By Mike Courtney
When I heard the headline "Leeds get Scott Wootton" I initially though the reporter had a speech impediment and that we had "Got caught rotten" and was left wondering what now? But having recovered from my shock I realised we had signed a young centre back from our beloved rivals just across the Pennines (Just in case Terry is reading; Us Leeds fans know what we really think of them). It got me thinking about other players that have made that transition from red to white or visa versa. Most with some degree of success it must be said so here's hoping Mr Wootton's tenure at Leeds will follow the same path.
The first one I can think of in my lifetime anyway was the legend that is Johnny Giles. Giles was at Old Trafford for 6 years, winning an FA Cup medal in his final season prior to signing for Don Revie's emerging team in 1963 for £33,000. Giles went on to become an integral part of the Revie era forming a deadly partnership in midfield with King Billy throughout the glory years, winning two League titles, an FA Cup, League Cup and 2 Fairs Cups. He made 521 appearances for Leeds in that time scoring 114 goals,the same amount as Bremner. His passing ability, tackling and penalty taking are what made him stand out as a Leeds Legend in a team of Superstars.Leeds definitely got the better of this deal.
Two Scots going in the other direction were Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen. Both leaving Leeds for Old Trafford in 1978, much to the dismay of the Leeds faithful. McQueen famously went on to score in the 79 cup final, only for Alan Sunderland to claim victory with Arsenal's last attack. Jordan was a tough as nails centre forward, not prolific by any means netting just 35 times in 170 appearances for Leeds and 37 in 107 for Man United, but he always gave 100% and was a big loss in a time when Leeds were on the decline. McQueen spent 6 yrs at Leeds playing 140 times and stayed at Old Trafford for 8 seasons making 184 appearances for the Red Devils. Both were Scottish Internationals during a time when the Scots made it to the 1974 and 1978 World Cups and both will look back at successful spells at both clubs.
The late Brian Greenhoff, who passed away in May, famously played with his brother Jimmy at Old Trafford. He also made the trip across the Pennines to Leeds joining in 1979 after a successful period at our rivals, winning an FA Cup in 1977 while also suffering relegation in '74. Brian played 72 times for Leeds finishing in our relegation season in '82. Jimmy on the other hand started out with Leeds at the beginning of the Revie era and won League Cup and Fairs Cup medals in 68. He went on a circuitous route to Old Trafford via Birmingham and Stoke before joining Man U in 76 where he scored the winning goal in the '77 cup final. Another Scot Arthur Graham was at Leeds from 77-83. I remember him for his jinking runs and crosses and he also had an eye for goal, he was similar in style to Eddie Gray. I recall a hat trick he scored against Birmingham in '78 as one of the highlights of his Leeds career. The low point was relegation in '82 and he moved to Man U in '83 staying for just 2 seasons and making just 37 appearences, he was also capped by Scotland. A player I personally liked because of his flair but he never reached his full potential. He is back at Leeds coaching at the Academy and at schools in Wetherby, last I heard.
In 1989 under Sgt Wilko one of the most controversial signings at the time was the acquisition of the little flame haired Scot, Gordon Strachan, who had fallen out with Alex Ferguson. I know at the time I thought he was just coming here for a last big pay day in a faltering career but how wrong was I and probably many other Leeds fans. Strachan's time at Leeds coincided with the re-emergence of the sleeping giant, helping us gain promotion in his first season, winning footballer of the year in '91 and helping Leeds clinch the League Title in '92 ahead of Fergie's boys. He was part of the best midfield at Elland Road since the Revie era alongside Batty, McAllister and the late Gary Speed and will forever in my mind be a Leeds Legend.
Possibly the most successful player to be sold to Man U is the infamous Frenchman Eric Cantona. Cantona joined Leeds during our title winning season in '92. His reputation as a difficult player to manage preceded him but the Leeds faithful took to him immediately and his on field displays marked him out as special. At the start of the 92-93 season he scored a hat trick at Wembley in the Charity Shield victory over Liverpool and an early season hat trick against Spurs appeared to herald a glorious season ahead. But something went wrong somewhere and he was unbelievably sold to Man United in November for little over £1 million and the rest is history, helping United to their first title in 25yrs in '93, retaining it in '94 and winning again in '96 and '97, with the FA Cup in '96 thrown in. There were also a number of controversial moments including his attack on a fan at Selhurst Park, but the good outweigh the bad and they still sing his name at Old Trafford. A gigantic mistake by Wilko.
Most of the above have been relatively successful transactions but Young Lee Sharp's arrival at Elland Road for £4.5million in '96 can not be looked at in the same light. Famous for his Three Amigos celebration, Sharp was a rising star at Man United before it all went wrong and George Graham's purchase of him had a lot of Leeds fans scratching their heads. Sharp spent 3 yrs at Elland Road but only made 30 appearences in that time due to injuries. Not great value for money for Leeds.
Rio Ferdinand's sale to Man United heralded the beginning of the end for the O'Leary/Risdale era. Leeds signed Ferdinand for a British Record of £18million in 2000 as O'Learys Babies looked to take the next step in the revolution. The gamble almost paid off as Leeds reached a Uefa Cup Final and Champions League Semi Final in successive seasons. But behind the scenes things were unravelling and Ferdinand's sale to our bitter rivals after the 2002 World Cup for £29 million saw O'Leary sacked and El Tel take over. What happened to Leeds after that is well documented and Ferdinand has gone on to win numerous League Titles, Champions League and many other honours. His time at Old Trafford hasn't been all plain sailing, with a lengthy ban for evading a drug test and injuries but he will see his time at Man United as a successful one.
Probably the most hurtful transition across the mountains was that of local lad Alan Smith. Smithy came through the ranks at Elland Road and was a firm favourite with the fans having scored with his first touch as a Leeds player against Liverpool. His aggressive style and never say die attitude marked him out as a future star and he was an integral part of O'Leary's fledgling squad. Even in our relegation season he was the one player that almost dragged us to safety single handed with many Man of the Match performances. The sight of him shedding tears on that final day at Elland Road and kissing his badge endeared him to the Leeds faithful and no one begrudged him a move to a Premier League Club. What we didn't expect was that he would move to our most bitter rivals in Manchester. This was a real kick in the teeth for the fans who were already suffering following relegation. Smith did have an initial successful spell at Old Trafford securing a Premier League medal in 04. But Fergie tried to convert him into a holding midfielder which was never on and following a horrific leg break he never fully regained the edge he had and was sold on to Newcastle. Leeds fans have still not completely forgiven him for what they saw as a betrayal.
Part of the Smith deal was the signing of Danny Pugh. He never really flourished at Leeds and eventually ended up at Stoke playing in the Premier League. He eventually came back to Elland Road for a second spell in 2011 on loan before signing a permanent contract.
So despite the bitter rivalry between the supporters there has been a lot of transfer activity between the two sides over the years with Scott Wootton being the latest to make the 40 mile trip across the Pennines. Most of the transfers have proved successful, with the exception of one or two, so hopefully young Scott will realise his potential at Elland Road and help Leeds back to the Premier League in the next year or two.