The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 23 

 

Manchester United 0-1 Leeds United 

Third round {last 64}: Sunday January 3rd 2010

Old Trafford, Manchester

Attendance: 74,526

Scorer: Jermaine Beckford {19} 

Jim Carey lent his voice to several characters including Scrooge as Disney gave the 3d computer treatment to Dicken's Christmas Carol, X Factor Television talent show winner Joe McElderry topped the charts with his debut single, The Climb, The British Government announced that body scanners would be introduced into domestic airports to counter the threat of terrorism and Western embassies in Yemen were shut for fear of attack from Al Qaeda.

The first weekend of the new decade brought bitterly cold weather, snow showers and a third round cup Saturday that rarely threatened to provide the shock result the public yearn for as the majority of the ties survived the weather and were completed with all the big guns on duty gaining, at least a replay. The biggest gun of them all though were the champions, Manchester United, whose tie at home to Leeds was picked out by ITV as the game it would screen live on Television on Sunday lunchtime. 

In the 1960s the clash of the two Uniteds had grown into the bitterest of wars of the roses both on and off the field and created a mutual animosity that was rekindled when the two sides re-emerged as major forces in the game in the 90s. Leeds however became a byword for the risks clubs take when trying to buy their way to the top table. The Elland Road outfit assembled a hugely expensive squad in the late 90s that reached the Champions League semi final and topped the table at the dawn of the 21st Century but the gamble was a huge one and failure to make the top four cost the club dearly. Without the huge cash boost of the Champions League money, Leeds were forced to sell players and when they again failed to make the top four for a second time the club went into financial meltdown to find themselves in the third tier as the first decade of the Century came to an end.

The star names quickly found pastures new but thankfully for the Elland Road faithful, the first seeds of recovery were being seen under the guidance of Simon Grayson as his young side dominated League One to lie top of the table and well on course for promotion back to the Championship when the third round draw offered them the trip to the theatre of dreams.

Some of the more cautious Leeds fans were quick to point out that the Peacocks had still to see off plucky non-league Kettering who forced a replay at Elland Road in their second round tie. That was a game Leeds made very hard work of and it wasn't until extra time that an exhausted Kettering side were rather unluckily swept away to a very flattering 5-1 scoreline.

Most Manchester United fans paid only passing attention to that result as the third round of the cup had long since become something of a formality to the fans of the Red Devils who hadn't seen their team lose their opening F A cup encounter of the season in the two decades since Sir Alex Ferguson took charge. Unlike Leeds, Manchester United's place among the top four had remained largely unthreatened as the gulf generated by the yearly European cash injection continued to grow and by 2010 it seemed inconceivable that United would ever again spend more than a season outside the top four comfort zone. The F A cup had sometimes been viewed as a victim of United's concentration on the Champions League and Premier League with Ferguson regularly resting many of his first choice eleven and giving his squad players a game, enraging many of the purists in the press who accused the United supremo of belittling the competition. This was ignoring the fact that Manchester United had built a squad of such size and strength that if they entered their reserves into the Premier League they would probably finish in the top half of the table and possibly even push for a European place in their own right. However this strength in depth was being genuinely tested by an injury crisis that saw Ferguson's second choice back four playing regularly over Christmas as the first choice, including former Leeds star, Rio Ferdinand were consigned to the treatment table. Despite making seven changes from the team that had thumped Wigan 5-0 in the league a few days earlier, Ferguson still picked a side that looked ominously too strong for Simon Grayson's mix of journeymen and youngsters.

 9,000 Leeds fans made the journey to Old Trafford to rekindle memories of their glory days but fully aware that they had left the Theatre of Dreams seventeen times without victory since Brian Flynn's goal had won a top flight encounter in 1981. This current Leeds side was also nowhere near as good in quality as those previous teams had been but if there was little hope of victory on the pitch then the travelling faithful would at least win the battle off it, the noise from their corner of the ground outshouting the sixty-five thousand who had gathered to support the home side.

The United fans meanwhile settled down to watch their side come though what they expected would be an early test before the class of their stars would shine through and were especially buoyed to see Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov leading the line as the home side patiently sprayed passes around the pitch in the opening minutes.

Leeds, marshalled by captain and ex Republic of Ireland international Michael Doyle, remained composed and resisted the urge to defend in depth which had for so long seen so many sides capitulate at Old Trafford and, urged on by their fans high to the left of Casper Ankergen's goal, they began to push out and take the game to the home side. After nineteen minutes a route one ball from Johnny Howsen found Leed's highly rated striker, Jermaine Beckford in a one on one with Manchester's England international defender Wes Brown for the first time. The Leeds man managed to get goal side of the experienced home defender and despite a poor first touch he was able to nip in ahead of the advancing Tomasz Kuszczak and lob the ball, almost in slow motion into the Stretford End net.

The Leeds fans went into wild celebrations but the home fans were relatively unfased as they had lost count of the number of times they had seen the Red Devils turn around a deficit at Old Trafford, especially with Seventy-one minutes in which to do it but there were nervous looks two minutes later when Becchio almost made it two for the visitors. That sparked the home side into life and when Wayne Rooney lobbed Ankergren midway through the first half the whole stadium prepared to celebrate the equaliser only for Jason Crowe to get back in time to hack the goal bound effort away from danger.

Leeds continued to defend stoutly but were grateful for the half time whistle to allow them time to catch their breath as the home side began to dominate proceedings with ITV's commentator confidently predicting that there was no way the game would finish with a solitary goal.

The second half saw Manchester United attacking their famous Stretford End where their most vocal fans were gathered but their domination of possession wasn't being matched by clear cut opportunities as the Leeds back four held firm and threw themselves in front of the ball every time a Manchester star got a sight of goal. Sir Alex Ferguson had seen enough after the first quarter of an hour and rang the changes, bringing on Antonio Valencia and the sports personality of the year, Ryan Giggs to try and stir more out of a team that had so far forced Ankergren into only one meaningful save in the second period. When Michael Owen was also brought on United really began to push hard for an equaliser but in the final half hour they were consistently thwarted by a combination of brave defending from Leeds and some awful finishing from the home stars.

But while both Owen and Rooney were missing glaring opportunities at one end, Leeds showed they still had something to offer at the other and in their only real spell of attacking, midway through the second half, they squandered two great chances to seal victory. Firstly Beckford fired narrowly wide when put through and minutes later, second half substitute, Robert Snodgrass crashed a free kick off the Manchester woodwork.

That set up a grandstand finish, played out almost entirely in and around the Leeds goal mouth as the home side placed six red shirts inside the box and another three on the edge of it to pen Leeds in. It was a tried and trusted system that had made Manchester United the masters of the late equaliser and winner over the years against Premier League and European teams alike. Leeds surely couldn't survive the onslaught but as the game drifted towards the final minute Manchester still hadn't been able to find the killer goal.

Another ally in Manchester United's reputation as last gasp salvagers of lost causes was the phenomenon known as Fergie time. Traditionally games usually get two to four minutes for stoppages but whenever a Ferguson team were losing at home Sir Alex would constantly bellow to the fourth official "That's another thirty seconds" each time the game stopped. It was an intimidating tactic and it usually resulted in officials at Old Trafford offering five, six or seven minutes of added time when the home side needed it. Here again the official's board showed five minutes, this time to Ferguson's disgust as he wanted more, prompting chants of "Fergie time" from the visiting fans, desperate to start celebrating but still too nervous to contemplate victory.

Injury time brought the golden chance to force a replay with a desperate goal mouth scramble after Ankergren saved well from Rooney but this time there was no last gasp reprieve for the home side and the final whistle signalled the home side's first cupset defeat for twenty-six years.

An ecstatic Simon Grayson told the press after the game that he told the players to go out and make themselves proud, stating that the victory was for the fans who had stuck by Leeds through their terrible decade. A clearly angry Ferguson congratulated Leeds before lamenting that he couldn't explain such a poor performance from his side. Sir Alex then turned his annoyance on the officials, claiming that only five minutes of added time was a disgrace to Football.

For Leeds it wasn't going to get any easier as the fourth round draw left them as the last ball in the hat, making a visit to a Tottenham side making a strong bid to break into the Premier League's top four.

Manchester United: 29:Tomasz Kuszczak, 2:Gary Neville, 6:Wes Brown, 20:Fabio da Silva, 23:Johnny Evans, 8:Anderson {substituted for 7:Michael Owen-69}, 28:Darren Gibson, 9:Dimitar Berbatov, 10:Wayne Rooney, 19:Danny Welbeck {Substituted for 25:Antonio Valencia-57}, 26:Gabriel Obertan {Substituted for 11:Ryan Giggs-57}

Leeds United: 1:Casper Ankergren, 2:Jason Crowe, 3:Patrick Kisnorbo, 6:Richard Naylor, 4:Michael Doyle, 8:Neil Kilkenny, 14:Johnny Howsen {Substituted for 23:Robert Snodgrass-77}, 16:Bradley Johnson, 22:Andy Hughes {Substituted for 32:Aiden White 90+2}, 9:Jermaine Beckford, 10:Lucianno Becchio {Substituted for 17 Lubomir Michalik-88}