Manchester City v Leeds: Roles reversed in FA Cup rematch

By Jonathan JurejkoBBC Sport
Manchester City v Leeds United
Manchester City v Leeds United

They say a day is a long time in football. So imagine what can happen in 13 years.

Supporters of Manchester City and Leeds United know exactly how quickly a club's fortunes can change in that time as their sides prepare to meet in the FA Cup.

Sunday's clash at the Etihad Stadium is the first meeting between the two clubs in the competition since January 2000.

Harry Kewell
Leeds forward Harry Kewell heads towards the Manchester City goal at a packed Maine Road

Then, Leeds were the swashbuckling new kids on the Premier League block, spending vast amounts of money in their pursuit of usurping Manchester United as English football's dominant force. City were a second-tier club looking for a return to the Premier League after finally escaping the third-tier just eight months earlier.

"It was a big game for us against one of the forces of English football," says then City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver.

Now, their contrasting fortunes are equally as clear. In a complete role reversal, it is City who are flashing the cash as they continue to chase domestic and European honours after clinching their first English title since 1968.

Backed by the financial muscle of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan's millions, the Blues are 'living the dream' which quickly turned into a nightmare for Leeds.

The West Yorkshire club, who were reigning English champions when the Premier League formed in 1992, are absent from the top-flight for the ninth successive season - their joint-longest spell outside of the elite since the club's formation in 1919.

But, back on 9 January 2000, no-one would have dared to predict this dramatic turnaround.

David O'Leary's vibrant young Leeds side, later to finish third in the Premier League and qualify for the following season's Champions League, ruthlessly brushed aside their hosts with a clinical 5-2 fourth-round win at Maine Road, City's dilapidated former home.

City led twice through Shaun Goater and Ian Bishop in a frenetic opening 20 minutes as the fervent home supporters relished their moment back in the limelight.

However, they were soon silenced as Leeds stylishly hit back through Eirik Bakke, Alan Smith, Harry Kewell (2) and Lee Bowyer to reinforce their burgeoning reputation as the country's brightest young team.

Weaver, a man guaranteed a place in City folklore after his penalty shoot-out heroics in the 1999 Second Division play-off final victory against Gillingham, says the televised tie was a chance for Joe Royle's side to show the whole country that they were back among the big-time.

"We were in the Championship, Leeds were in the Premier League, and they had a really upcoming team with the likes of Jonathan Woodgate, Lee Bowyer and Harry Kewell," said Weaver, now 33 and on the books of Sheffield Wednesday.

Nicky Weaver - Manchester City
Nicky Weaver communicates with his Manchester City defence in their 5-2 defeat against Leeds.

"We had won promotion the year before and were going quite well in the league that season too.

"We were in a no-lose situation, all the pressure was on Leeds - it was a bonus if we got anything.

"The first half was going one way and then the other. We were right in the game until half-time and then their superiority took over in the second half. If I remember correctly, the 5-2 scoreline flattered Leeds a little bit."

City did not have to wait long until they met Leeds again as Royle's men went on to earn a second successive promotion at the end of the 1999-2000 season.

"City fans always knew they would be back in the Premier League at some point," says Weaver. "But back then we were still playing at Maine Road and it was a transitional period for the club.

"We went back up to the Premier League, then back down, and then back up.

"I played my last game for City in the FA Cup against Blackburn in 2007 and at that time we were an average Premier League team under Stuart Pearce. Then once the new owners took over, first Thaksin Shinawatra and then Sheikh Mansour, people could not believe how happen their fortunes changed.

"It's amazing how, in a five or six-year period, a team can go from also rans in the Premier League to a major force. But looking at City and Leeds now it's a role reversal from when we played in 2000."

The demise of the West Yorkshire club built by Don Revie and almost destroyed by gross financial mis-management in the early-2000s has been well-documented. To "do a Leeds" has even become a euphemism for a football club on the brink of extinction following wild over-spending.

Leeds may have recovered financially after two relegations and a spell in administration - it has posted an annual profit in each of the past four years - but the scars remain deep.

An uneasy, apathetic atmosphere has engulfed Elland Road amid a backdrop of star players being sold and constant sniping between chairman Ken Bates and a section of the club's support.external-link

Danny Mills
Ex-Leeds defender Danny Mills also played 54 times for City between 2004 and 2009.

The recent takeover by new owners GFH Capital has only been met by guarded optimism, amid news that another buy-out could be on the cards.

Former Whites defender Danny Mills, an unused substitute at Maine Road in January 2000, says Leeds have the potential to follow City's lead and become a Premier League force once again.

"The good thing about Leeds is they have a huge fanbase - not just locally but globally," said Mills, now 35. "You go anywhere in the world and you will meet someone who supports Leeds United.

"That is because of the rich history of the club and the likes of Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles, Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray who won league titles and won European finals.

"But they need investment to get back into the Premier League and compete for honours.

"It might be a gamble worth taking. But they have to do it in the next five or 10 years - maximum. After that people will forget about the past."