Leeds and Man United’s rivalry began hundreds of years before either of the clubs were formed.
The War of the Roses shaped English history and the loyalties still echo today.
Those from Yorkshire feel an innate animosity to Lancashire folk (and vice versa), some can suppress it and co-exist harmoniously, others embrace it.
It stands to reason a bitter loathing that pre-dates Henry VIII would make for a compelling football rivalry.
After all, the feud between the House of Lancaster and the House of York was the inspiration for House Lannister and House Stark in George R.R Martin’s brutal Game of Thrones series.
But how does a football rivalry manifest itself when there isn’t any football?
Leeds were relegated from the Premier League in 2004.
Since then, the clubs have met just twice in cup competitions.
In 2010, Jermaine Beckford scored the visitors’ winner at Old Trafford in the FA Cup third round — a strike still sung about on a weekly basis at Elland Road.
In 2011, Man United were victorious on Yorkshire soil in the League Cup, but the game was overshadowed by unsavoury scenes in the stands.
Away fans mocked the deaths of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, two Leeds fans fatally stabbed in Istanbul prior to the first leg of the 2000 UEFA Cup semi-final between David O’Leary’s side and Galatasaray.
In response, some home fans made gestures in reference to the 1958 Munich air disaster; a tragedy which resulted in 23 fatalities, the majority of which were Man United players.
Those who participated in such behaviour obviously overstepped the mark, that much is obvious.
Such unfiltered animosity is evidence of a fierce conflict bubbling under the surface.
With Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds favourites for promotion, and the two teams committed to a pre-season friendly in Australia next summer, one of English football’s most explosive and historic rivalries could return to the football calendar.
What would that mean for the fans?
There’s a whole generation who have never experienced Leeds v Man United in a league environment.
But for many, like Leeds fans Callum Scott, Phil Barrett and George Campbell, the fire still burns.
“I hate them [Man United] and always will,” Callum told us. “I’ve grown up knowing them as scum.”
Callum means it literally; many Leeds fans refer to Man United as ‘scum’ in casual conversation.
The lyrics to the aforementioned Beckford chant are as follows: “January 3rd, remember the date. We beat the team that we f**king hate.
“We knocked the scum out the FA Cup. Super Leeds and we’re going up.”
The favour is often returned; Man United fans can regularly be heard chanting “we all hate Leeds scum” during fixtures against other teams.
“I dislike many clubs,” Phil said, “but Man U are the only club I genuinely hate.”
“Any true Leeds fan should hate Man United,” George added.
It’s difficult for the fans to not feel this innate aversion, such is the history between the clubs.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Roses rivalry escalated due to the relevant level pegging of the two sides from a footballing perspective.
Don Revie’s side from the time remain the most successful of Leeds’ 99-year history.
During these times, the teams engaged in fiercely competitive games beyond the helpless referees’ control.
Aside from a faint semblance of courtesy between brothers Jack and Bobby Charlton, the two sets of players hated each other.
During the 70s, hooligans belonging to Leeds’ Service Crew and Man United’s Red Army frequently fought in bloody clashes.
Unsavoury scenes occasionally marred Premier League meetings, but the general decline of hooliganism meant a welcome end to regular violence.
In more recent times, success on the pitch allowed the Reds unquestionable supremacy over Leeds; and allowed them to deliver some devastating blows.
Eric Cantona traded white for red in 1992 and became an Old Trafford legend.
Rio Ferdinand followed a similar path.
Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland’s rivalry originated in a Roses match; the latter accused the former of diving when Keane was legitimately injured.
Defender Lucas Radebe once played 72 minutes in goal at Old Trafford, after keeper Mark Beeney was sent off.
The Leeds legend performed admirably, cementing his status in Yorkshire folklore, but was beaten by a low strike in the second-half as United won 1-0.
United rubbed salt in Leeds’ wounds when they signed Alan Smith, the Whites’ talisman, the summer after Eddie Gray’s side were relegated from the top flight in 2004.
Yorkshire lad Smith had previously stated he would ‘never play for Man United’ and proudly kissed the Leeds badge as part of his passionate goal celebrations during his time with his boyhood club.
Smith’s hand was somewhat forced by Leeds’ relegation and the club’s financial ruin.
United offered the most money and the club encouraged Smith to accept the offer, knowing full well the backlash he would face from the fans who once adored him.
Smith’s betrayal, as it is viewed by many in Yorkshire, is the north’s answer to Sol Campbell’s infamous defection.
A July showdown in western Australia will be a bizarre renewal for the Roses rivalry.
Fans who would usually face an hour on the M62 will have to travel to over 9,000 miles if they wish to be present for the first meeting between Leeds and Man United in eight years.
More appetising is the prospect of Bielsa’s ambitious side earning promotion to the Premier League — the bookies currently have them as Championship favourites.
Biannual meetings would raise the sleeping giant of English football rivalries.
And, after the drama and intensity displayed in the most recent north London and Merseyside derbies, the Premier League would undoubtedly be a better place for it.
- Re-ranking the 30 Ballon d’Or nominees in a way which will probably make you angry
- Thorgan Hazard’s career path is starting to look a lot like Kevin De Bruyne’s
- Football’s Front Lines: Invincible but not untouchable — when every fan is part of the squad