Yorkshire v Lancashire, Busby v Revie and Alan Smith
Football rivalries are usually quite simple to understand.
Any nearby team duty be considered more detestable than all slightly less local enemies.
This is the case for most clubs, anyway. Just not Leeds. They will fight anyone.
The city is a lonely place when it comes to football, and white people must push the boundaries of geography to uncover hate.
Much like Brighton and Crystal Palace, the Yorkshiremen’s fiercest rivals live over 40 miles away.
But the Manchester United feud is much more than geography. It’s the story, more than anything.
Why are we talking about this now? Well, following Jesse Marsch’s departure from Elland Road, Leeds will play their arch-rivals twice in five days – starting with the Whites’ trip to Old Trafford, which is exclusively live on talkSPORT.
The first games between the two back in the Premier League after Leeds promotion were behind closed doors due to Covid, and last year Man United beat Leeds 5-1 and 4-2, so white fans will desperately seek revenge.
Moreover, both teams are desperate for points, with the Red Devils chasing a Champions League place and Leeds looking to avoid relegation.
The toxic feeling that exists between the two clubs was once described as ‘the most intense and inexplicable of English football’.
Our job here in the talkSPORT towers is to spoil the second half of that statement and explain it perfectly. Here is…
Well, the (oddly) rivalry has its origins in the days of the Tudor kings and William Shakespeare.
The sentiment between United and Leeds is a manifestation of the rivalry between the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, established during the 15th century Wars of the Roses – a series of civil wars fought for the throne of England.
If you’ve seen Game of Thrones, it’s basically the Lannisters versus the Starks.
In fact, if you want to get really corny, a lot of the content in the book, especially the War of the Five Kings, is actually based on the War of the Roses.
Lancashire’s historical symbol is a red rose, while Yorkshire’s is a white rose – which matches pretty well in the novels.
Oh, and also on United and Leeds kits. Back to real life…
Jump forward three centuries and the two cities were up to snuff again, this time during the Industrial Revolution, when unprecedented economic growth saw them compete over who could build the most impressive architecture.
“My building is better than yours” is at the heart of this feud.
Busby vs. Revie
Then these two football teams arrived.
In the post-World War II era, Matt Busby’s Man United were the dominant force in English football, while Leeds earned a reputation as a tough and uncompromising side under Don Revie.
The two clubs met in the semi-final of the 1965 FA Cup, a match which saw a good old fashioned punch between Jack Charlton and Denis Law.
The Yorkshire Post delivered the following verdict: “Both sides behaved like a pack of dogs snapping and growling at each other over a bone.”
A moody game ended 0-0 and Leeds won the replay at the City Ground with an 89th-minute goal.
United, however, had the last laugh as they propelled Leeds to the league title due to a better goalscoring average that season.
The rivalry unfortunately extended far beyond the action of Old Trafford and Elland Road.
In the 1970s, when football hooliganism in Britain was at its worst, fights between the Leeds United Service Crew and Man United’s Red Army were commonplace.
They were two of Britain’s most notorious hooligan businesses and their fights became known as some of the bloodiest across the country.
Thankfully, those clashes faded due to a decline in hooliganism and Leeds’ fortunes on the pitch.
Despite the famous clashes between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haland, Ian Harte and Fabien Barthez, Robbie Keane and David Beckham, these meetings have become rare over time.
Leeds were relegated in 1982 and did not face United until returning to the Premier League eight years later in 1990.
And a similar period has followed in recent times: the two clubs have not been in the same division since relegation from Leeds in 2004 and have only faced each other four times since until the Whites’ promotion in 2020.
Nevertheless, polls show that Leeds fans still see Man United as their main football rivals. Maybe they’re still bitter about Alan Smith…
Rio Ferdinand signed for Manchester United from Leeds in 2002, but it’s not the decision that interests them.
Smith was a local lad who vowed to stay at Elland Road despite relegation, but weeks later he was outed to their bitter rivals.
There will be plenty of Leeds fans who have yet to forgive him.
He was even seen crying and kissing the Leeds badge on the day they were kicked out of the Premier League in 2004 when they drew 3-3 with Charlton.
When asked by Soccer AM in 2002 if there was a team he would never play for, he replied: “Yeah, Man United.”
Yet despite the controversy, his move helped his boyhood club avoid liquidation.
He was the hero Leeds deserved, but not the one they needed, like Batman.
In the years since, he told the Official Utd podcast: “For me, it wasn’t even a rivalry anymore.
“If you’re not in the same league, I don’t see how it can be.”
How wrong he was.