Bryan Robson and Denis Irwin in Perth as part of Manchester United's Tour 2019.

Legends relishing renewed Leeds rivalry

Tuesday 16 July 2019 13:45

Bryan Robson and Denis Irwin are looking forward to Manchester United renewing our old rivalry with Leeds United on Wednesday.

The two clubs are set to meet as part of Tour 2019, and this hotly anticipated clash at Optus Stadium, in Perth, will be the Reds’ second warm-up fixture ahead of the new season.

It will also be the first time we have locked horns with Leeds since a League Cup clash in 2011, while it has been 15 years since we met the Yorkshire outfit in the Premier League. However, during Robbo and Denis’s playing days, Leeds were rivals for silverware.
Watch Denis Irwin's interview about Leeds with MUTV.

“It was really fierce - the Leeds rivalry was on another level, bar Liverpool,” Robson reflected in an MUTV interview at United’s base in Perth. 

“It was unbelievable, the rivalry, and when you got off the bus, they were giving you abuse as you were going into the dressing room."

Irwin concurred with his former colleague, adding: "It was huge. I mean it was up there, maybe not quite with Liverpool, but it was just underneath.

"It was certainly one of the tougher places to go and they viewed that as their biggest game, I suppose, because Liverpool have got Everton in the same city and we’ve got Manchester City and Sheffield have got two clubs, but Leeds are very much on their own so they see Manchester United as their biggest rivals.”

The Irishman started his career in England at Elland Road but left the club in 1986 to join Oldham Athletic, before moving to the Reds four years later.

While Leeds may be one of our biggest rivals, Irwin admits he still has fond memories of his time at the club.

“I signed for Leeds at 16, and the world is a small place now," he said. "But it seemed a long way from home and it was hard initially to leave Ireland, but they made me very welcome. It’s a big club.

“It didn’t really work out for me and I ended up moving on, but I enjoyed my time there. When I joined Manchester United, after four years at Oldham, I used to get horrendous stick when I went back to Elland Road. I suppose it’s part and parcel of the territory.

"I was delighted when Eric [Cantona] signed for a number of reasons, but one was because he took all the flak away from me. It was a tough place to play, it’s very hostile and the rivalry is huge, but you thrive in those situations and I used to love playing at Elland Road.”
While United are meeting Leeds in Perth, for much of the 2018/19 campaign, it looked as if we would soon be playing Marcelo Bielsa’s side in the Premier League, yet a late-season dip in form meant Leeds finished third and failed to gain promotion when losing to Derby County in the play-offs.

For Robson, he believes the Whites have a strong team, one that may have the quality to go up from the Championship in 2019/20. 

“You look at Leeds last year, they were everybody’s favourites after Christmas to win promotion, but they just dropped off at the end of the season and didn’t achieve what they wanted to achieve,” he said.

“I’m sure they’ll get come back stronger this season because they’ve been there before. I think they’ll be a little bit better in this coming season and it wouldn’t surprise me if Leeds do go up this season.

“I’ve got to say, Leeds are a big club. It would be great to see them back in the Premier League because I believe big clubs need to be in the Premier League. Because they’ve been down in the divisions for the last few years, that rivalry has eased down, but it’ll be really interesting to see how the players go about it in this game.”
View Bryan Robson's MUTV interview in full from Down Under.
“I think it will be a competitive game,” he added. “But remember we are Manchester United, we are in the Premier League, so I’d expect a reasonable performance from the boys, no matter what team Ole picks. It’s a good game, the second game into the pre-season and you hope for a good performance from the boys."

Irwin also believes the game against Leeds will be a step up in quality, following on from the clash with Perth Glory last weekend.

“You saw the other night we played against a Perth Glory team that were organised and disciplined and made it hard for us to break down, but never really thought about pushing out and attacking at all - I don’t think they had a shot in the whole game,” Denis said. 

“I think you’ll see more of a game where Leeds will want to attack and that might open the game up a little bit more and suit us even more. They’ll be more of a threat, so that’ll test our defenders, that wasn’t the case the other night and it might open some gaps further up the field as well. It’ll be a bigger test, it certainly will be.”

Leeds will be the second of six pre-season games being shown live on MUTV this summer. The club's official television channel is available on, the MUTV app, Amazon Fire, Roku, Xbox and Apple TV.