Doesn’t the result make Manchester United’s taunting all the more enjoyable? When I first read the headline of ‘Manchester United draw FA Cup minnows’ on their official site, I couldn’t help but laugh. Clearly they still held a soft spot for us and felt us worthy of such taunts. Had it not been Leeds United they drew, I imagine the official site would have been much more respectful of their opposition but this is one of those rivalries where there’s no love lost, so what would be the point building bridges?

On the approach to Old Trafford I came across a man with a masterplan to make money by selling those cup game scarves you see baring the colours of both teams with a 50/50 divide. Clearly he’d underestimated how much we both hated one another as I can’t see many Leeds United fans buying a scarf with Manchester United’s name and colours on it (and vice versa). He didn’t look to be having much success as I passed that’s for sure.

By this point there was Police everywhere as you may well expect. Apparently there’d already been some trouble between the fans in the station and a couple of fights outside the ground, but on the whole and considering the occasion, it wasn’t as bad as may have been expected. I didn’t encounter any problems with the opposition fans anyway and all the Leeds fans I saw were being their usual charming selves. I guess if anything was to kick off, it’d have likely happened after the game but there’s a funny thing about winning that makes our naughtier few better behaved.

The security element of the tie was doing their best to treat us all like animals. As the Police warned some fans to calm their passions “or else” I moved by swiftly before another unjustified altercation with the law that I could do without. Travelling away often presents itself with instances where the Police decide you have less rights than a terrorist and very little right to complain thereafter – regardless of whether you’d done anything wrong or not!

The temptation of asking the steward who searched me on the way into the ground if he’d at least buy me dinner first was hard to resist, such was the mans thoroughness and clear love of his job. I did resist however as there were more law enforcement officers around and they didn’t look like they’d need much of an excuse to arrest any fan they felt was being problematic, so it was through the turnstyles and in to Sold Trafford for the first time in almost six years.

You have to give credit to Man United’s manager for his approach to this game. As big a distaste for the bloke as we all may have, he rarely makes a mistake in his preperation for media frenzy matches like these and he wasn’t about to start now. All week he’d been stressing publically how big a match this would be for Leeds and the supporters of both teams. He’d told of how we shouldn’t be underestimated and warned his team for a battle and that’s exactly what they got.

From the off Leeds looked to take the game to ManU and it was clear we were in for a two-way battle. Most minnow teams like ourselves go to Old Trafford and look to leave with a respectable scoreline, but Simon Grayson was having none of that. If we’re going to play, we’re playing to win.

Chances fell both ways with Darren Gibson firing wide for ManU and Jermaine Beckford heading over the bar for Leeds. Danny Welbeck quickly settled into the game for Manchester United and was making a real nuisance of himself down the right. Andy Hughes was left wondering what had happened as Welbeck burst down the flank with pace and sent a good cross straight across goal, with no Man United player able to make a connection. Meanwhile, the older Donkey Brother was getting his usual reception from the Leeds faithful and was booed everytime he touched the ball.

Becchio had a good chance for Leeds with a headed attempt from Kilkenny’s cross but headed well over the top of goal. It was the best chance so far and Becchio knew he should have done better. Meanwhile, the crowd was in full voice as the Man United fans repeated “We all hate Leeds scum” again which they mixed with a song about Cantona and some nonsense about Rooney. Hard to hear them whilst munching Prawn sandwiches in all honesty. Leeds on the other hand had no time to snack and were busy working there way through a much wider range of songs. This was probably around the ‘we’re not famous anymore’ stage of proceedings.

On the pitch the exchanges were just as lively. Leeds were fighting for every ball and attacking at every available opportunity. Simon Grayson’s tactics of pushing men forward when in possession made for a brilliant end to end battle, but there were several nervy moments when the Reds countered and their pacey players like Welbeck broke free.

Beckford celebrates the goal of his career

It was roughly twenty minutes in to an action packed first half when Leeds countered quickly and took the lead. Jonny Howson picked out Jermaine Beckford who had been busy giving the over-rated Wes Brown the run around with an excellent long-range pass that landed nicely for Beckford. His first touch took him wide of the goalkeeper and his second was a tame shot that beat the goalkeeper and slowly but surely crossed the line! Cue crazy celebrations in Old Trafford and silence in the home stands. “1-0 in your cup final!” Wes Brown meanwhile may as well have been sat in the stands.

Man United quickly tried to get back on level terms and had it not been for a Jason Crowe goal-line clearence, Wayne Rooney would have done so almost immediately. That was about the best Man United could offer in terms of a reply in the first half and as tempers began to flair, the horrible Wes Brown got himself booked for a foul on Lucciano Becchio. One of several poor challenges he made in a game where it was a miracle he didn’t get sent off.

After a cheerful half-time for Leeds United fans, we returned for the second half and rather unsurprisingly, Man United were throwing bodies forward. Their whinging players futile appeals for a penalty were dismissed by the ref after Howson dispossessed Welbeck and just minutes later, the tempers flaired again as Micky Doyle was brought down for a free-kick. Jonny Howson – who played an absolute blinder – decided he could take on Gibson and Brown and as tempers flaired, the ref had to intervene and calm matters down before normal service was resumed.

The ref – who despite his reluctance to send Wes Brown off for a series of challenges where he never got anywhere near the ball – had to issue some more yellow cards as the tackles started to fly in all over the place. Both Naylor and Gibson found their way into the book, but in truth, both teams could have received a lot more yellow cards but a very good ref allowed the game to flow throughout and tried to keep his cards in his pocket.

Nayl’s was solid and hungry throughout, as was Kisnorbo. Even the usually criticised Hughes and Crowe were sticking the tackles in and making life hard for Manchester United. The midfield were closing down and challenging players whenever Man U were in possession and Becchio seemed to play the majority of the match back there with them. When we had possession, we were never afraid to pass it about and run with the ball, particulary Johnson and Howson who deserve a special mention. The whole team as one were performing brilliantly and you have to give full credit to Grayson who was tactically spot on.

Man United, who had started strongly enough with a good defence and near-on £60m in strikers decided to make some more changes to try and win the battle of the midfield. Giggs and Valencia came on, but surprisingly Welbeck was removed which was a bit of a relief as the lad’s pace had caused us problems throughout. Strange move, but I’m sure there was motive to the madness.

Owen joined proceedings not long after but despite so many attacking options, Man U were still struggling in defence and Jermaine Beckford once again broke free to narrowly fire wide when one on one with the keeper. Hearts in mouths by now, as Rooney prowled and Owen looked to get in on the action.

Leeds would get another chance however, by which point Snoddy had joined proceedings in replace of the outstanding Jonny Howson. A free-kick in a good position had his name written all over and he struck beautifully, only to be denied by the bar. Despite leading, one more would have settled some nerves as we approached the end of the game and the inevitable five minutes of added time came. As the crowd mocked the officals with chants of ‘Fergy time,’ Man United looked for one final chance, but Casper, Nayl’s, Kis and whoever else could get their body in the way kept the Champions at bay.

The final whistle blew and Leeds celebrated a result we’ve not managed in 29 years. Victory at Old Trafford for the FA Cup minnows and third tier team. Every Man United fan you taunt over the coming days will inevitably claim it was a weak team or that the referee didn’t give them 29 minutes of ET and three penalties, but there’s no taking away from what Simon Grayson’s lads achieved today. They did us proud and thoroughly deserved their victory. A special day for Leeds United that I expect we’ll look back on in years to come as the first sign of our resurrection.

TSS man of the match
Jonny Howson for me. I could hazard a guess that ITV went for Becks and it wouldn’t be undeserved. He made Wes Brown look second rate throughout and was always a threat, but Jonny rose to the occasion like the Leeds lad he is. He knew what the rivalry meant and gave it absolutely everything. All the team played their part and all of them deserve the praise they’ll receive but Jonny grew today for me. He was like Leeds’ answer to Stevie G.

The draw for the fourth round gave us another trip down memory lane as we head for Tottenham Hotspur. Ken Bates will no doubt be delighted too at another obvious money spinner, which will once again undoubtedly be on TV.

A great start to 2010 I’m sure you’ll agree. Happy new decade for Leeds? Let’s hope we’re celebrating just as much in May! One things for sure now though. If Beckford does leave in the coming days, he’ll leave Leeds United a hero, in the meantime though, I’m sure you’ll enjoy his goal again!