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Gary Neville recalls Leeds defeat as one of his ‘worst days in football’

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“Absolute shambles” – Neville.

On Sunday, Manchester United welcome the Premier League’s entertainers Leeds United to Old Trafford.

Throughout the years, the two teams have shared an intense rivalry. In the 1970s, games were often played out against the backdrop of rising British football hooliganism.

The mutual enmity was further stoked by Eric Cantona’s move from Elland Road to Old Trafford, a matter of months after having helped the Yorkshire club clinch the old First Division title in 1992.

Leeds fans were similarly up in arms when Rio Ferdinand followed in Cantona’s footsteps in 2002.


In recent years, of course, meetings have been few and far between, largely due to Leeds’ 16-year exile from the Premier League.

2010 upset

Even with their time away from the top flight, Leeds managed the odd upset against United.

In January 2010, Leeds travelled to Old Trafford in the FA Cup third round. At that stage, Leeds were playing their football in League One.

Forty-two places separated them from United, who were again in the hunt to win the Premier League title (eventually missing out to Chelsea).

Nobody fancied Simon Grayson’s side, which made their 1-0 win all the more remarkable. Jermaine Beckford scored the only goal as Leeds became the first lower-division team to knock Ferguson’s United out of the cup.

It was also the first time Ferguson had exited the competition in the third round.

Although a decade has passed, the defeat looms large in Gary Neville’s mind.

“It was an absolute shambles,” Neville, who captained United, told the Daily Mail.

“The boss made six or seven changes and those of us who came in were nowhere near it in terms of being ready.


“I got caught out badly. It was a terrible day. One of my worst days in football.”

Neville also recalled the intense atmosphere that dominated Cantona’s return to Elland Road as a Manchester United player.

Still a youth player at the time, Neville watched the game as a fan in the away stand.

“Honestly, it was moody as hell,” he said.

“There was a massive police presence and massive concern as to how it would go off. It was a mess, though we got out all right.

“There was Sol Campbell going back to Spurs, Paul Ince going back with Liverpool to Old Trafford, but I can’t think in the modern era where there’s been that real spite.”

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