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It was difficult to know what to think going into this game - your heart says "go for it, beat the bastards" - your head says "they're going to cream us, I really will settle for a draw". And that's exactly how we came out to play the game - we did everything possible to stifle them and did a reasonably good job for most of the match - you are never going to stop a team of ManU's quality from creating chances. Those who still cherish thoughts of victories against the big boys have got a lot of waking up to do. We are not in the same league any more - we need to be winning matches against the likes of Leicester & Everton (exactly!). A final general point is that our home form, whilst not inspiring has not been that bad - we were unlucky against N'castle and Soton to only draw, robbed against Brum, and won against B'burn - and last Saturday we could quite conceiveable have drawn the match. Away we are bloody awful by all accounts.
As for Saturday the special mention has to be for the defence - all of whom were superb. Kelly was faced with that diving little twat and did a reasonable job - Ronaldo does have talent, of course, but he needs to grow up - you could see how a penalty might have been given as there was some contact, but it would have been a harsh/brave decision. What would disappoint me if I were a ManU fan was that both times he went down he was already goalside of Kelly. Camara and Matteo were superb in the middle - they have to be a our starting pairing - barely anything got through the centre. Camara won just about everything in the air and make some excellent clearances. Matteo was even trying to drive us forward once we fell behind - popping up up front, on the wing etc. All the defence held their positions - ManU for most of the game were playing across the front of the back 4 without ever really getting anywhere. The number of blcoks and tackles was awesome. Olembe sorted out his occassional positional problems from the last game and suddenly looks like he's been playing there all his life. He was superb. He even had time for one or two forays forward. On the whole I'd give MOTM to Camara - but it could easily have been any of the back 4.
And of course Batty - sitting in front of the back 4 making it look easy. Suddenly we have the basis of a midfield again. Long may his legs hold out. About 5 minutes before the goal I caught myself thinking "well Batty has really come out on top against Keane today..." hmmm. Johnson tried to get stuck in but the game passed him by - apart from an awful foul on Neville, he was never up with play - his passing was wasteful in the extreme - sort of an anti-Batty and he never got anywhere near supporting the forwards.
Our best opportunities came from the wide players - both Milner and Pennant showed flashes of being able to get behind the full backs and get the crosses in - but they only did this rarely and when they did there was no-one there to convert it. When Milner came off I expected Lennon to come on and continue to run at them, but not so, Sakho came on, didn't have much involvement with the game until his cock-up that led to the goal. As someone else has pointed out he was trying to do something a little more creative than just thump it long but sadly for him he got caught. It doesn't do to lay too much blame on him after all why wasn't Keane marked in the middle.
And so to the weekly Viduka/Smith debate...Neither showed much threat on Saturday. Neither had much service. I can't remember if either had a clear sight of goal. The simple predicament on Saturday was that we had set our stall out not to lose and had no plans (and no apparent means) of getting a goal at the other end. Both forwards were left on their own without support - until Smith was withdrawn to midfield leaving first Viduka and then Bridges all alone. I don't think that any of our 3 forwards can be blamed too much for the lack of penetration, the major plus in Smith's favour was the way he got in amongst the CHalfs and caused discomfort - which is at least more than either of the other two did. Regardless of his cramp it was innevitable that Viduka would be the man to go, simply because Smith was already an auxiliary midfielder by then.
This lack of support, leading to any ball cleared from defence coming straight back, does at least go some way to explain what Sakho was trying to do when he lost possession for the goal.
Overall this game and the next two league games are about damage limitation and pride. Once we get through these (with any points being a bonus) then we have to set about getting points from games - specifically from the teams around us.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 20/10/2003.
In the case of Leeds United there is no silver lining accompanying the cloud. As if being bankrupt of scoring ideas were not harrowing enough, further trauma lies in wait judging by the news seeping out of Elland Road that they are about to announce the worst financial results in Premiership history. By the week of Halloween, when Professor John McKenzie takes a deep breath and releases the figures, Leeds's debts may be up from £79m to close to £100m and any trick-or-treaters knocking on the chairman's door will be lucky to get a Wagon Wheel.
The full details of their impoverished state will not be known until a statement is released to the Stock Exchange tomorrow week but the horrors to come were confirmed at boardroom level on Saturday and McKenzie's reaction told its own story.
The chairman made a great play of pointing out that he had been in office for only three months of the past financial year, indicating that the blame lay with his predecessor Peter Ridsdale. The results "will not show a dramatic turnaround," said McKenzie, adding that "you don't turn around a tanker in two minutes".
Copy from Football Unlimited of 19/10/2003.
It is fair to say that no Manchester United player will ever win a popularity contest in Leeds. Although there was some competition in the invective stakes, with Rio Ferdinand and Cristiano Ronaldo getting an earful, the most provocative chant of the day was directed at Roy Keane.
'There's only one Alfie Haaland,' jeered the legions, hoping to stir up all that infamous ill feeling which so damaged both players. Inevitably, the Irishman got his revenge with the matchwinner. Dispatched as coolly as you like.
There was a good deal of inevitability about this game. None more so than the sense of certainty that came over the stadium once Keane had beaten Paul Robinson with a simple header. There would be no way back. Leeds have now lost more than they have won in this fixture at Elland Road.