Sunday 3rd January 2010 | Old Trafford, Manchester
The date was Sunday 3rd January 2010, and the odds were firmly stacked against the Whites. League One side Leeds United found themselves drawn in the FA Cup Third Round to a Manchester United side that had never before lost at that stage in the competition during Alex Ferguson’s 23-year tenure.
Forty-two places separated the two sides, but Simon Grayson’s men came into the game unbeaten in 15 games, having lost only twice all season, and were able to recall Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson to their starting line-up, following the suspension of Leigh Bromby and injury to Robert Snodgrass.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson paid Leeds the ultimate compliment by naming a strong starting line-up, which won the Premier League the previous season, including Wayne Rooney among others.
Unsurprisingly, the game attracted a full-house with a spiky atmosphere, and with almost 9,000 Leeds fans present. It was a moment both sets of fans had waited for since Leeds’ relegation from the Premiership six years ago, and the atmosphere didn’t disappoint.
The home side did have one early shot – Darron Gibson firing wide – but Leeds also started with confidence and Tomasz Kuszczak had to be alert to punch clear a Bradley Johnson corner. Jermaine Beckford also turned a Jonny Howson cross over the top.
At the other end, a teasing cross from Danny Welbeck drifted across the face of goal, and Gabriel Obertan also looked to find Welbeck with a pull-back, but the England man couldn’t connect.
But on 20 minutes Leeds were in dreamland. Howson played a long ball forward and Beckford stripped Brown for pace before slipping the ball beyond Kuszczak to give Leeds the lead. The goal sparked jubilant scenes among both the players and the vast travelling support.
Moments later, Luciano Becchio headed over a Neil Kilkenny cross as United threatened again.
And when Man United came forward on 25 minutes, Dimitar Berbatov releasing Rooney, Jason Crowe made a goal-line clearance to keep the score at 1-0 when an equaliser looked certain.
But Leeds were showing no fear, Johnson heading a Crowe cross wide of the mark after another good attack from Grayson’s men. On 35 minutes, Brown went in the book for Man U after a foul on Becchio as the striker looked to set United on another break.
As the game headed towards half-time, there was a short stoppage as Johnson received treatment, following a challenge by Brown.
HALF TIME: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1 (Beckford 19)
The home side started the second half on the front foot and they had appeals for a penalty waved away when Howson clashed with Welbeck. As the ball was returned forward, there was a more serious clash involving Howson, Brown, and Gibson after an over-zealous challenge on Micky Doyle saw tempers flare.
Moments later, Gibson was booked for a challenge on Johnson while Richard Naylor saw yellow for a foul on Rooney. In between, the challenges, Casper Ankergren reacted well to deny both Welbeck and Berbatov.
The double arrival of Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia was designed to give the home side more of a cutting edge, but as the game edged past the hour-mark, Leeds were looking dogged and resilient.
When Leeds threatened again, Johnson curled a free-kick into the arms of Kuszczak. With 21 minutes to go, Ferguson made his final change, Michael Owen coming on as the home side looked to force an equaliser. But, when the chance presented itself to a combination of Owen and Berbatov, Paddy Kisnorbo cleared as far as Rooney who blasted high over the bar.
Rooney also fired over, following a Valenica cross, on 77 minutes.
And moments later, United had a chance to wrap the game up when Beckford seized upon a Doyle pass and his finish shaved the wrong side of the upright. Next, Robert Snodgrass rattled the woodwork with a free-kick which left Kuszczak with no chance.
It was a real credit to Leeds that as the game headed towards its final stages, the home side were unable to offer too much in the way of an attacking threat, and the near 9,000 travelling fans were roaring their heroes towards what would be a famous victory.
The 9,000 even chimed with chants of “Fergie Time” when five minutes were added on at the end of the 90. There was a moment of panic in the fourth minute, United scrambled the ball clear after Ankergren made a superb save, and when it was returned Rooney fired wide following a last-gasp corner.
And that proved to be the last meaningful action as Leeds recorded a first win for 29 years at Old Trafford, and the celebrations started.
FULL TIME: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1 (Beckford 19)
Manchester United: Kuszczak, Neville, Brown, Evans, Da Silva, Welbeck (Valencia 58), Anderson (Owen 69), Obertan (Giggs 58), Gibson, Rooney, Berbatov. Subs: Tosic, Carrick, Da Silva, Amos.
Leeds United: Ankergren, Crowe, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Hughes (White 90), Howson (Snodgrass 77), Kilkenny, Doyle, Johnson, Beckford, Becchio (Michalik 89). Subs: Prutton, Grella, Capaldi, Martin.