Heaton: Leeds clashes are always feisty
Manchester United face Leeds United twice in quick succession this week, starting with this evening’s Premier League clash at Old Trafford.
Reds goalkeeper Tom Heaton, who has fond memories of taking on our Yorkshire rivals in his Academy days, is relishing what he describes as a “highly octane” period of football.
The Whites travel to Manchester tonight (Wednesday) for the 29th Premier League meeting between the two sides, and in our matchday programme United Review, Heaton says there’s a different aura around what is one of the longest-standing rivalries in football.
“I think you can feel that spark,” he said. “Of course, at the end of the day it’s a game where there’s three points at stake, but you can’t hide away from the fact that it’s an age-old rivalry.
“You can always feel it in the atmosphere, home and away, how much it means to the club, the players and the fans. So yeah, I think there’s always a bit of magic in the air.
“I think [playing Leeds] twice will certainly make it a high-octane week, but obviously we want to go and embrace it and try and come away with a positive result in both games.”
A product of the United Academy, Heaton remembers taking on the Yorkshire outfit at youth level, adding that there was no love lost in these fixtures either.
“[I had] plenty of games against Leeds. Some really good encounters,” he recalled.
“With the rivalries, there's added bite in the games. It’s where you want to be as a footballer.
“You want to play in those good atmospheres, experience the fierce rivalries and come out on the right side of it. As a youth player that’s no different.”
One memory that resonates with Tom is his first match as captain of Burnley in 2015, when he took on Leeds in the Championship.
He says that the match against the Whites was a “proud moment” for him, and was a key catalyst for the successful career he had at the highest level, which ultimately brought him back to the Reds in 2021.
“Sean Dyche had given me the armband and we were looking to get promoted straight back to the league,” he explained.
“We went away to Elland Road that day – I think was it 1-1 – and it was an incredibly proud moment to be captain of the football club. A football club steeped in history and tradition.
“It was a very, very proud moment and it was nice that season to end up winning the league and get promoted back to the Premier League. It was the start of a really good season.”
If you enjoyed this extract, read the entire interview and plenty of other exclusive content in this week's edition of United Review.
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