Leeds United and Manchester United have shared a rivalry, nicknamed the Roses rivalry, which originates from the strong enmity between the historic counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Although the cities of Leeds and Manchester lie over 40 miles apart, the tradition is upheld, and this strong feeling can still be seen whenever the two clubs play each other.
Leeds United versus Manchester United fixtures have always been fiery and the rivalry is set to be freshly renewed in the upcoming season as the Whites finally end their 16-year wait to return to the Premier League.
And it’s safe to say that the two Manchester United versus Leeds United games at Old Trafford and Elland Road will be two of the most anticipated Premier League fixtures next season.
On that note, let’s check out three top players who have played for both the aforementioned clubs.
#3 Alan Smith
Alan Smith came through the youth ranks at Leeds United and his aggressive style and never-say-die attitude made him a crowd favourite at Elland Road.
A hometown hero for the Leeds United fans, Smith won the Supporters’ Player of the Year award two years running between 2003 and 2004, a first in the club’s history.
During his six-year stint at Leeds United, the feisty midfielder scored 38 goals in 171 Premier League appearances before becoming a victim of the club’s financial crisis.
Leeds United’s relegation from the English top-flight in May 2004 saw Alan Smith kissing the badge on his shirt and crying at what would be his last match for the club. He seemed distraught as he waved to the fans after the final whistle at Elland Road.
His transfer to bitter rivals Manchester United, following the Whites’ relegation, made him a villain in the eyes of some Leeds United fans, despite the Yorkshire giants publicly stating that they could not afford to pay the ex-England international’s wages.
But the Leeds faithful had a reason to be angry as Smith did say earlier that he would never play for Manchester United.
Alan Smith, who joined Manchester United for £7 million in the 2004 summer transfer window, started well at Old Trafford, scoring 10 goals in all competitions in his debut season.
However, consistent injury problems never helped his case as he could manage just 93 appearances in total in his three seasons at Manchester United.
Alan Smith, who suffered a terrible ankle injury against Liverpool in an FA Cup match in 2006, never really recovered sufficiently and was sold to Newcastle United in the summer of 2007 for £6 million.
But he never really got going on Tyneside, with Smith last turning out for Notts County in 2018.
#2 Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand joined Leeds United from West Ham for £18 million in 2000, a then-British transfer record; he also became the world’s most expensive defender.
The former centre-back turned out 71 times in all competitions during his two-year stint at Elland Road as Leeds United fought for the Premier League title and became the story of the Champions League in 2000-01 by reaching the semi-finals of the continental competition.
Rio Ferdinand had also established himself at international level and forged a formidable partnership with Sol Campbell at the heart of England’s defence.
After a fairly successful World Cup campaign in 2002, Ferdinand was a wanted man.
When the time came for a fire sale at Elland Road, the ex-England international crossed the fiery bridge between Leeds United and Manchester. The Red Devils paid around £30 million to sign Ferdinand, thereby making him the most expensive British player at the time.
Rio Ferdinand became one of the finest defenders in world football during his successful 12-year stay at Manchester United, with the 41-year-old helping the club to six Premier League titles and a Champions League triumph among other honours.
He joined Queens Park Rangers at the start of the 2014-15 season before announcing his retirement the following season.
#1 Eric Cantona
Eric Cantona remains one of the most iconic players to have ever graced the Premier League. There have been better and more consistent players in the division over the past 25 years, but the former Manchester United forward was a unique talent and personality.
Cantona joined Leeds United from French side Nimes in January 1992. At Leeds, he won the final Football League First Division title before it was rechristened as the Premier League.
He made 15 appearances, and despite scoring only three goals, he was instrumental in the Whites’ title success, as he often provided vital assists for their leading goalscorer, Lee Chapman.
The Frenchman was in decent form in the early part of the 1992-93 season but soon fell out with Leeds’ hierarchy. Manchester United enquired about him and the news of his impending transfer to Old Trafford was met with hostility from the Whites fans.
The transfer, however, was seen as a good piece of business by most football pundits as they thought Leeds United were getting rid of a turbulent player. Cantona left Leeds for Manchester United for £1.2 million on 26 November 1992.
He was the catalyst behind Manchester United’s dominance in the Premier League and became a cult figure at Old Trafford. He is widely regarded as one of the best players ever to don the famous Manchester United shirt.
Eric Cantona scored 64 goals in 144 appearances for Manchester United but his influence went way beyond that. One of the bargains of the century, he brought the winning mentality into the United side and made them one of the best teams in the country.
Signed from Torquay United in 1988, Lee Sharpe quickly became an Old Trafford favourite. With 21 goals in 193 games, the tricky winger eventually lost his place in the team once Ryan Giggs arrived on the scene.
Moving to Leeds United in 1996 for £4.5 million, Sharpe became injury-prone and only managed 30 appearances over the following three years before his career fizzled out.
Lee Sharpe, who retired in 2003, is undoubtedly one of the best players to play for both Leeds United and Manchester United.
Gordon Strachan joined Manchester United from Aberdeen, who were then managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, in 1984 and helped the Red Devils to win the FA Cup in his first season at Old Trafford.
The Scot, time and again, showed glimpses of his brilliance at Manchester United, with Ferguson taking charge of the Red Devils in November 1986.
Howard Wilkinson then brought Gordon Strachan to Elland Road in 1989, and the £200,000 transfer fee was soon justified as the hard-working Scot helped Leeds United secure promotion in his first full season with the club.
Strachan remained a big influence the following year too as Leeds United finished fourth and the Scottish midfielder was voted The Football Writers’ Player of the Season in 1991.
He also captained Leeds United to the league title in 1991-92 before leaving for Coventry City in 1995. He retired two years later.