Football: Wetherall gives Leeds day in sun

Leeds United 1 Wetherall 34 Manchester United 0 Attendance:39, 952
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The Independent Online
They Stood firm in the battle of Bolton eight days ago, and again in the bruising war of attrition at Old Trafford last Wednesday night, but the Red Devils finally wilted yesterday, on their annual trek across the M62 to Elland and back. They did so in worrying fashion, too, against a Leeds team who required no strong arm stuff in their intimidating-enough home to take the wildly-celebrated scalp of the Mancunian United. A headed goal by David Wetherall, 11 minutes before the break, and a George Graham trademark battening of the second-half hatches inflicted the first defeat on Alex Ferguson's side since they were cut down by Paolo Wanchope on 5 April.

Not until the final 20 minutes did Manchester United show their champion stock. The Cornish Nigel Martyn earned his corn with interest, keeping out bullet headers from Gary Pallister and Teddy Sheringham. "In the end it came down to their keeper," Ferguson asserted. But it was an untypically incohesive Manchester United performance which handed Graham the opportunity to savour his overdue first home victory of the season in the Premiership. Their afternoon was perhaps best reflected by the 81st-minute microcosm of Roy Keane's departure. In attempting to execute a crude challenge on Alfe Inge Haland the over-keen Irishman merely succeeded in twisting a knee.

Like the rest of his team, the Manchester United captain will be in need of urgent rejuvenation for their Champions' League match against Juventus at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. Not that Ferguson was baring his wounds in public. "I thought we were desperately unlucky not to win that," he said. "We were disappointing in the first half but we showed a lot of purpose in the second half. We must have had 110 per cent of the possession."

The trouble was when Ferguson's men eventually found their feet, Leeds had their lead to protect. It ought to have been a more comfortable lead, too, as the disjointed visitors - minus the injured Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and Andy Cole - struggled to contain their hosts. The Wallace boys always have been a handful for Ferguson. Danny was a flop for him while Rod was literally a pain in his side yesterday, the pace of the one-time Saint stretching either side of the Manchester United defence. Had Wallace connected with Gary Kelly's tantalising low ball across the face of goal the champions would have been floored by first-half injury time.

As it was, Manchester United always had a chance of recovering from the blow Wetherall dealt them when Peter Schmeichel hesitated and the outstanding member of the home guard, Martyn excepted, headed the goal, Leeds' first at home since opening day of the Premiership season.

There was never much likelihood of a second after the break. Leeds sat back so deep they invited the inevitable Alamo ending of Schmeichel and Pallister adding their height to the vertically-challenged Manchester United attack. "They penned us back," Graham conceded. "But if you go chasing Man United they're one of the best at hitting you on the break."

It was three days after the corresponding fixture last year that Graham was installed at Elland Road. And, just as that 4-0 defeat put Howard Wilkinson to the managerial sword, so yesterday's success can be the making of the Graham regime. "It's my most satisfying result since coming here," the Leeds manager said. All the more satisfying, perhaps, given the memories of the troubled time Graham endured at Old Trafford succeeding Bobby Charlton as team-leader. It was the devilish captain of the present day Red Devils, though, who was uppermost in Alex Ferguson's mind as he departed. "I certainly hope Roy's OK for Wednesday," he said. "He's very important to us."