Football: The ex-files - Old Trafford echo of Cantona coup

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The Independent Online
"Old Trafford Swoop!" ran the teasing invitation to ring Leeds United Club Call. If David Williams' recent defection to Manchester United's coaching staff was hardly in the Eric Cantona class, it carried chilling echoes for the Elland Road fans who will gather in trepidation for today's "Roses" match.

Five years ago, those supporters were stunned when Howard Wilkinson sold the man dubbed "Ooh-Aah Cantona" to their bitter rivals for a mere pounds 1.2m. Alex Ferguson's coup reversed a trend, for two of the most inspirational figures in Leeds' history, John Giles and Gordon Strachan, were picked up for peanuts from Manchester.

Gordon McQueen and Joe Jordan blazed a trail for Cantona in 1978 for a massive pounds 845,000, Arthur Graham following five years later. Brian Greenhoff's move the opposite way proved not all Leeds' buys from Manchester had a magical impact. His brother, Jimmy, also played for both clubs, as did Freddie Goodwin, Andy Ritchie, Peter Barnes, Mickey Thomas and Chris Turner.

George Graham, who once captained Manchester, may look ruefully at Denis Irwin returning in red to the club who developed then ditched him. But the ghost at the feast (or famine if Leeds' home form is any guide) will have Heathcliffian eyebrows and an upturned collar.

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