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Manchester United

Premier League
Game 9: Saturday 21 October 2000

Manchester United 3 - 0 Leeds United
(Half-time: 1 - 0)
Crowd: 67525
Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees)
Leeds United
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Match Facts
Manchester United Team Leeds United
Fabien Barthez   Paul Robinson
Mikaël Silvestre   Gary Kelly
Gary Neville   Jonathan Woodgate
Phil Neville   Danny Hay
Subbed - 45 minutes Ronnie Johnsen   Dominic Matteo
Nicky Butt   Matthew Jones Own goal - 81 minutes
Subbed - 31 minutes Roy Keane   Lee Bowyer Booked - 62 minutes
Quinton Fortune   Stephen McPhail
Paul Scholes   Jacob Burns
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer   Alan Smith Booked - 61 minutes Subbed - 78 minutes
Goal - 43 minutes Dwight Yorke   Mark Viduka
Mark Bosnich   Danny Milosevic
Sub - 45 minutes Wes Brown   Robert Molenaar
Sub - 31 minutes Goal - 50 minutes David Beckham   Gareth Evans
Ryan Giggs   Darren Huckerby Sub - 78 minutes
Andrew Cole   Tony Hackworth
Match Reports
Jabba 14 men - they only needed 14 men
Matt G Wakey Wakey - Scum Report
BBC Man Utd cruise past Leeds
The Guardian Beckham fast becoming a pass master
The Independent Beckham puts the strut in United
The Observer Beckham, hunter-killer sub United cruise past Leeds kids
Soccernet Robinson taught a harsh lesson
The Sporting Life Manchester United 3 - 0 Leeds
SportLive Leeds are written off by Beckham
The Sunday Times United kill off weak Leeds
The Electronic Telegraph Leeds a whiter shade of pale
The Times Beckham's peerless display destroys Leeds
Yorkshire Evening Post Injury-hit United second best

The Times, Sunday Times and Telegraph now seem to require registration to view articles on their sites, with the Times and Sunday Times charging readers outside the UK. The Times/Sunday Times has also moved some of the older articles into an archive which requires separate registration and requires you to pay to access the content. The Independent now charges for access to articles more than a week old.

14 men - they only needed 14 men - Jabba

DOL was quoted in the press saying he'd like to kick Alex Ferguson's butt. Maybe the thought of Fergie's rear end put the hacks off their stride, but that wasn't quite the full story. DOL had said he'd like to do that - by coming to OT with a full side. With the injury list looking more and more like the first choice team, that wasn't going to happen today and even before we'd heard that Danny Mills and Ian Harte had been added to the injury list, I didn't think we'd come away from OT with a point.

Based on the performance of each team, I can't complain that the 3 points stayed on the wrong side of the Pennines. What I can legitimately complain about is yet another abysmal performance by the officials. On FIFA's worldwide Fair Play Day (a fact that both sets of fans found extremely amusing) Winter bent over backwards in the first half to avoid booking players for some very late sliding challenges. The fact that the three worst fouls came from Nicky Butt (twice) and Roy Keane we could possibly have passed over but for what followed.

Leeds started very brightly, and when Stephen McPhail picked up the ball at the edge of the Leeds area and set Alan Smith free on the right, Lee Bowyer was inches away from making contact with Smith's cross in the six yard box after brilliantly catching up with play. Bowyer had another chance after half an hour, but his chip over Barthez had just too much weight on it. Paul Robinson was making a good fist of his second appearance at Old Trafford, pulling off a couple of excellent saves - not as confident as Nige in commanding his area, but a creditable replacement. Paul Scholes was the next to get away with an offence that has seen several Leeds players booked in the last couple of years, jumping across Robinson as he kicked from his hands inside the area.

The first real controversy was off the pitch. Recently, the tension between Leeds and Man U fans appears to have dropped a little - it's still gets very fraught and angry at times, but the worst of the confrontations and abuse appeared to have gone away. The Man U fans must miss it - because that's the only explanation I can think of for them waving and kissing a Galatasaray shirt and making throat-slitting gestures. Needless to say, the local stewards and police did nothing at all until the Leeds fans responded. The Leeds fans started up the Munich songs, and the thin yellow line separating the two sides was looking very worried. The scum from Old Trafford had got the reaction they wanted, as the 64000 otherwise silent fans found their voices.

Shortly after the off-pitch controversy, the on-field incidents really got going. With Dwight Yorke a yard offside in the middle of the park, the ball was played out to Solskjaer on the wing - right in front of the Leeds fans and also perilously close to offside. His cross found Yorke - again, very close to an offside position - unmarked in the middle as the defence had been drawn out of position, and his header put Man U one up just before half-time. Needless to say, this was the cue for some sustained abuse of the linesman and ref, since the first decision hadn't even been marginal. One half gone, one offside goal not disallowed and four yellow cards not issued. At this stage, we didn't deserve to be behind, but that's life (at OT anyway).

Five minutes into the second half, the game was over. Solskjaer was all over Jacob Burns trying to get to the ball, but the Leeds defence had shuffled the ball 10 yards away and the situation was well under control. Then Burns pushed out and the Norwegian flew through the air in a manner that suggests he's looking for a berth in the WWF in his spare time. The ref had the perfect excuse to award a free kick, 5 yards out from the 'D' of the penalty area - slightly harsh, but Burns was stupid to give them the opportunity. David Beckham - of course - stepped up, and we all expected the ball to end up in the back of the net from another scorching free kick. The ball did end up in the goal, but it looks like Becks has been brushing up on his geometry as he made it via a deflection from Lee Bowyer's back that left Robinson totally wrong-footed.

For most of the second half, we were outclassed. "Are you England in disguise?" asked the Man U fans. From a team that supplies half the national, that's rich - if accurate. Smith was booked for dissent. His offence was to question the linesman's decision to award a free kick against him after he'd got ahead of Barthez and tried to remove the Frenchman's hand from his shirt. And then they took the free kick over 15 yards ahead of where the "offence" occurred. Lee Bowyer had the red mist descend on him for a couple of minutes, and Quinton Fortune was selected as the target for Bowyer's retribution after one elbow too many. Fortune was hacked, Bowyer was booked - no complaints there.

The late goal came after a long period of pressure, and was probably the only one you could question Robinson's performance over. Matt Jones was doing his best (but where were the defenders) and he was desperately unlucky to drag the ball over the goalline as he battled with Solskjaer.

Final abysmal decision from the officials involved Barthez again. For once, Mark Viduka appeared to put in some effort, and when the goalkeeper decided he wanted to dribble the ball outside the area, Viduka got in front of him, put the ball past him and joined the rest of us in expecting at least a yellow - if not a red - for the Frenchman when the whistle went with Barthez hanging on to Viduka's arm. Needless to say, the moron on the touchline had decided that it was Viduka's fault for letting his arm be grabbed - free kick to Man U.

Credit to the players who did their best today - bearing in mind the injury situation (McPhail, Woodgate and Jones have only just returned) and the fact that there's just no consistency in the squad at the moment, it was a decent performance - against a lesser team, we might have come away with something.

So, it's going to be 20 years between wins at OT, but with a tiny bit of luck on the injury front and the unlikely event of even-handed officials, we could break our jinx next year.

Martyn, Mills, Radebe, Duberry, Harte, Batty, Bakke, Dacourt, Wilcox, Kewell, Bridges. When they get back, we'll really start firing. The fact that the 12 players on show today couldn't beat the best team in the country is nothing to be ashamed of.

Wakey Wakey - Scum Report - Matt G

Glamorous stuff this Premier League.

Alarm goes off at 5.45am, can't be time to get up already! Leave house just after 6, wet and dark as I walk to the station, after the derailment WAGN have no idea when the next train is going to arrive. Eventually get to the coach pick-up point and wait for it to arrive - still dark still raining. Minibus arrives - clamber on over the slumbering Leeds fans and find a seat, drift into a fitful sleep as the bus bumps along the A14. Wake-up stuck in a traffic jam on the M6, spend the next 2 hours in a variety of traffic jams. Get to Trafford Park about quarter 11, a brilliantly organised Police operation means half an hour later we're about 100 yards down the road.

Eventually get off the coach, and can move my legs for the first time in 4 hours, most of Manchester's police force around but after telling us not to sing, none of them want to escort us to the ground, so we slip between the Scum fans towards the turnstiles.

Once inside the Leeds team is;
Mills, Radebe, Duberry, Harte
Bakke, Dacourt, Batty, Wilcox
Kewell, Bridges

Except, due to sleep deprivation I've imagined that, in fact I'm beginning to forget what some of them even look like, and as they're all injured we have;
Kelly, Woody, Hay, Matteo
Bowyer, Jones, McPhail, Burns
Viduka, Smith

Worried looks all around as the teams are announced.

Astonishingly we start off looking the better team, early on a quick counter-attack sees Smith free on the right and Bowyer just fails to touch the cross in. Minutes later Bowyer gets on the end of a poor knock-back and hits it 1st time and loops it over when he'd probably scored if he'd brought it down. Few real chances after that, but for the next 40 minutes or so, we match the Scum. In particular the midfield which on paper looks like it could be easily over-run are not being intimidated and though not really controlling the game are managing to disrupt the Scum sufficiently that they never get their flowing football going.

About half an hour in, the atmosphere turns ugly all of a sudden, Munich chants etc. from our fans. Not nice but a degree of mitigation in that they were triggered off by Galatasary flags being waved and throat slitting gestures from the Scum fans. Soon after Keane limps off - this doesn't really help as he's replaced by Beckham. Cue new wave of obscene chants from our end. DOL thinks about matching the substitution but decides to keep Hackworth and Evans fresh for Barcelona. Just as it looks like we're going to make it safely to h-t, Solskyear is allowed to cross and Yorke scores a suspiciously off-side goal. In the next five minutes, we lose control and Robinson has to make a couple of good saves.

Second half started Ok again, a couple of decent moves from us at the start but the final ball was lacking. Then the turning point, a United attack broke down and as Kelly took the ball clear, Solskyar went flying down to the ground after a scuffle with Burns (who'd just clashed with Butt). Winter gave a free-kick and Beckham's shot got deflected past Robinson. The game got a bit fractious after that, which led to Bowyer getting booked for the last of half a dozen tackles that had flown in within a couple of minutes; though why it needed half a dozen Scum players to charge to the ref when he already had his card out I don't know. Smith also got booked around this time, after an innocuous challenge on Barthez, though the booking may have actually been for dissent, for mouthing off at the linesman. For the next 5 minutes Smith charged around like a headless cyborg and seemed determined to get send off, but luckily calmed down before actually hitting anyone. The same linesman also denied our final chance when giving a foul against Viduka after he caught Barthez fannying about outside the area.

After all the aggro had subsided it emerged we'd run out of steam and Scum were now cruising, the Scum fans started chanting "Are you England in disguise", bizarre given they had 6 England internationals on the pitch. Then even more surreally they chanted Argentina in response to our England chants which led to the predictable "No Surrender" bollocks from our end. The game petered out though a 3rd goal was bundled in from a Beckham cross, but the game was over as a contest before that anyway. It was just left for Huckerby to replace a limping Smith (oh god not another one) and amuse everyone by running away from goal twice when in good positions.

So just a 20 minute wait in the ground whilst they cleared the streets outside and ushered all the Scum into the megastore and then another half an hour wait in the coach park til we were allowed to go. Still at least it gave us time to catch up on details of the Turkey trip, apparently a bit weird, no trouble but as they never saw a Turk that was unlikely. Apparently the boattrip was followed by all the Turkish media and shown live on Turkish TV. Crammed ourselves back into the minibus for a few more hours on the M6 (really looking forward to repeating the trip for Tranmere Tuesday week) and by the time I got home it was dark again.


Robinson 8 - Played well, we're lucky to have such a good back-up keeper. Kept the score down in the 2nd half.
Kelly 7 - One of his better games, a lot of crucial interceptions at the back if anonymous going forward.
Woody 7.5 - Kept Yorke pretty quiet and marshalled the defence well for one so young.
Hay 6.5 - Worried he'd get torn apart but wasn't embarrassed.
Matteo 6 - Filled in for Harte by playing a bit like him recently.
Bowyer 8 - Probably MoM - normal all over the pitch performance - our main attacking threat.
McPhail 7 - Thought he was pretty good 1st half, at the heart of most of our best moves - faded in the 2nd.
Burns 6 - Battled effectively in the 1st half and tried to get forward, chasing shadows in the 2nd. Needs to stop giving away silly free-kicks.
Jones 7 - Similar to Burns but looked more comfortable on the ball.
Viduka 6 - Nowhere near as good as on Wednesday, poorest game since he returned from his hols.
Smith 7.5 - A nuisance all day, though he did lose it for a bit in the 2nd.

I did say I'd keeping going to OT til I see us win, but after another depressing day, I beginning to doubt whether I'll live that long. Given the team we had we actually played pretty well for 60 minutes and were unlucky to be 2 down but it kind of unravelled after that and I bet the Barca scout must be quaking in his boots. We'll need 3 or 4 players back to give them a game.

Oh and Jabba looks nothing like Eirik Bakke, Gav.

Beckham fast becoming a pass master - Daniel Taylor

Copy from Football Unlimited of 23/10/2000.

Leeds United have earned plenty of gold stars over the last couple of seasons but they are not ready to be made prefects just yet. Having auditioned for the role, Manchester United saw them off here like a Victorian schoolmaster admonishing a disobedient child.

The number of players jostling for space on the physiotherapist's couch at Elland Road dictates that, as a measure of how wide the chasm is between these clubs, this was about as unbalanced as pitting two mountaineers against each other and one losing his crampons.

A Leeds Injured XI hobbling along in a 4-4-2 formation - Martyn; Mills, Radebe, Duberry, Harte; Bakke, Batty, Dacourt, Wilcox; Kewell, Bridges - would, in all probability, have remained afloat slightly longer than the willing but limited team David O'Leary cobbled together on Saturday.

Read the rest...

Beckham puts the strut in United - Nick Townsend

Copy from The Independent of 22/10/2000.

Anyone aroused by the prospect of the reopening of trans-Pennine hostilities was to be sadly disillusioned. This latter-day War of the Roses ended in meek surrender as Leeds hoisted the white flag virtually before the game started. Not by their own design, it must be stressed, but by force of circumstance.

Eleven players absent, five of them automatic starters if fit, is no way to confront the champions on home territory. With the debutant central defender Danny Hay, a towering New Zealander, among a Leeds side which looked straight out of central casting for Grange Hill, a sense of equality about the contest lasted only half an hour.

Then the coming of the boy David transformed events. Beckham, suffering from a touch of the snuffles, had been left on the bench, alongside Ryan Giggs and Andy Cole, with Tuesday's game against Anderlecht in mind. But the England midfielder's substitution for the injured Roy Keane was the catalyst which brought lustre to an initially insipid performance by the home side.

Three goals were ultimately scant reward for their superiority. Even Sir Alex Ferguson, not prone to discussing opponents' shortcomings, was moved to comment: "Once I saw the Leeds team, I thought it would be a difficult day for them."Ferguson appeared genuinely sympathetic, but he could afford to be in the knowledge that points had been gleaned at the expense of a team who just might trouble his own men's championship aspirations. Three goals in each of their three games in the last week, with just one conceded, is evidence that his men have recovered their strutting poise.

There was never any suggestion that David O'Leary would fulfil his pre-match ambition – announced, knowing him, with more than a touch of the Irishman's humour – "of kicking his [Ferguson's] butt". Indeed, the Leeds manager put the relative strengths of the sides in perspective when he spoke of returning to the club's training ground yesterday afternoon and casting an eye over his walking wounded to assess their chances of facing Barcelona in the Champions' League on Tuesday. "I've got 11 back there; even some of those here were not match-fit, and you don't come to Old Trafford to get match-fitness, but if I hadn't played them, we'd have had to ask for the match to be called off."

The best that can be said is that O'Leary's team, average age 21, can only have benefited from yesterday's experience. It will have awakened them to the realities of the Premiership at the elite level, without the destruction of their confidence that further goals might have brought about.

For that, they have several reasons for saying, "Here's to you, Mr Robinson," about their goalkeeper, still not 21 and having made only seven Premiership appearances. He deputised for the injured Nigel Martyn, and O'Leary's testament to the agile Paul was: "Eventually, I expect him to take over from Nigel and go on and play for England."

With the exception of rival supporters trading predictable and tasteless insults referring to Munich and Turkey, it was a particularly polite first half- hour. In fact, altogether too agreeable. It required Nicky Butt to raise the pulses with a venomous shot which swirled unpleasantly in front of Robinson. But the young goalkeeper reacted well to turn the ball round the post. From the resulting corner, Yorke cleared the bar. At that stage, the Leeds novices might have been deluded into wondering what the mystique surrounding their illustrious rivals was all about.

But then fate took a hand. Keane departed with a injured hamstring, which means he will miss the Anderlecht game along with Teddy Sheringham, to be replaced by Beckham. United were losing a wounded tiger but gaining a cunning wolf. Intriguingly, although Keane handed over his captain's armband to Phil Neville, it was Beckham who emerged with it after the break – the first time, according to Ferguson, he had captained the side.

More importantly, Beckham's appearance heralded the moment that the League leaders struck that familiar surging rhythm which can beguile the most assertive of teams. And Leeds were never remotely that here. Ferguson's team placed the result beyond their rivals with goals six minutes before and after half-time. First, Beckham picked out Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a sweet pass into space down the right, and when the Norwegian swept the ball at chest height into the visitors' area, Yorke ducked to head home. Robinson may have been slightly at fault, being somewhat hesitant, but it was his only hint of an error all morning.

After the interval, the Australian Jacob Burns foolishly brought down Solskjaer away from the ball. The free-kick was ideally positioned for a Beckham bender and he duly clouted the ball past Robinson, although it took a deflection.

Though Mark Viduka and Alan Smith toiled valiantly, and the young Welsh international midfielder Matthew Jones ferreted industriously, Leeds rarely met the expectations of their vocal supporters. In a game always highly charged, reflecting old enmities, Smith and Lee Bowyer were cautioned during a frantic period, but a third goal from United brought peace as Beckham crossed and in the ensuing mêlée, Jones appeared to divert the ball into his own net.

Wes Brown emerged as substitute, and gave a display which drew admiration from Ferguson, who compared his player and Leeds' Jonathon Woodgate: "The best two young centre-backs in the country," he opined. The manager might have added that Leeds have the best young team in the country. They have a way to go, though, before they mirror the success achieved with his class of the early Nineties.

The report used to be available online here.

Beckham, hunter-killer sub - Paul Wilson

Copy from Football Unlimited of 22/10/2000.

Dwight Yorke might not feel like settling down just yet, but Manchester United's most famous married man appears to be thriving on domestic bliss.

David Beckham did not even start this game, and the home side were actually making heavy weather of overcoming a severely depleted Leeds United until Roy Keane pulled a hamstring after half an hour and the eventual man of the match came off the bench.

Less than 20 minutes later Manchester United were two goals up, Beckham having scored one and helped lay on the other, and were flicking the ball around to chants of 'Ole' from the crowd in that insultingly dismissive manner that Leeds themselves invented in the Seventies. The visitors' annoyance at being forced to chase shadows without getting a foot on the ball was in no sense lessened by the Old Trafford crowd suddenly breaking into: 'Are you England in disguise?'

Read the rest...

Leeds are written off by Beckham - John Robertson

Copy from SportLive of 21/10/2000.

SportLive is no longer operational. Should it return to the web, this report will be removed and the link restored.

Just eight months ago David Beckham sat forlornly in the Elland Road Stand - his punishment for what was a much-publicised fall out with manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

On Saturday his absence from the latest full-throttle confrontation with Leeds United was confined to just 30 minutes. An injury to Roy Keane prompted the noon call-up for the England star.

He might be suffering from writer's cramp after an exhaustive session autographing his new book to legions of adoring fans but the rest of his body seems in full working order.

Wearing the captain's armband, he responded with an exhilarating display, which had class stamped all over it. He helped engineer the first goal for Dwight Yorke, who was lucky to escape being called offside, and crushed injury-hit Leeds' hopes of a recovery by scoring from a deflected free-kick.

He also supplied the cross for the third goal but it was the way he orchestrated the whole show which left an indelible mark on the game.

Ferguson had insisted on his players reporting to the ground at 8.30am to breakfast together. Fergie's cereal killers ensured that Leeds had no time to catch their breath after their tough midweek exploits in Turkey.

While Leeds, with Michael Bridges the latest injury victim, were stretched to the limit Ferguson allowed himself the luxury of starting with Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Andy Cole on the bench.

Leeds manager David O'Leary's hope that one day his team would "be able to kick Alex Ferguson's butt" will have to wait a little longer. Even Ferguson confessed that the odds were stacked against the Yorkshiremen once he had seen the Leeds team-sheet.

Although there were a couple of early scares in which Leeds should have scored, the rest of this brunch-time battle belonged to the Premiership champions.

Oh well, for Leeds there's only Barcelona coming up on Tuesday night while Ferguson's side move on to Brussels and the latest stage of their European odyssey against Anderlecht. They travel with gold in their boots after 3-0, 3-1 and 3-0 wins against Leicester, PSV Eindhoven and Leeds respectively.

It could have been far worse for Leeds if England Under-21 goalkeeper Paul Robinson, continuing his development in the absence of Nigel Martyn, hadn't pulled off a sequence of stunning saves.

O'Leary is tipping the 21-year-old to eventually earn himself a full international call-up. Certainly his stock would have risen after he prevented this depleted Leeds side from suffering a real hiding.

He turned a sharp drive from Quinton Fortune around a post before Leeds had the audacity to cause mischief at the other end. A through-ball from Stephen McPhail released Alan Smith, whose cross just eluded Lee Bowyer.

The next danger to Fabien Barthez was self-inflicted, Mickael Silvestre attempting to find the Frenchman with a weak back header. Bowyer read it but after doing the hard work he chipped over the stranded keeper, but also over the bar.

It was the equivalent of waving a red rag in United's faces. They hit back with a long-range effort from Nicky Butt going close but if O'Leary's side felt the storm was going to subside with the sight of Keane limping off with a hamstring strain they were in for a shock.

On marched Beckham, obviously chastened by being clamped to the substitutes' bench. His first act was to grab the armband and he had no intention of passing it on. It was the first time in his career that he had shouldered captaincy responsibilities and he didn't cower from the added expectation.

Not only was the skipper's band on his arm but he had the baton in his hand as the rest of the United side made sweet music.

The opener was inevitable and it arrived in the 41st minute after Beckham set up a superb move down the right, although the linesman failed to notice Yorke a yard offside when the ball went through to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. That mistake came back to haunt Leeds and the cross from the Norwegian was headed in by Yorke.

Robinson defied Solskjaer with a brave save at the near post before he was beaten again five minutes after the break. Jacob Burns wrestled Solskjaer to the ground just outside the box. The free-kick was in Beckham territory and he obliged with his fifth goal of the season, although it did need a deflection off the wall.

You felt the floodgates were about to open. That they didn't was down to the agility of Robinson. He made a great block from Phil Neville and also did well to foil Yorke as United upped the tempo.

Thankfully on FIFA's World Fair Play day there was only a short period when tempers boiled over. Smith went into the book for a late lunge on Barthez - who made the most of it - while the industrious Bowyer was yellow-carded for a wild tackle on Fortune.

However United were not to be put off their stride as they went in search of more goals and with seven minutes to go they added a third. Beckham caused confusion with a deep cross and in the ensuing tangle between Solskjaer and Welshman Matthew Jones the ball spun into the net off the unfortunate Leeds midfielder.

There was also still time for the inexperienced Robinson to excel again, pulling off an incredible stop following a fierce rising drive from Phil Neville.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Barthez 6; P Neville 7, G Neville 8, Johnsen 7 (Brown 46, 8), Silvestre 7; Butt 7, Keane 6 (Beckham 30, 9), Scholes 7, Fortune 7; Solskjaer 8, Yorke 7. Goals: Yorke 41, Beckham 50, Jones og 83.

Leeds (4-4-2): Robinson 9; Kelly 7, Woodgate 8, Hay 7, Matteo 6; Bowyer 7, McPhail 6, Jones 6, Burns 6; Viduka 6, Smith 7 (Huckerby 77, 6). Booked: Smith, Bowyer.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

The report used to be available online here.

Injury-hit United second best - Phil Rostron

Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 23/10/2000.

HIDINGS to nothing are unsavoury to witness and it came as no surprise to anybody that Leeds United's injury-ravaged side were made to play second fiddle to champions calling the tune.

Such is the length of the Elland Road casualty list that a better team remained behind on the treatment table than the one which walked apprehensively into the lions' den.

Yet the stay of execution remained in force for fully 40 minutes before the inevitable happened, even then with the help of a Lincolnshire linesman who didn't know his flag from his handkerchief.

Reluctant with his stick when Manchester United came forward and obligingly hasty when Leeds threatened, his failure to signal Yorke offside for the all-important first goal was typical of a man who would do anything not to incur the wrath of upwards of 60,000 home fans.

This soppy soul was later guilty of a more heinous crime in circumstances which would inevitably have brought Leeds a goal.

Home goalkeeper Barthez had a rush of blood and decided to play Viduka at football, but when he lost the ball outside the box and the Aussie was away on an open goal the linesman raised his flag for a non-existent foul.

Not that it would have happened here, but it is little wonder that no Premiership team has come away with a win from Old Trafford in two years.

The Frenchman may have been one goalkeeper momentarily in the spotlight but it was Leeds' Paul Robinson who drew all the plaudits for a fantastic series of saves which, to all intents and purposes, kept the score respectable.

Half a dozen times he stood between goalbound shots and additions to the score and, further, it could be argued that he was beaten only by an offside goal and two deflections.

Leeds only drowned in the red tide after staying afloat for longer than many had anticipated.

Two goals either side of half-time killed off a spirited challenge and Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was swift to offer his sympathies.

"You can get away with one or two injuries with the squads that clubs carry now," he said, "but once Leeds' team was known I don't think anyone expected them to win.

"There were just too many young players. It's very difficult coming to a place like Old Trafford with the experience we have now. It was unfortunate for them."

Said Leeds boss David O'Leary: "I'm heading for the training ground now and waiting for me there will be a very good team.

"I make no excuse about the injuries. The best team won in the end. I thought their goal just before half-time was very debatable indeed, but then a few decisions were debatable.

"I would say, diplomatically, that coming to Old Trafford with 11 players missing gives you a very good chance of not winning."

Leeds' decimated squad was further depleted with the late withdrawals of Ian Harte, Eirik Bakke and Danny Mills and the team had a distinctly makeshift look about it.

An ankle injury kept out Mills, whose absence meant a first senior start at the centre of defence for New Zealand international Danny Hay.

Dominic Matteo reverted to left back in place of Harte, who injured his ankle in the Champions League clash with Besiktas in Istanbul last week, and with Bakke also hurt in that 0-0 draw Matthew Jones and Stephen McPhail started in midfield.

The continuing injury problems affecting captain Lucas Radebe, David Batty, Harry Kewell, Jason Wilcox, Olivier Dacourt and Michael Duberry, combined with recent knocks to Nigel Martyn and Michael Bridges, made Old Trafford no place to be for a Leeds side chasing their first win there since 1981.

Table-toppers Manchester United afforded themselves the luxury of starting with Beckham, Giggs and Cole on the bench and fielded a trio of strikers in Yorke, Solskjaer and Fortune.

On FIFA World Fair Play Day Viduka looked fired up for the occasion as he led an immediate assault down the right, then Matteo's through ball found Smith narrowly offside.

Fortune jinked inside and tried a left foot shot which Robinson did well to turn round the post.

Matteo excelled in heading clear Silvestre's cross and when Robinson punched clear Fortune's corner McPhail was away on a long upfield surge before he brought in Smith, whose fine cross only just evaded the onrushing Bowyer.

Midway through the half it was all getting a bit scrappy but Leeds, with some excellent promptings from Burns, were giving as good as they got and their commitment to the cause could not be faulted.

Home captain Roy Keane, who had barely been functioning, was taken off on the half-hour and he was replaced by Beckham, whose introduction turned the game to the extent that he received the man of the match award.

The deadlock was broken four minutes before the interval when Solsjkaer crossed from the right and Yorke, suspiciously offside, stooped to head in from six yards.

United went 2-0 up in the 50th minute. Burns and Solsjkaer were involved in a tugging match, right in Beckham territory, and when referee Winter awarded the free-kick there was an air of inevitability about the outcome.

Beckham arrowed in his shot and with Robinson committed one way the ball took a deflection and went in the other.

Eight minutes from time a terrible scramble in the Leeds area ended with Jones poking the ball over his own line and Manchester United were home and hosed.

But there was another test for Robinson and he responded well to Phil Neville's screaming shot.

It will be of vital significance how many players who missed out here make a return in Tuesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona at Elland Road.

The report used to be available online here.

Leeds United Web Ring
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