Date: Saturday, 21st February 2004.
English Premier League.
United 1 Leeds United 1.
United: Scholes. Leeds United:
Manchester United: Howard; G. Neville, O’Shea,
Silvestre (Brown), Fortune; Kleberson (Keane), Butt,
P. Neville (Solskjaer), Giggs;
Scholes, Van Nistelrooy.
Unused Subs: Ronaldo, Carroll.
Leeds United: Carson;
Kelly, Caldwell, Matteo, Domi;
Pennant, Bakke, Johnson, McPhail;
Milner (Sakho), Smith. Unused Subs: Harte, Radebe, Olembe, Allaway.
Referee: Mr M. Halsey (Bolton, Lancashire).
On a day
when Leeds United were mourning the loss of a true
club legend, it was fitting that one of their modern day heroes should come up
trumps at Old Trafford. Alan Smith's second half equalizer, his first goal
against Manchester United, might have proved to be the defining moment in a
season that had seen Leeds
lurch from one crisis to another.
Granted, it wasn't enough to win the game. It wasn't even enough to spare Leeds the ignominy of slumping back to
the foot of the Premiership. But it was enough for United to secure an
against-the-odds draw against the league champions on their own soil, and if Leeds could get a result there they could
get a result anywhere. It was a fully deserved point for Eddie Gray's gutsy
battlers. They scrapped for everything and were rewarded with a stunning draw
against a side that were expected to slaughter them.
Leeds did ride their luck at times, but
that was only to be expected against a side possessing the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. However,
luck had been in short supply for Leeds that term and it was about time fortunes
started to change on that front. There were heroes all across the park for Leeds as they turned in a workmanlike
display that ruffled their hosts to the extent that they were unable to play
their usual slick, controlled football. It wasn't always pretty, but it was
effective. And, while people might criticise the home side for not finishing off the
strugglers, it was Leeds
who deserved the credit for making life difficult.
United did have their moments and plenty of them, but it was telling that
teenage debutant Scott Carson only had two serious saves to make. The first was
when a looping Paul Scholes shot almost crept under
the bar and the second was a tremendous block from point-blank range to deny
Nicky Butt. Other than that, Carson was able to fling himself around as
the ball flew high and wide. The woodwork did come to the rescue twice, but few
would have begrudged Leeds
that fortune. Carson was behind a defence which was in control.
Skipper Dominic Matteo talked the teenager through
his debut while Steve Caldwell also offered advice. The duo was forming a good
partnership at the back. Dominic Matteo was immense
in nullifying the threat of Ruud Van Nistelrooy, while Steve Caldwell turned in another towering
and Didier Domi also coped well with the expected
barrage down the flanks and Leeds looked a tidy unit at the back. In the middle
of the park, it was Seth Johnson's day. Johnson had come under fire from a
section of the support, but he showed what he was capable of against the Reds.
He played with bags of energy and was instrumental in breaking down play and
getting Leeds moving. He was well supported by Jermaine Pennant, Eirik Bakke and Stephen McPhail. The
midfield's work rate was phenomenal at times and the hosts were rarely given
any space or time. Jermaine Pennant worked as hard
defensively as he had done all season and Leeds were successful in keeping the
home side out of the danger zone.
in particular, found the going tough, while Nicky Butt
struggled to make an impact as the Leeds midfield ground them down. Eddie Gray deserves
credit for sticking by his beliefs in "having a go" at Manchester
United. Early on, Leeds
relied heavily on lumping the ball forward for Alan
Smith and James Milner, but they soon settled and their build-up play was neat
and tidy. Alan Smith was outstanding. He held the ball up superbly well and
gave a timely reminder of his worth as a striker. He never shirked a challenge,
the injured Mikael Silvestre will testify to that,
and the home defenders knew they had been in a contest. James Milner offered
good support and the pairing interchanged well as they looked to expose the
hosts' notoriously fragile defence. Sir Alex Ferguson
graciously gave Leeds
credit for their performance after the game and acknowledged that their work
rate had made it difficult for his side.
their flair, the champions clearly didn't fancy a scrap and it was only when
Roy Keane arrived midway through the second half that they found a new lease of
life. Keane had blasted his team-mates on the eve of the match for not having
the desire to retain the title, but his appearance as a sub rallied the troops
and it was no coincidence that they scored within six minutes of his arrival.
Scott Carson could only parry a low drive from Gary Neville and Paul Scholes was on hand to hammer the ball home from close
range. That looked like game over and there were grandiose mutterings from the
fickle home crowd about how many goals they would go on and score.
But Leeds showed great character to come straight
back at their hosts and were level within three minutes. It was Didier Domi who broke down the left to deliver a cross for Alan
Smith. The Leeds hit man came charging in towards the back stick and produced a
superb header that left American keeper Tim Howard clutching at thin air. It
was a tremendous goal and one which sent the 1,700 travelling
fans into ecstasy. They've waited a long time for a win at Old Trafford, but
Alan Smith's equaliser represented a morale victory.
no two-fingered salutes to the Australian Soccer Authorities from the jubilant Leeds players, following the decision to
ban Mark Viduka, but the defiant celebration from
Alan Smith said more than gestures could. The hosts had the better of the final
twenty minutes, but they never looked like breaking Leeds down and Eddie Gray's side held on
to secure a precious point.
the news that Wolves' defeat of Fulham had sent Leeds back to the bottom took the shine
off what was an impressive away performance at Old Trafford. To gain a point
against the odds is one thing, but to come from behind after matching the
champions is another thing all together. Heads didn't drop and Leeds players, to a man, showed great
character and a welcome willingness to fight on.
have been a sad day for those connected with Leeds United because of John
Charles' death, but it could also prove to be the day the season turned. If Leeds could play like this on a
consistent basis between then and May, they would have every chance of staying
among the elite the following season.
Alan Smith, Didier Domi,
James Milner, Stephen McPhail, Seth Johnson, Dominic Matteo, Stephen Caldwell, Scott Carson, Eirik
Jermaine Pennant and Gary Kelly link arms in remembrance of the legendary John
Charles, whose sad passing received an impeccably
observed minute’s silence.
Alan Smith climbs far higher than Wes Brown to
power home the equalizer
Jermaine Pennant and Alan Smith salute the crowd after the United
The Manchester crowd did not appreciate Alan Smith’s celebrations
Alan Smith salutes the fans and the Leeds section show their delight
In answer to the Leeds fans celebrations Alan Smith kisses
the badge. Things changed in a few short months as he crossed the Pennines
Eirik Bakke gets in ahead of Nicky Butt Stephen Caldwell in defence Dominic Matteo beats Ruud
Nistelrooy in the air
Alan Smith gives Wes Brown a hard time
Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes cannot believe
as Eirik Bakke looks
they did not
Stephen Caldwell, Alan Smith, Scott Carson, Domimic Matteo and Gary Kelly
celebrate an unexpected point
Scott Carson, on debut, was surprisingly
untroubled in the Leeds goal. He takes a goal attempt with ease and watches a shot to safety
Scott Carson seems unphased
by Alan Smith again
gets the better of Wes Brown
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Seth Johnson and Eirik
Bakke combined to beat Phil Neville Jermaine
Pennant gets past Quinton Fortune
Nicky Butt has to take evasive action as Seth
Johnson wins the ball
Seth Johnson is thwarted by a Kleberson sliding tackle
Mikael Silvestre was injured and had to leave the field
Alan Smith equalized Paul Scholes’
Dominic Matteo and Stephen Caldwell helped
Scott Carson with towering displays
Debutant Scott Carson was rarely tested Gary Kelly and Didier Domi coped well with the opposing wingers
Johnson was outstanding in midfield, strongly supported by Jermaine
Pennant, Eirik Bakke and
James Milner gave Alan Smith good support in
the absence Kleberson
and Ryan Giggs came into the Manchester starting XI
of Mark Viduka, who was banned by the Australian FA
Wes Brown and Ole Gunnar
Solskjaer were used as substitutes