Football rivalries are usually simple enough to understand.
Any team in the nearby vicinity must be considered more detestable than all slightly less local enemies.
That’s the case for most clubs, anyway. Just not Leeds. They’ll pick a fight with anyone.
The city is a lonely place when it comes to football, and the Whites must extend the boundaries of geography to discover hatred.
A bit like Brighton and Crystal Palace, the Yorkshiremen’s fiercest rivals live more than 40 miles away.
But the Manchester United feud is so much more than just geography. It’s history, more than anything.
Why do we bring this up now? The rivalry was already renewed last season after Leeds ended their 16-year exodus from the Premier League.
However, when the Red Devils host Leeds on Saturday, live on talkSPORT, fans inside Old Trafford will get their first taste of the rivalry in years.
And trust us, it’ll be noisy.
The toxic feeling that exists between the two clubs was once described as ‘English football’s most intense, and most inexplicable’.
Our job, here at talkSPORT towers, is to rubbish the second half of that statement and explain it perfectly. Here goes…
Well, the rivalry (bizarrely) has its origins in the days of Tudor kings and William Shakespeare.
The feeling between United and Leeds is a manifestation of the rivalry between the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, established during the 15th century War of the Roses – a series of civil wars fought for the throne of England.
If you’ve seen Game of Thrones, it’s basically the Lannisters vs the Starks.
In fact, if you want to get really nerdy, much of the book content, specifically the War of the Five Kings, is actually based on the War of the Roses.
Lancashire’s historic symbol is a red rose, while Yorkshire’s is a white rose – which is quite fittingly corresponded to in the novels.
Oh, and also on the kits of United and Leeds. Back to real life…
Jump forward three centuries and the two cities were at it again, this time during the industrial revolution, as unprecedented economic growth saw them competing over who could construct the most impressive architecture.
‘My building’s better than yours’ is right at the heart of this feud.
Busby vs Revie
Then these two football teams came along.
In the post-WWII era, Matt Busby’s Man United were the dominant force in English football, while Leeds established a reputation as a tough, uncompromising side under Don Revie.
The two clubs met in the 1965 FA Cup semi-final, a match which saw a good old-fashioned punch-up between Jack Charlton and Denis Law.
The Yorkshire Post issued the following verdict: “Both sides behaved like a pack of dogs snapping and snarling at each other over a bone.”
An ill-tempered game finished 0-0 and Leeds won the replay at the City Ground courtesy of an 89th minute goal.
United, however, had the last laugh as they pipped Leeds to the league title due to a better goal average that season.
The rivalry has, unfortunately, extended far beyond the action of Old Trafford and Elland Road.
In the 1970s, when football hooliganism in Britain was at its most violent, fights between the Leeds United Service Crew and Man United’s Red Army were commonplace.
They were two of the most notorious hooligan firms in Britain and their fights became known as some of the most bloody across the country.
Thankfully, these clashes have faded out due to a decline in both hooliganism and Leeds’ fortunes on the pitch.
Despite famous clashes between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haland, Ian Harte and Fabien Barthez, Robbie Keane and David Beckham – these encounters have become increasingly scarce as time has gone on.
Leeds were relegated in 1982 and did not face United until they returned to the top division eight years later in 1990.
And a similar period has followed in recent times: the two clubs were not in the same division since Leeds were relegated in 2004 and only played each other twice since until the Whites’ promotion in 2020.
Nonetheless, polls show that Leeds fans still consider Man United to be their main football rivals. Perhaps they’re still bitter about Alan Smith…
Rio Ferdinand signed for Manchester United from Leeds in 2002, but that isn’t the move they care about.
Smith was a local lad who vowed to stay at Elland Road despite the relegation, but just a matter of weeks later he was being unveiled at their bitter rivals.
There will be plenty of Leeds fans out there who are still to forgive him.
He was even seen crying and kissing the Leeds badge on the day they were sent down from the Premier League in 2004 when they drew 3-3 with Charlton.
When asked by Soccer AM in 2002 if there was a team he’d never player for, he said: “Yeah, Man United.”
Yet despite the controversy, his move contributed to his boyhood club avoiding liquidation.
He was the hero Leeds deserved, but not the one it needed, like Batman.
In the years following, he told the Official Utd podcast: “For me, it wasn’t even a rivalry anymore.
“If you aren’t in the same league, I don’t see how it can be.”
How wrong he was.
The Premier League is back and Manchester United vs Leeds United kicks off GameDay on talkSPORT at 12.30pm on Saturday 14 August