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Club Connections – Leeds

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Of course tonight, Manchester United face old rivals Leeds United at Eland Road in a mouth-watering Carling Cup tie. With that in mind it’s worth looking at 8 individuals who have both spent time at United and Leeds in their careers in the game.

Eric Cantona

There are few footballers who become bigger than the game. Cantona was one of those. After coming to England with a reputation as a ‘bad boy’ he quickly settled at Leeds in 1991 helping the side win the last old first division championship before the Premier League begun.

Surprisingly at the start of the season, Sir Alex Ferguson managed to convince Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson to sell Eric for £1.2m and the rest they say is history. The talismanic Frenchman became a key pivotal figure for United and in 5 seasons scored 82 goals winning 9 major honours at the club before retiring at the age of 31 in 1997.

Rio Ferdinand

United’s current no.5 famously crossed the Pennines to join United from Leeds in 2002 for a blockbuster fee of around £30m to become the World’s most expensive defender. Leeds fans were furious and still today, have never forgiven Ferdinand from moving to Old Trafford.

It was hardly surprising given the fact he was their club-captain. Rio has since gone onto captain both United and England over the last 9 years and despite suffering from injuries and a controversial drugs-ban in 2004 has more than fully proved his worth as a top-class defender. He has had a fantastic career and has more than fulfilled his talent as a youngster.

David Healey

Northern Ireland’s leading scorer joined United in 1999 but only made 3 appearances for the club in two seasons before being sold to Preston North End midway through the 2000/01 season. Healey quickly settled at Preston and it wasn’t long before he was a regular for his country.

After five years at Preston he left to join Leeds after they were relegated from the Premier League. He scored 31 times during three seasons at Elland Road but following the Whites relegation to League One has seen his career decline and he failed to settle at Fulham and Sunderland during spells in the Premier League. David’s now at Rangers in the SPL.

Denis Irwin

It’s amazing to think that for a man who made 529 appearances for United actually started his career at Leeds in the early 80s. Irwin spent three seasons at Elland Road before moving across Yorkshire to join Oldham Athletic where he made his name.

Joining United in 1990, Denis spent 12 years at United. Aside from his final two years at Old Trafford, he was the club’s first choice left-back. He was a reliable defender who scored many important goals for the club. He is now a regular pundit for MUTV and is still remembered fondly at the club. Without a doubt, one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s best ever signings.

Joe Jordan

A big tough old-fashioned striker, Jordan joined United from Leeds becoming Dave Sextion’s first signing. Although he didn’t quite hit the heights of his career in Yorkshire at Old Trafford, there’s no doubt there were few forwards who gave as much to the cause as he did.

After 3 and a half seasons at Untied, Joe moved to AC Milan in 1981. In his first season in Italy, he suffered relegation before winning promotion back to Serie A the following season. After several stints in management (including two spells at Bristol City) he has been a key part of Harry Redknapp’s coaching set-up first up at Portsmouth and at Spurs where he’s a first team coach

Gordon McQueen

After breaking into the Leeds team under Don Revie following the retirement of Jack Charlton in 1973, McQueen quickly gathered a reputation as one of the best young defenders in the country and formed a brilliant central-defensive partnership with Norman Hunter.

Surprisingly in February 1978 Leeds accepted a bid of £500k for the big Scottish defender who immediately after signing on at Old Trafford declared that: ‘99% of players around the country would sign for United and the other 1% are liars’. Gordon played 229 times for United winning an FA Cup in 1983 before ending his career in Hong Kong.

Lee Sharpe

It’s a shame that a career that had so much potential ended in disappointment. Sharpe was one of the brightest talents in English football when Sir Alex Ferguson paid Torquay Untied £220k to acquire his services in 1988 despite the midfielder only making 16 appearances for the Gulls.

Despite making over 200 appearances for the club and being a key member of the side in the early 90’s, Lee struggled with injuries and left to join Leeds in 1996 at the age of 25 becoming their club record signing. He impressed in his first season but a knee injury in pre-season in 1997 effectively finished off his career which had promised so much in his early years.

Alan Smith

In his younger years Smith was compared to Alan Shearer. Whilst there was no doubt the forward was talented, he was a different type of forward to the legendary Newcastle and England forward and won many admirers for his hard-working and old-fashioned style of play.

Upon Leeds’ relegation from the Premier League in 2004, Alan joined United and had a decent first season at the club scoring nine goals with his no-nonsense approach winning over the Old Trafford fans. Sadly he was unable to recover fully from an horrific injury suffered away to Liverpool in an FA Cup tie and joined Newcastle Untied in 2007 where he’s remained since.

By Adam Dennehey  @ADennehey87