Leeds United. . . . 2
Manchester United. .1
NOT in 13 years, not even in their championship season, had Leeds defeated Manchester United before this match. Victory was as deserved as it was acclaimed.
A penalty, erroneously awarded, allowed United back into the match, but goals from David Wetherall and Brian Deane were enough to reward Leeds for a performance of bold endeavour and commitment.
It was a display which, if consistently repeated, would put Leeds alongside Newcastle and Blackburn as genuine title contenders. Such was the subdued nature of the holders' performance - until pride and hope lifted them in the last 15 minutes - that it seems the championship really could be up for grabs as they concentrate on more distant frontiers.
Buoyed by raucous support, Leeds went at United from the start, with David White and Rod Wallace pushed forward on the flanks to make it a four- man attack. Steve Bruce and David May looked discomforted; May given a torrid time by Wallace's pace and control.
The winger won three early corners, and after Noel Whelan had come close to scoring from the first two, Wetherall did so from the third, hooking in after White's mishit kick had eluded four defenders.
Further scares followed, culminating in two terrible misses from another Wallace cross - first Phil Masinga miskicking then Deane heading over, both from within three yards.
This seemed to typify Deane's fortune at Leeds. The pounds 2.7m centre-forward has been so thoroughly usurped by the promising partnership of 19-year-old Whelan and South African Masinga that, on White's withdrawal with ankle ligament damage, he was moved wide to the wing.
But Deane's day had arrived, and four minutes after the break, Whelan dribbled down the left, squared and Deane squeezed the ball in for the second goal.
United, however, remained muted. Alex Ferguson, their manager, has admitted the European Cup is his priority, and there was much to suggest that his players feel the same. The exception may prove the rule, because the one United player who sparkled throughout, Eric Cantona, is suspended from Wednesday's opening Champions' League match against Gothenburg and for three further ties.
Cantona is also inspired by the knowledge that the Elland Road crowd which once revered him now curses him. He seemed in the mood to play before the match and remained so throughout, with his vision and control a class above anyone else.
Alongside him, Paul Ince was slow to start and Mark Hughes, although always involved, allowed the occasion to affect his judgement and Ryan Giggs simply was not interested - United's best spell came after he was substituted.
Cantona calmly converted a 74th-minute penalty given by referee David Elleray for a foul on Ince by Deane which was clearly - as Elleray himself admitted afterwards - committed way outside the box. The game became a siege, and Bruce almost levelled with a header, but Leeds would not be denied.
Leeds United (4-2-4): Lukic; Kelly, Wetherall, Palmer, Worthington; McAllister, Speed; White (Deane, 30), Whelan, Masinga (Fairclough, 87), Wallace. Substitute not used: Beeney (gk).
Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; May, Pallister, Bruce, Irwin; Kanchelskis, McClair (Sharpe, 63), Ince, Giggs (Butt, 63); Cantona, Hughes. Substitute not used: Pilkington (gk).
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).
First Division leaders Middlesbrough clung on to their unbeaten record yesterday, coming back from two goals down with 12 minutes to go to draw 2-2 with Sunderland at Ayresome Park. Craig Russell scored twice for Sunderland, with Richard Ord and Nigel Pearson replying for the home side. Middlesbrough could have secured victory in the last few minutes, but John Hendrie put his shot into the side netting after he had been put through clear on goal.
DERBY withstood a second-half onslaught at the County Ground to earn a deserved point against high-flying Swindon yesterday. Jan Age Fjortoft put Swindon ahead in the 16th minute with a header that just crept over the line before Martin Taylor scooped it away. Derby levelled within a minute when Paul Kitson broke free down the left and fired a superb 20- yard shot past the helpless Fraser Digby.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies