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No festive cheer for Fergie in Premier League's previous Christmas Eve clash

When Wolves take on Chelsea on Sunday it will be only the second time a Premier League fixture has been played on Christmas Eve.

Gary O'Neil's Wolves are 11/4 to spark festive celebrations among their supporters with a victory over 10/11 visitors Chelsea at Molineux.

The home fans certainly went home happy in English football's last top-flight game on Christmas Eve as Leeds beat their bitter rivals Manchester United 3-1 at Elland Road in a midday kick-off on 24th December 1995.

Newcastle's surge left Red Devils playing catch-up at Christmas

The 1995/96 Premiership campaign is remembered for the engrossing title battle between Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United and Kevin Keegan's Newcastle.

The Red Devils' period of dominance was just getting started as they had won the league in 1992/93 and 1993/94 before being pipped by Blackburn in 1994/95.

By the time of their Christmas Eve trip to Elland Road, Sir Alex and his players knew they had another serious title challenge on their hands as Newcastle had a 10-point advantage at the top.

As it does this year, Christmas Day fell on a Monday in 1995 so there was a busy programme of Premiership matches on Saturday 23rd December.

It was an entertaining day of action, with Liverpool beating Arsenal 3-1 at Anfield, Middlesbrough winning 4-2 against West Ham, and Bolton coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Tottenham.

A brace from Rob Lee and a David Ginola strike gave leaders Newcastle a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest at St James' Park so, as the rest of the country settled into holiday mode, Manchester United prepared for a crucial fixture at Leeds. 

Understudy Beeney braced for big test in Leeds goal

Howard Wilkinson had steered Leeds to the First Division title in 1991/92 and several members of that triumphant squad were still at the club in December 1995.

England left-back Tony Dorigo, centre-back David Wetherall and Republic of Ireland right-back Gary Kelly started against Manchester United on Christmas Eve, with the classy Gary McAllister and Gary Speed in midfield.

There was a less familiar name in goal as Mark Beeney, a long-serving understudy to John Lukic and Nigel Martyn at Leeds, made a rare start, and the home attacking unit featured Tony Yeboah, Tomas Brolin and Brian Deane.

Manchester United had Peter Schmeichel in goal and Gary Neville, then aged just 20, played in defence alongside veterans Steve Bruce, Paul Parker and Denis Irwin.

Two more youngsters, David Beckham and Nicky Butt, started in midfield alongside Roy Keane and Brian McClair while Andy Cole and former Leeds hero Eric Cantona led the line. 

Christmas Eve crowd cheered by Yeboah cracker

A Robbie Fowler brace had condemned Manchester United to a 2-0 defeat at Liverpool in their previous league game while Leeds were bidding to bounce back from a 6-2 drubbing at Sheffield Wednesday.

The hosts were given an early Christmas present when referee Dermot Gallagher spotted a handball by Butt, allowing captain McAllister to convert a seventh-minute penalty.

A chip from Deane clipped the crossbar but the visitors equalised before the half-hour mark when Butt dispossessed Speed to set up a close-range finish from Cole.

Leeds striker Yeboah had scored a spectacular hat-trick in September's 4-2 win at Wimbledon and he restored the home side's lead before half-time with another stylish strike, pouncing on a Parker error to finish smartly past Schmeichel.

The pre-Christmas points were wrapped up for Leeds with 18 minutes remaining when Deane headed home a deft cross from Brolin, sealing an unhappy return to Elland Road for Cantona.

Fergie's champions bounce back to claim double delight

Manchester United's Christmas Eve defeat proved to be a turning-point in their season as, three days later, they claimed a vital 2-0 home win over title rivals Newcastle.

A 4-1 loss at Tottenham on New Year's Day halted their charge but from mid-January onwards the Red Devils were relentless, winning 19 of their 21 matches in all competitions.

They overhauled Keegan's Magpies in the Premiership title race, helped by March's 1-0 win at St James' Park where Cantona scored the only goal of the game.

Leeds lost 1-0 in April's reverse fixture at Old Trafford, where keeper Beeney was sent off in the first 20 minutes, and Manchester United completed the double at Wembley in May when Cantona's strike gave them a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup final.

The 1995/96 campaign was less memorable for Leeds as they finished 13th, only five points clear of relegated Manchester City.

Wilkinson's men lost nine of their last 11 matches in all competitions, including a 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa in the League Cup final, but at least Leeds fans have fond memories of stuffing their rivals on Christmas Eve.


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