Getting promoted into the Premier League after a span of 16 long years meant rekindling old animosity with Leeds United rivals – Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Sheffield United and more. Some of the rivalries have, in fact, been so fierce that they are embedded in the folklore of English football forever.
Here is a look at some of the biggest rivals Leeds United have seen over the decades.
Leeds United’s and their bitter rivals Manchester United have shared intense hatred for each other since the 15th century and their matches have been one of the most ferocious competition English football fans have witnessed over the decades.
The civil war – namely the ‘War of Roses’ – took place between 1455-1487 to claim the English throne between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. While Yorks represented the white rose, the Lancasters represented the red rose, which later became Leeds and Manchester United’s jerseys from 1961. If the civil war was not enough, the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and the 19th centuries saw their competition grow bitter as they fought tooth and nail to fetch more investments.
The acerbity would later transcend into football as the physical rigours of English football reflected their hatred aptly. Leeds United have faced Manchester United 107 times since the League Division Two days of the 1920s. The Whites have won 46 of their clashes and lost 26 of them. Though Manchester United have been the superior side in the last two decades, which also saw Leeds’ demotion into the Championship, the Peacocks are now back to claim their lost place amongst England’s finest.
Unlike Manchester, Leeds United’s competition was less historical and more in the lines of playing style. Leeds United’s aggressive and robust brand of football was akin to what Chelsea had brought to the table in the 1960s and their encounters were one of the most awaited fixtures of the season.
English author John Kings had described Leeds United’s game “dirty” while Chelsea had the conventional, fashionable, wide boys of London. Their physicality had come to the fore during the 1970 FA Cup final as the heated contest had ended 2-2 leading to a FA Cup final rematch, something that had never happened since 1912.
Though it was Leeds United’s rivals, who went on to win the rematch 2-1 at the Old Trafford, both the finals are registered as classics with their rivalry categorised amongst one of the most iconic ones in English football.
To make things further spicy, Frank Lampard and Marcelo Bielsa aren’t on best of terms either, after the Argentine coach was found to have sent a spy to Lampard’s Derby County training ground to learn their tactics during the 2018-19 Championship season.
Liverpool haven’t been Leeds United’s traditional rivals as well, but the threat Liverpool carried in the 1960s made them serious title contenders alongside Leeds United. Both the legendary managers – Don Revie of Leeds and Bill Shankly of Liverpool, refused to leave an inch of the pitch for their opponent, which had resulted in some of the best football matches.
The 1965 FA Cup final was a by-product of the same where Liverpool had drawn the first blood by winning the summit clash 2-1. This did not go down well with Leeds United as they came back repeatedly to put their best foot forward against the Reds.
Leeds United’s 1974 title-winning campaign was a masterpiece where they had outsmarted Liverpool in the race. The intensity between the two is thoroughly depicted in the less important 1974 Charity Shield fixture as well, where a massive brawl had taken place amongst the players, which eventually resulted in Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan getting send-offs.
Though Leeds had their intensity dropping when Premier League started in 1992, hints of the fierce rivalry from the mid-1960s to 1980 were evident in the Whites’ 4-3 loss to Liverpool at the Anfield earlier this season.
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