Footballing brothers, Jack and Bobby Charlton, were on opposite sides in the rivalry.

The story of our rivalry with Leeds

Sunday 23 June 2019 11:30

Manchester United have an intense rivalry with Leeds United that began as early as 1906 but has its roots much further back in history.

The War of the Roses in the 15th Century, fought between the House of Lancaster (the red rose) and the House of York (the white rose) created a sense of bitterness between the two areas from either side of the Pennines that has never truly disappeared. The fact one team plays in red and the other in white (well, since 1961 anyway) only accentuates that link. It is also a fact that Manchester and Leeds were rivals for business during the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries, and even now compete for new companies investing in the cities.

Games between the Uniteds, such as this 1970 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough, always draw in the crowds.

In footballing terms, it all began with a 3-0 win for Leeds at Bank Street in Division Two, back in January 1906. The Reds gained revenge in a first outing at Elland Road a few months later, securing a 3-1 victory, but trips to the West Yorkshire ground would become ones to face with trepidation.

A first top-flight meeting came in 1925/26 with Leeds earning a 2-0 home victory before going down 2-1 at Old Trafford, with Francis McPherson and Eric Sweeney scoring the hosts' goals. The visitors' marksman that day was Tom Jennings, who found the net in four consecutive fixtures against the Reds.

Leeds were crowing after a 5-0 victory at Elland Road in 1930, still their record triumph in our fixtures, with Bobby Turnbull claiming a hat-trick, and continued to just about have the edge leading up to the Second World War, although the entertainment was a bit scarce as there were three goalless draws over this period.

The tide certainly changed with the Reds winning eight of the next nine meetings, as Matt Busby's Babes began to sparkle in the mid-1950s. Bobby Charlton regularly became the scourge of the Yorkshiremen and the fact his brother Jack was a rock at the heart of the Leeds defence only added to the heightened sense of theatre.

Matches during the Don Revie era began to resemble the battles of the aforementioned War of the Roses to a degree as his Elland Road outfit cultivated a reputation of physical play that challenged all their opponents. Part of what would become folklore were the FA Cup clashes between the clubs with the Whites edging semi-finals in 1965 (after a replay) and 1970 (after two replays, before going on to lose a classic final replay at Old Trafford to Chelsea).

The Reds had to wait seven years before gaining revenge in the competition, winning 2-1 at Hillsborough in 1977 en route to lifting the trophy, thanks to early efforts by Steve Coppell and Jimmy Greenhoff. Of course, the Division One scraps had continued to take place throughout the 1970s and that success at Sheffield Wednesday's ground was a fifth on the trot for the Reds.

George Best lays prone on the turf after being on the wrong end of a bad Leeds tackle.

The fierce hostility went up a notch when the Reds raided Elland Road for Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen in 1978, with the latter scoring in a 3-2 triumph away to his old club in his first season after the transfer. Andy Ritchie hit a hat-trick in the return fixture in Manchester, in a 4-1 success, but Leeds then enjoyed a purple patch of form in matches between the clubs before sliding out of the top flight in 1982.

Indeed, the Reds scored only once in the five early Eighties clashes, although that effort from Frank Stapleton was at least a winning goal. In the preceding meeting at the Theatre of Dreams in 1981, Leeds triumphed 1-0 with Brian Flynn's solitary injury-time strike; that result would remain in the record books for 29 years as the Yorkshire club's last Old Trafford victory.

Rivalries were renewed in 1990/91 after the men from across the Pennines ended their eight-year absence from Division One. Two bruising league battles both ended in draws but Alex Ferguson's side came out on top in an entertaining League Cup two-legged semi-final, with Lee Sharpe starring for the Reds.

Gary Pallister celebrates the League Cup semi-final win in 1991, with Mal Donaghy and keeper Les Sealey.

In the following season, the two Uniteds went head-to-head for the last league title before England's highest tier became the Premier League.

In a quirk of fate, the rivals were also drawn together in the League Cup and the FA Cup, and although Leeds hosted both ties, the visitors twice came out on top. The other game in a famous trilogy - the sides met three times in West Yorkshire in 18 days - was in the league and when that ended in a 1-1 draw, it halted the Reds' momentum.

Ferguson's men faltered and, although the League Cup was eventually lifted at Wembley, the chance of being champions for the first time since 1967 slipped away as the Yorkshire club, inspired by ex-Reds midfielder Gordon Strachan and a certain Eric Cantona, were crowned as the last winners of the old First Division.

When a first Premier League meeting at Old Trafford in September 1992 ended in a 2-0 home win, it suggested Leeds' spell as top dogs would be short lived. That feeling was only intensified by the Reds' shock signing of Cantona three months later, a move that amazed the football world and angered the Elland Road faithful.

Cantona, of course, would be the catalyst for his new club's period of domestic dominance and he compounded his former employers' woes by scoring in three separate games against them. The Frenchman saw no reason not to celebrate a goal right in front of the Leeds fans, his arms outstretched, in what was Howard Wilkinson's final game in charge of the Whites.

Former Leeds striker Eric Cantona celebrates a Reds goal at Elland Road.

The Reds generally continued to hold the upper hand against the dogged Yorkshiremen, including a key win en route to the 1996 title when Roy Keane scored a late breakthrough goal, and an exciting 3-2 success in the Treble campaign.

There were more top-class thrills and spills in a 4-3 away win for the Reds in 2002 but Leeds actually did their old foes a favour in the following year, when a superb strike by Mark Viduka at Highbury confirmed Arsenal could not catch Sir Alex's men in the title race. Another late goal by Keane, this time at Elland Road, broke the Whites' hearts in their relegation season, 2003/04, and Eric Djemba-Djemba grabbed the winner in a further away win, in the League Cup.

However, the Yorkshire side wildly celebrated a shock 1-0 win at Old Trafford in 2010 when they were actually in the third tier. The FA Cup tie, in freezing conditions in Manchester, was settled by Jermaine Beckford's precise finish on an off-day for Sir Alex's side. It was the first time Leeds had been able to crow at the Theatre of Dreams since 1981.

Due to the Whites' prolonged stint outside the Premier League, there has only been one more clash in the last nine years - a League Cup tie at Elland Road in 2011, when Michael Owen scored twice in the Reds' 3-1 success. That latest encounter showed the hostility remains as strong as ever and although the next one will be played thousands of miles away in Perth, Australia on 17 July, you can bet Leeds - who just missed out on Premier League promotion under Marco Bielsa last season - will approach it with extra relish.

All six of Manchester United’s pre-season games will be available to watch live on MUTV, including the clashes with Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan and AC Milan.