Leeds United face Manchester United in a pre-season friendly at the Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia today, but there will likely be little friendly about the occasion.
Despite not facing one and another for the best part of eight years, the rivalry between the Whites and Red Devils remains fierce, with Pablo Hernandez describing the encounter as a ‘special game’, while Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels the tie must be played in the top-flight again due to how big the rivalry is.
When Leeds last met Manchester United, it was in an FA Cup clash in 2011, that saw Michael Owen bag a brace at Elland Road in front of a 31,031 crowd. The tie before, though, saw the Whites come out on top, as Jermaine Beckford stunned a 74,526 Old Trafford crowd to eliminate the Red Devils from the world’s oldest club knockout competition.
But those representing the Whites on Wednesday will likely have to be at the near-best to repeat the scenes of 2010, as Solskjaer is expected to field a strong Manchester United squad featuring David De Gea, Eric Bailly, and potentially Romelu Lukaku.
“All of them were training yesterday,” Leeds Live quote Solskjaer telling a press conference at the WACA Ground in Perth on Tuesday.
“No one missed training, so 24 [outfield] players plus the ‘keepers. Granty [Lee Grant] is still not fit, and maybe we won’t risk Luke [Shaw]. We’re not sure, but Rom, Victor [Lindelof] and Eric, who missed the first game [through slight injuries], they are fit. [As for De Gea], he’ll play tomorrow.”
“If we see Leeds back up in the Premier League one day, I’m sure you will see the size of the game,” he added.
“It’s a great occasion for both sets of supporters and the players as well, because there were some fantastic games [in the past].”
Hernandez was not aware of how big the rivalry between the two clubs was when he joined Leeds in 2016 on an initial loan deal, and only realised when he wore red trainers to Elland Road.
“I haven’t lived these games, but I know the people tell me some things,” he said, as quoted by Leeds Live. “And I know this because I remember one day I go to Elland Road with red trainers and somebody told me, ‘No, no, no. Not red here’, So I understand this rivalry.
“Yeah, obviously it’s a special game for us. For both clubs, for the fans, and I think it’s a good moment, good experience being in Perth and we hope we can enjoy this game. The players, and most importantly the fans.”