But, wherever the animosity sprang from, it endured, even when both teams slid into relative mediocrity during the ‘70s and ‘80s. There was a famous win for United in the 1977 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough, and two painful transfer switches for Leeds, as Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen arrived at&
Old Trafford within weeks of each other in early 1978. Tensions weren’t exactly smoothed when McQueen’s first words as a Red were:
“Ninety-nine per cent of footballers will tell you they want to join Man United. The other one per cent are liars.”
The following season ended with a thunderous meeting at Elland Road. Dave Sexton’s Reds had to win (and hope Liverpool lost) to claim the club’s first title since 1967, but Leeds won a spiteful encounter 2-0.
“It was more Helland Road than Elland Road,” laughs McCartney, who stood in the home end to try to avoid trouble.
“After, it was pure evil,” he remembers.
“I had to run through a hole in a fence, over a school playing field, and out through someone’s garden to get back to the station. I vowed never to go back, but of course I was there the next year.”
Leeds were relegated in 1982, and City went down the following year, so United’s focus homed in on Liverpool. The Blues’ woes continued in the following decade, but tensions with the Yorkshire club reached an all-time high. Local Red Anthony Murphy was 17 when Leeds returned to the top flight in 1990, and he remembers three meetings over Christmas and New Year of 1991/92 (in the league and two cups) as the peak of a tumultuous period.
“The press were hyping it up as ‘the Leeds-United trilogy’,” he recalls.
“The atmosphere inside Elland Road was visceral for all three. They really don’t like Manchester United fans; the reception we get there is always hostile.”
In Murphy’s opinion, Leeds were a bigger enemy than City, and he puts their loathing for United down to jealousy and frustration.
“City meant bugger all to me then – they were an irrelevance until 2008 – but Leeds I really disliked,” he explains.
“I don’t have any dislike of Yorkshire, but there’s something around that club that I find difficult to like. They had a really fantastic side between 1969-75, but they never quite scaled the heights of Manchester United, and I think they are deeply envious of us. They never got the recognition they felt they were due, which gives them an added chip on their shoulder.”