The day Leeds United dreamed of greatness over Manchester United
Leeds 0-1 Man Utd, Feb 20 2000 Almost 10 years ago, Manchester United travelled to Elland Road to face their old rivals Leeds United sitting just three points ahead of David O'Leary's side at the top of the Premier League. Top 10 British football transfers between rival clubsAt the end of his first season at the club, the Irishman had guided his young charges to fourth in the league, earning a Uefa Cup slot they would go on to reach the semi-finals where they were knocked out by Galatasaray and inspiring the signings of Danny Mills, Michael Bridges and Jason Wilcox for an assault on the title. When Sir Alex Ferguson and his side, fresh from winning the treble, visited, Leeds had become their most serious title challengers. Their team was packed full of internationals and, with United away in Brazil for the World Club Championship, Leeds had spent much of the winter top. The match was more than just a Derby of the Roses, far more than bragging rights were at stake. For the first time in almost a decade, the game was pitched as a title decider. An Andy Cole goal, in the 52nd minute, settled it. Victory gave Ferguson's side the initiative in the title race they would go on to finish 18 points ahead of Arsenal but failed to divert O'Leary, and chairman Peter Ridsdale, from their grand plan. In the summer, Rio Ferdinand and Mark Viduka arrived for a combined fee of £25 million as Leeds entered the Champions League for the first time since 1992. Valencia knocked them out in the semi-finals further than United managed, and only after Barcelona, Lazio and Deportivo La Coruna fell by the wayside and Leeds's inexorable rise was at an end. Their European adventure affected their league form, too, condemning them to a Uefa Cup slot. But Ridsdale had borrowed £60 million against future gate receipts, banking on Leeds remaining among Europe's elite. Trouble was brewing. Within three years the club, on the verge of administration and shorn of most of the £100 million of stars brought in by O'Leary and Ridsdale, were relegated, though the players gathered at Elland Road to chase the dream would go on to dominate English football for much of the decade. Nigel Martyn The goalkeeper left Elland Road for Everton in 2003, dislodging Richard Wright as David Moyes's first-choice and helping the Goodison Park club to a Champions League slot two years later. Voted part of Leeds's greatest ever team in 2006. Gary Kelly The right-back retired in 2007 at the age of 32 following 16 years at Leeds after falling out with Ken Bates and then-manager Dennis Wise. The Irish international was the last remaining member of the side which reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2001. Lucas Radebe Still a cult hero at Elland Road, the South African retired in 2005, though his name is still sung at the ground. He now works as an ambassador for the 2010 World Cup, a role he will reprise for England's bid for the 2018 tournament. Jonathan Woodgate After leaving for Newcastle in 2003 for £9 million, the defender spent 18 months with his hometown club before joining Real Madrid for £13.4 million. After a spell at Middlesbrough he is now with Tottenham. Ian Harte Left Leeds in 2004 for Spanish side Levante, though the move was less than successful. His contract was terminated in 2007 and spells with Sunderland and Blackpool followed before he joined Carlisle. Eirik Bakke Despite a bright start to his Leeds career, Bakke's time in Yorkshire was interrupted by injury. A loan spell at Aston Villa did not lead to a permanent move and, despite wishing to stay in England, he joined Norwegian side SK Brann in 2006. Lee Bowyer The troubled midfielder has endured a nomadic existence since leaving Leeds, finally settling at Birmingham after spells at West Ham, twice, and Newcastle. Matthew Jones The Welsh midfielder moved to Leicester for £3 million in December 2000 but was forced to retire in 2004, aged 23, after a string of injuries. Resumed playing, for Llanelli, his hometown club, in 2007. Jason Wilcox The winger left Leeds upon their relegation in 2004, joining Leicester and Blackpool before retiring two years later. Now manager of Sunday league side Swinton. Alan Smith A Leeds fan, Smith was branded a Judas when he joined Manchester United for £7 million after relegation, despite the money effectively securing Leeds's short-term survival. Now with Newcastle. Harry Kewell Joined Liverpool in 2003 in a controversial move, but the Australian's time at Anfield was frustrating. He now plays for Turkish side Galatasaray, to the fury of many of his former supporters.
Related Leeds United News