Manchester United 1 Leeds United 1

Saturday 25th February 2004
Old Trafford, Manchester

This day could well be remembered as "The day Manchester United lost the Title-race". After dropping yet more points, United now lie 7 (seven) behind rivals Arsenal, with only 12 games left to play. After last years misery for Arsenal when they let a similar gap slip to gift United the Premiership crown it seems unlikely that the players or the manager will allow that to happen again.

But this game was a game that United should have won. They completely dominated possession, had ten times as many shots as Leeds did, and were rarely troubled in their own half.

The game began with a minutes silence for a Leeds legend. Striker John Charles died aged 72, and the whole stadium (67,000 fans) was incredibly quiet in tribute to the Welshman, who also had spells at Juventus. Charles was often referred to as "One of the best players of his generation", and only last year, Juventus fans still recognised him in the streets, and still loved him. He was "The Gentle Giant" of soccer.

When the game proper began, the crowd began to cheer again, and, in typical fashion, United began to attack. There was pressure on the Leeds goalmouth for much of the game, with United's biggest problem this time not being that they couldn't defend, but that they couldn't score. With Saha out injured, and several key players rested ahead of a Champions League game on Wednesday night, United lacked their usual sparkle.

United's defending over recent weeks has been poor. Though they weren't doing too badly against Leeds, when Mikael Silvestre got injured after 24 minutes, it could be argued that United's chances of winning a trophy this season went with him. As one of the few defenders that is actually capable, Silvestre was relied upon to hold the United back four together in Rio's absence, and, with Gary Neville cleverly earning a four match suspension (Plus one for picking up is fifth yellow card of the season today) then United will have a very make-shift back four. Let's hope he's not out for long, or the back four would be: Phil Neville, Brown, O'Shea and Fortune which, however proficient, is simply not good enough to handle the likes of Arsenal, Juventus or Real Madrid.

Finally a goal came for United. After the introduction of Keane, Gary Neville drilled the ball towards the goal. Carson, the Leeds keeper, could only pat the ball into the path of Paul Scholes and he scores goals.

Just when United thought the game was won, Leeds capitalised from one of their rare attacks. Alan Smith got onto the end of a Domi cross ahead of Brown, and managed to nod the ball past Howard decisively.

Sir Alex brought Solskjaer on, but the "Super-sub" appears to have lost his ability to score vital goals in the ten minutes he gets to play. Hopefully he'll re-find his skills sooner rather than later. Van Nistelrooy had a good chance to score the winner in the last minute of the game, but shanked the ball over the bar. United will surely rue the missed chances, the soft goal they let in, and that they have already conceded their title to Arsenal.

Man Utd: Howard; Gary Neville, O'Shea, Silvestre (Brown 24), Fortune; Kleberson (Keane 58), Butt, Phil Neville (Solskjaer 71), Scholes; van Nistelrooy, Giggs. Subs Not Used: Ronaldo, Carroll. Booked: Gary Neville.

Leeds: Carson, Kelly, Caldwell, Matteo, Domi, McPhail, Seth Johnson, Bakke, Pennant, Milner (Sakho 73), Smith. Subs Not Used: Allaway, Harte, Radebe, Olembe. Booked: McPhail, Pennant.

Attendance: 67,744

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Referee: Herbert Fandel (Germany).