning to the top-flight for last season, however, the fixture is firmly back on the calendar, and this weekend Whites fans will be relishing another meeting with United.
“Leeds fan will be delighted to have the fixture back regularly,” Deane says. “It’s the first fixture they look out for at the beginning of the season. It’s huge for the city, having a team competing at the top level is extremely important. It’s a city that is steeped in footballing tradition and coming up from the Championship really buoyed the city. Playing in fixtures like these are so important to the club.”
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