Summertime…and the living is easy…fish are jumping and the cotton is high… (George Gershwin 1934)
After a Summer of easy living and virtually non-stop football, the new season is nearly upon us once again. So a big fat hurrah for that.
It seems like only yesterday since Manchester United’s glorious victory over Crystal Palace and the whole two minutes it was celebrated for before word leaked out over Louis van Gaal’s forthcoming dismissal. I’d love to know just what kind of knobheads we have in our support who thought it was a good idea to boo van Gaal every time his kite came up on the big screen at Wembley. Those wankers got their wishes almost seconds after the final whistle when the wholly accurate rumour that van Gaal was to be sacked Continue reading …And The Living Is Easy… – Manchester 4th August 2016
With City and Arsenal now assured of top four, Manchester United and Liverpool are now locked in a battle over who is the worst of the best. A sort of consolation prize that modern football and it’s obsession of finishing top four now sees as more important (financially at least) than winning the FA Cup. A contest that should’ve been all over now, is still in play, due to United’s infuriating habit of doing the hard bit, then ballsing up the relatively easy bit. At St James’s Park two years ago, there were pictures of the Arsenal side celebrating coming fourth with more vigour than how Liverpool celebrated their last title win in 1990 (if they knew what was to come, I’m sure they wouldn’t have been so blasé). With United beating Crystal Palace today and assuming that Liverpool somehow beat Chelsea tomorrow, United still need three points to be guaranteed top four. Should United get back into the Champions League next season, it will be good to see the reds back where I believe they belong. That said, having watched the Barcelona V Bayern Munich match the other night, United are a year or two off having a serious stab at winning the thing. Should the qualification happen (and it really should now), I don’t want to see any of triumphant photographs, à la Arsenal. It’s the minimum requirement.
We live in strange times. Last weekend, the coldest one this year thus far, there was no sign of any of those blue and white scarves that were so ubiquitous last season. Perhaps those scarves like the team they showed an allegiance to is, to use the vernacular of the fashion fraternity, “so last year”. Fashion is a fickle thing and that trait is something that dovetails beautifully with our mustachioed blue cousins. The noisy neighbours have suddenly gone very quiet. You may not have seen any City fans for a few weeks, maybe even a few months. You may feel that they’re now truly doing a Poznan and singing We’re Not Really Here but fellow reds, it’s our duty as decent people and neighbours to knock on their doors or call their phones. Ask them if they want a paper, maybe some shopping or suchforth. Whatever you do, call them, remind them of the fifteen point gap constantly and laugh your fuckin’ head off. After the gloatathon (sic) of last summer, it’s the very least we can do. With City’s defeat/moral victory at Goodison Park, a very good day was compunded by the Leeds scum and Liverpool losing. It’s always a joy to hear both of them have lost no matter how far they’ve slipped down the footballing pyramid. Liverpool had recently enjoyed a couple of decent results. This meant that they’d had their 79th resurgence since they last won the title 23 years ago. I’ll repeat that, 23 YEARS. Rodgers must stay!
For the third season in succesion, United have been knocked out of the FA cup by loathed rivals. The previous two defeats against Leeds in January 2010 and City in April 2011 were deserved. This loss at the home of the once mighty, once proud, Liverpool FC was not. United controlled this game almost throughout, yet blew it with poor communication at the end to gift the industrious but mediocre Dirk Kuyt the winner. I understand that Liverpool fans enjoy watching their team beat United as much as I and my fellow reds enjoy seeing United beat, preferably destroy, them but the Liverpool players’ reaction to the final whistle spoke volumes. With all their high fives, hugging and clenched fist gestures to the Anfield Road and Kemlyn Road stands, you would have though they had just won the cup rather than just knocked out their main rivals in the 4th, repeat 4th round. Could you imagine the great Liverpool sides of Souness, Dalglish, Hansen, McDermott et al celebrating a win in the 4th round of the FA Cup in the same manner? Liverpool of that era prided themselves on their business as usual attitude to any victory apart from a cup final or title clincher. I suggest the gleeful Scousers that were watching today’s match at Anfield dig out their Liverpool FC 1970s/1980s DVDs and get all dewy eyed over them as they will never see a team like that again.
United banner for Anfield yesterday (Photo courtesy of Gareth Edwards)
United made a terrible start to the 1986-1987 season, apparently still in a state of depressed inertia after blowing a ten point lead the previous season. The reds didn’t win ’til the 13th of September, beating Southampton 5-1 but United were only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. The discontent on the terraces towards Ron Atkinson was now coming to the fore. Ron Atkinson never had the hearts and minds at Old Trafford with the fans the way Sir Matt Busby or Tommy Docherty possesed, despite being very popular with the media. The United team were suddenly looking old and tired, players who should have never have pulled on the red shirt, like Graeme Hogg, Colin Gibson & Johnny Sivebaek were getting regular games. The main problem with the midfield of Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside and Paul McGrath was trying to keep them out of the pub. Up front, we had a forward line of an ageing Frank Stapleton, the incredible Terry Gibson, a man who was signed from Coventry in exchange for Alan Brazil, he had the physical build of Diego Maradona and the footballing skill of Madonna and the hard working but not good enough signing from Nottingham Forest, Peter Davenport.
United drawing at Filbert Street in September 1986
United were drawn against Southampton for the 3rd round of the League Cup and six weeks after beating them 5-1 at Old Trafford, drew 0-0 meaning a replay at the Dell. Just over a week later, Southampton beat United 4-1 to knock United out of the league cup in what was Atkinsons’ last match as United manager.
Ron Atkinson’s last match as manager at The Dell
We’ve since learned that Bobby Charlton sounded Alex Ferguson out about the United managers job at 1986 World Cup in Mexico whilst he was there as Scotlands’ caretaker manager.
Alex Ferguson who’d nearly become Tottenham Hotspur manager when Keith Burkenshaw resigned in 1985, had been a phonemenal success in Scotland as Aberdeen manager and he had a clause in his Aberdeen contract that if Manchester United expressed an interest in him, he could talk to them. The talks which ended up in Ferguson becoming United manager were conducted in such a clandestine way as to bless a novel by Ian Fleming. On the 5th of November 1986, Ron Atkinson was dismissed as Uniteds’ manager, he walked away with a dignity which Tommy Docherty would’ve done well to witness and emulate. The following day, Alex Ferguson was announced as Uniteds’ new manager. He had two days to prepare for his first match against Oxford United at the Manor Ground. United lost 2-0 to Oxford, Ferguson claimed later that the enormity of what he’d taken on became apparent that day.
United lose 2-0 at the Manor Ground on the 8th November 1986. Alex Ferguson’s first match in charge
Following a goalless draw at Carrow Road, United won for the first time under Alex Ferguson when Johnny Sivabeck scored against Queens Park Rangers in a 1-0 win two weeks after he took over the reigns. Following a 1-0 defeat to newly promoted Wimbledon and two consecutive 3-3 draws against Spurs and Aston Villa, United went to Anfield to play the previous seasons double winners, Liverpool. If there was one game United didn’t need at this moment it was to be playing away to a Liverpool team whom in my opinion, at that time, would’ve given any team in the world a good game. As per usual in this fixture during the 1980s, Norman Whiteside upset the scousers and the form book whilst delighting the bookmakers to give United an unexpected win and as an added bonus, incur the wrath of the legendary John Peel on Radio 1. United only won one away league game all season, it would be typical that of all the places to get that win, it would be Anfield where it happened. Everything that symbolised United during that era occurred the following day when United lost at home to a Norwich City who in those days, were no mugs, but they shouldn’t have been beating United at Old Trafford.
Norman Whiteside scores the winner at Anfield on Boxing Day 1986
In early February and in a game where Terry Gibson scored his only goal for the reds, United won 2-0 against a title challenging Arsenal side who’d been taken over by George Graham the previous summer. This was the first sign of the steel Ferguson had instilled in the United side. Norman Whiteside wound up Arsenal midfielder Paul Davis and full back Viv Anderson to a frenzy and alongside Bryan Robson, ran the midfield imperiously. It wouldn’t be the last time during Fergusons reign that a match involving United and Arsenal became heated. Ferguson steadied the United side for the rest of the season to achieve mid table safety by March. On Easter Monday, with a last minute goal from Peter Davenport, United completed their first league double over Liverpool since 1969/1970.
United beat Liverpool 1-0 on Easter Monday 1987 with a late goal from Peter Davenport. Look out for Alan Hansen in the run to the goal. “Dreadful defending Des”
United finished the season in 11th place and with a 3-1 win over Aston Villa. In the FA cup, United beat Man City in the third round with a goal by Whiteside before losing to eventual winners, Coventry City in the fourth round. After the start to the season United made, the fans were generally happy with the placing but were hoping on a quick improvement. What United fans didn’t then realise was that the charismatic and likeable Atkinson had left the club in a shambles. In them days, City had a pretty decent youth side and were getting the best kids off the streets of Manchester, Uniteds’ youth side, despite reaching the youth cup final in 1986, losing over two legs to City, was a mess. This along with sorting out the active social lives and bonding sessions that Uniteds best players indulged in was Fergusons overriding priority which came to a head during the hilarious and now infamous interview with Norman Whiteside and Paul McGrath, on Granadas Kick off programme where both of them had clearly had a good day, just prior to an away match at Loftus road. This new policy was implemented much to the chagrin of pub landlords in Hulme, Salford, Altrincham…
United are knocked out of the FA Cup by eventual winners, Coventry City on the January 31st 1987. Look at the state of the pitch…