Showing posts with label David Beckham. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Beckham. Show all posts

21 years to the Treble and that promise to myself

League and FA Cup double having won in 1993-94 and 1995-96 the European quest remained elusive after having lost to unfancied Monaco on away goals rule and Borussia Dortmund in the previous two seasons in quarter and semi-final stage. Failure to add a continental striker once again raised doubts about Manchester United's chances and the toughest of draws made it near impossible. Gabriel Batistuta, Marcelo Salas, Patrick Kluivert were the coveted players who turned down Ferguson's plea, and instead late into August United had to pay a hefty #12 million to Aston Villa for Dwight Yorke that sounded like an emergency.

Jaap Stam reinstated the leadership in defense that was missing after departure of Steve Bruce following the 1996 FA Cup win in which he was surprisingly dropped from match day squad. Gary Pallister, David May, Ronnie Johnsen, Henning Berg all tried but did not succeed consistently. Stam later published the details of his record transfer from PSV and how he was tapped up by Sir Alex Ferguson who furiously let go of his top defender after only three seasons in which United won the league three times in a row! United's greatest ever goal keeper Peter Schmeichel had announced he would leave for Sporting Lisbon at the end of the season after eight glorious yet hectic trophy laden seasons and the break in January did wonders to regain focus as United remained unbeaten thereafter. United lost the curtain raiser Charity Shield 0-3 to Arsenal and started the league campaign with two draws while had to qualify for Champions' League by beating LKS Lodz.

Season began after the 1998 World Cup where England had lost to Argentina on penalties in round of 16 after David Beckham was sent-off in the 47th minute for reacting to Diego Simeone's challenge that resulted in him and United to a certain extent facing a backlash from England fans. Ferguson used the fallout positively to create a siege mentality to unite his team by refusing to talk to media after West Ham fans who booed every touch of Beckham in a 0-0 draw at Upton Park. United beat former manager Ron Atkinson's Nottingham Forest 1-8 where Solskjaer came from the bench to score four goals to create that super-sub aura. United winning the league on the final game of the season by beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 was the first televised match in India on ESPN with John Dykes as presenter. Eleven days before United drew with Liverpool in Ferguson's 500th game in charge to hand the initiative to Arsenal who next lost to Leeds that tilted the balance back in our favour. From 1990 I was following the English League from BBC on short wave radio frequency of 15.31 MHz with Jimmy Armfield and Mark Pougatch, and later 5 Live from 1994. Markings of that frequency on my radio are still visible.
My National Panasonic Radio with markings on frequencies of BBC.



My notes of final league table and results of MUFC matches.


Ryan Giggs scored the goal of the millennium in the FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal at Villa Park in extra time by intercepting a wayward pass from Patrick Viera and running past several defenders before shooting from left into the roof of the net beating David Seamen. Before this breadth-taking goal United had to suffer a second yellow to Roy Keane from uncompromising referee David Elleray who had sent him off four times in total and Peter Schmeichel saved a penalty in normal time from Dennis Bergkamp. United had beaten Liverpool in 4th round and Chelsea in 6th round. Newcastle United and Alan Shearer were in their second successive final and lost both.


Having emerged from the group of death at the expense of Barcelona (Rivaldo, Luis Figo, Kluivert, Guardiola, Luis Enrique, de Boer et al), United beat Inter Milan (Ronaldo, Zamorano, Pirlo, Baggio, Simeone, Zanetti et al) and Juventus (Zidane, Del Piero, Inzaghi, Davids, Conte, Deschamps et al) in quarter and semi-finals. For the Sunday Times newspaper its two veterans Hugh McIlvanney and Brian Glanville provided two opposite viewpoints for and against United which was a scintillating read justified with logic. In the second leg of semi-final at Turin, United needed a win or get a 2-2 draw to progress on away goals rule but a Inzaghi double left them reeling 0-2 inside 11 minutes then Roy Keane became a colossus to not only score a goal back, rally the team and in doing so picked up a second yellow to miss the final. Yorke and Cole scored to win the match outright 3-2, duo scored 53 goals that season. Ryan Giggs was injured & Paul Scholes rested to avoid a second yellow but was brought on in second half and got booked for a two-footed lunge to miss the final. The Sportstar from Hindu group was every fans favourite magazine in India who had syndicated Telegraph's articles that still make me read that paper everyday especially Henry Winter who now works for the Times.

Munich had giants in Effenberg, Scholl, Matthaus, Babbel, and Kahn. They missed their pivot in Elber and even though they scored early through a Mario Basler free-kick were unable to convert their dominance into goals while Schmeichel was massive that made two shots hit the post and rebound. United lineup was patchy with Butt and Beckham in midfield where he had played well in the FA Cup final four days before, Giggs playing on the right not his preferred wing and Blomqvist on the left. Sheringham despite his impressive display in FA Cup final was on the bench. At half-time Ferguson reminded the team of the opportunity that might never come their way if they lost "You will be six feet away from the European Cup but you won't be able to touch it." As the match wore on United through tireless running of Beckham and intelligence of Giggs, later Sheringham gained confidence. Time was running out I switched on my lucky radio from 70th minute and heard the goal scored first just after 90th minute and later in television - a Beckham corner with Schmeichel coming up leaving United goal empty, a shot gently placed by Sheringham past Kahn. Voice from the radio again celebrated, anxiously watched on as a another corner by Beckham headed from near to far post by Sheringham where another substitute Solskjaer's lunge hit the top of the netting to script an incredible comeback. It was also Sir Matt Busby's birthday and Peter Schmeichel in his last game lifted the trophy.



That incredible joy of winning all major honours might never be possible again I thought and promised to support my club in its tough times. Due to work pressure had stopped making notes of every match in my diary from 2006 and got back to it in 2012. Post Ferguson follow and support them evermore till they win back the league again. Even now feel grateful for the most amazing moments and memories of that season where as a team United overcame every obstacle to win it all inspired by one and only Sir Alex Ferguson.

19th February a momentous day for Manchester United through the ages

1910: First official game was played at the new home of Manchester United - Old Trafford. Gracious host lost to Liverpool 3-4 who would become their perennial rivals from 60's. Sandy Turnbull scored the first goal at the new home for United. The decision to move from Bank street was backed by club chairman John Henry Davies who hired best stadium architect Archibald Leitch to build a brand new home befitting the league winners of 1907. The stadium also hosted two FA Cup finals including the 1911 replay and 1915 khaki cup final cementing its place as one of the finest and largest stadiums in England since. United finished fifth in their first season at Old Trafford and in the next won the league championship in 1910-11 for the second time in their history. 110 year celebration on the clubs official website. Guests received an invitation to the official opening of Old Trafford

"The President (Mr J H Davies) and Directors of the Manchester United Football Club ask your acceptance of enclosed, and extend a cordial invitation to attend the opening match on Saturday next.

The ground is situated at Old Trafford near the County Cricket Ground, and can be reached by three tram routes: Deansgate, Piccadilly and St Peter's Square.


The ground when completed will hold over 100,000 people. The present Stand will accommodate 12,000 people seated."

Due to cost overruns the capacity was limited to 80,000. Since the days of Busby Babes in late 50's United have best attendance record of any club in England and the farsightedness of John Henry Davies makes the club self-sufficient and the envy of every multi-billionaire investors around the world.

1939: Birth of Paddy Crerand whose assists were critical in many of the goals in the 60's and was the last piece of jigsaw that led United back to its glory days starting with FA Cup win in '63 within months of him joining the Red Devils. "If Pat Crerand plays well, United play well." was the famous adage to describe his influence over the team.

1945: Sir Matt Busby signs the contract to become the manager of Manchester United who were without any full time manager since Scott Duncan stood down in November 1937. He was the first tracksuit manager in England aged just 34. After the Ernest Mangnall era United had to wait 41 years to win their next league title in '52. But Busby laid the foundations of a modern football club based on progressing youth through the ranks and attacking flair that would forever be its DNA. Sir Alex Ferguson famously said that all he had to do was to copy the Busby blueprint. He took over the reins in October after being demobilized at the end of second world war where he served as company sergeant-major instructor.

1958: The first match after the Munich air disaster was held at Old Trafford wherein they faced Sheffield Wednesday in the postponed tie. Manchester United did not have enough fit players to take the field so the printed program notes had blanks instead of names in the team sheet highlights the uncertainty till the kick-off. It was left to the inspirational Jimmy Murphy to continue the show with full backing from Matt Busby still in hospital and club chairman Harold Hardman. Murphy signed Ernie Taylor although 33 but the man behind Blackpool's '53 FA Cup final and Stan Crowther from Aston Villa who had originally agreed to travel to Manchester to watch this FA Cup tie to decide for himself but four hours before kick-off Murphy's words convinced him to not only sign but play on the same day! Thousands of people stood outside Old Trafford even as 59,848 filled the stadium to show their solidarity with the club in its darkest hour. The team included five reserve players and Brennan one among them scored twice in that game while managing to score only 4  more in twelve further years at United: Gregg, Foulkes (C), Greaves, Goodwin, Cope, Crowther, Webster, Taylor, Dawson, Pearson, Brennan. United had struggled against them earlier in the season losing 1-2 but on this emotionally charged occasion ran out 3-0 winners.

1964: Thumped Bolton Wanderers 5-0 at home with goals from Best(2), Herd(2) and Charlton to set off on a eight match unbeaten run that made United challenge Liverpool and settle for second position after losing the their head-to-head match 0-3 at Anfield. Sir Denis Law would score 46 goals that season his best tally to win the Ballon d'Or. Next season United would go one better to win the league for fourth time under Sir Matt Busby.

1972: Lost to Leeds United 1-5 at Elland Road the biggest defeat of the season in the middle of seven match losing streak that dragged United who were the league leaders till Christmas in the first year of Frank O'Farrell to finally finish eight. This defeat prompted United to sign Martin Buchan the Aberdeen captain for club record fee of 120,000 pounds just ten days later. Buchan became the first captain to win both Scottish and English FA Cups and clearly the clubs most distinguished player of the 70's.

1997: Won 2-1 away at Arsenal their direct rivals without the suspended Eric Cantona who would retire at the end of the season. This match gave a glimpse of life without the clubs iconic No 7 player Eric Cantona perhaps the most influential in the last 30 years. New signing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored in this crucial game and topped the scoring chart with 19 goals in all competitions. David Beckham won the young player of the year award and the succeeded the Frenchman to the No 7 jersey and while experienced Teddy Sheringham was now the go to man to provide the winning edge.

2003: Beat Juventus at home 2-1 in the group D fixture of the Champions' League to top the group with goals from Wes Brown and Ruud van Nistelrooy. This raised the expectations of United reaching the final which would be held at Old Trafford. United lost to Real Madrid 5-6 in a thriller of a quarter-final tie which set off the rumours of Beckham joining Madrid amid Ferguson kicking a shoe accidentally at him. Real lost to Juventus in semi who lost to AC Milan in the all Italian finals that was a bore to watch.

PS: Yep that's my birthday!

On England's 1000th game the best MUFC XI

The squad:
Alex Stepney (GK)
Gary Neville
Gary Pallister
Rio Ferdinand
Roger Byrne
Duncan Edwards
Bryan Robson (C)
David Beckham
Wayne Rooney
Tommy Taylor
Sir Bobby Charlton

Subs: Ray Wood, Phil Neville, Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilkins, Steve Coppell, Teddy Sheringham

England's first, youngest and longest serving team manager was Walter Winterbottom who had a brief spell as a player at MUFC in 1930's. Between 1946 and 1962 he oversaw England participation in all four World Cups wherein the quarter-final defeat to eventual champions Brazil in 1962 was his best result. In 1958 World Cup in Sweden his squad was depleted due to the Munich Air Disaster which robbed him of three first team regulars in Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor and prior to the event were beaten only once in 17 consecutive games. He did pick a young Bobby Charlton but did not play him even for a single match while Pele debuted spectacularly for Brazil being 3 years younger.  During his tenure a selection committee usually picked the squad and his influence was limited mainly as a trainer which he professionally taught and wrote about. Hungary famously beat England at home 6-3 in 1953 and 7-1 away in 1954.

Jack Mew and Alex Stepney won just one cap, Gary Bailey two and Ray Wood and Ben Foster three is the tale of MUFC goal keepers who have represented England. Alex Stepney has easily been the most successful at club level. Steve Bruce is perhaps the most famous MUFC player for never having represented England (Jimmy Greenhoff and Alan Gowling were also denied) being the first double winning captain of MUFC while his partner at centre-half Gary Pallister earned first of 22 caps while still playing for Middlesbrough in the second division. Rio Ferdinand became the youngest player to debut as a centre-half at 19 years 8 days while still playing for West Ham and ended up with 81 caps. Gary Neville holds the record for most caps by a right back at 85 and played with his brother Phil in the same team 31 times; Phil has 59 caps. Bill Foulkes sole cap came against Northern Ireland in 1954 as a right back. Roger Byrne held the record for most consecutive appearances for England with 33 at left back and being the Captain of the famous Busby Babes.

Duncan Edwards became the youngest post-war player to play for England in 1955 at 18 years 183 days against Scotland, in total played 18 times scoring 5 goals including that 'boom-boom' shot against World Champions West Germany. His England captain Billy Wright had this to say "There have been few individual performances to match what he produced in Germany. He tackled like a lion, attacked at every opportunity and topped it all off with cracking goal."

'Captain Marvel' Bryan Robson leads the team as he carried the side on numerous occasion on his own in the 80's, once scoring a goal in just 27 seconds against France in 1982 World Cup. David Beckham peaked as England captain under Sven-Goran Eriksson scoring that crucial free-kick at Old Trafford against Greece to secure the qualification and was rumoured to want away from MUFC when Sir Alex Ferguson reversed his decision to retire as the Swede Eriksson was lined up to succeed. Paul Scholes had lesser impact than either Nobby Stiles or Ray Wilkins. Steve Coppell's impressive career on the wing with 42 caps 7 goals came to an abrupt end at just 28 years when he sustained a knee-injury while playing against Hungary to qualify for 1982 World Cup.

Tommy Taylor had an incredible goal ratio for both MUFC and England, scoring 131 goals in 191 games for club and 16 goals including two hat-tricks in just 19 appearances for country. Alfredo di Stefano called him 'Magnifico' and was seen as a long term replacement for aging Nat Lofthouse. Wayne Rooney beat the all time scoring record long held by Sir Bobby Charlton at 49 goals for more than 45 years but could only score one of his 53 goals in World Cup competition against Uruguay in 2014 and four at the Euro's across three tournaments! George Wall the left winger who was a key player to during the reds first victorious phase in late 1900's decade comes close to cementing that spot but in terms of best MUFC players to represent England have Sir Bobby Charlton at left wing. Charlton's best came against Portugal in the semi-final of the 1966 World Cup and the great 'Der Kaiser' Franz Beckenbauer summed that glorious World Cup as "England beat us in 1966 because Bobby Charlton was just a bit better than me." Teddy Sheringham's best came in two spells on either side of his MUFC tenure, firstly partnering with Alan Shearer to reach the semi-finals of the Euro '96 and then being used as a tactical sub for his intelligent play especially in the 2002 World Cup in Japan; overall scored 11 goals in 51 games.

Viv Anderson was Sir Alex Ferguson's first signing in 1987 and became the first black player to represent England while playing for Nottingham Forest in 1978. Owen Hargreaves who got most of his caps while playing for Bayern Munich before his move to MUFC to help win the 2008 Champions League was in fact born in Canada. Most notable player born outside England was James Princep who was born in India and held twin records of being the youngest player to represent England in 1879 at 17 years 252 days and to play in FA Cup final at 17 years 245 days. He held both records for around 125 years!


Glazers engage with fans after 16 years

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