Showing posts with label Treble. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Treble. Show all posts

FA Cup final finally gets a Manchester derby

There has been a London derby and a Liverpool derby but never a Manchester derby in the final of the most prestigious cup competition in the world, the FA Cup. That changes on Saturday, 3rd June when United face City at Wembley. City have beaten tough opponents like Chelsea and Arsenal to reach the finals whereas United have played all matches at home and beat Brighton and Hove Albion on penalties in semi-finals. United won the League Cup in February and finished 3rd in the League whereas City won the Premier League for 3rd straight year, their 5th in last 6 years and are due to play Inter Milan in UEFA Champions' League finals. United will play with extra motivation to stop City matching their unique feat of winning the Treble in 1999. United had played City in FA Cup semi-finals twice in 1926 and 2011, losing on both occasions. First ever Manchester derby was played in 1st round qualifier of FA Cup on 3rd October, 1891 when Newton Heath beat Ardwick 5-1 at home on North Road. On 7th February 1931 Sir Matt Busby represented City in his only derby appearance to beat United 3-1!

Manchester United has never won the domestic cup double. Lost in the League Cup finals while winning the FA Cup in 1983 and 1994. Only 4 clubs have won the domestic cup double 5 times Arsenal, Liverpool(2), Chelsea, Man City. United chase a record of their own. If United lose it will be their 9th loss in 21 finals, the most by any club in competition's history. While United remain the only club to have stopped Liverpool and Everton winning their treble in 1977 and 1985. Can United do it again? They are clearly the underdogs and missing their key defender Lisandro Martinez through injury. Erik ten Hag has beaten City 2-1 at Old Trafford by having Fred man-mark Kevin de Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes produced a moment of magic to beat the offside trap. 

Manchester United will also miss Anthony Martial who suffered a late injury and casts a huge about his future. Anthony dos Santos is a doubt after picking up an injury in 4-1 win against Chelsea. Pep Guardiola had this to say about the progress United have made under Erik ten Hag "Manchester United are a different team to what we faced at the start of the season. They have improved and so has their quality." United starting XI is likely to be: de Gea(GK), Wan Bissaka, Varane, Lindelof, Shaw, Casemiro, Fred, Fernandes, Eriksen, Sancho, Rashford. City will continue with keeper Ortega who has played in all five FA Cup matches and not conceded a single goal! Guardiola had rested de Bruyne and Grealish in the last match of the season against Brentford which they lost 0-1.

Erling Haaland has already scored a hat-trick against United in his first derby match when City won 6-3. While Marcus Rashford scored 30 goals in all competitions - a first for a United player since Robin van Persie in 2013 but for Erling Haaland to score 52 goals this season is just staggering accomplishment by any standards and worth appreciating. This also highlights the major area that United need to improve in this summer - get a proper No 9. Bruno Fernandes has produced more chances than Kevin de Bruyne this season but with very low conversion rate due to absence of an elite striker. United covet the likes of Victor Osimhen, Harry Kane, Rasmus Hojlund, Goncalo Ramos, Randal-Kolo Muani, Benjamin Sesko. Anthony Martial oft injured scored 9 goals and Wout Weghorst 2 in all competions paints a clear picture of deficiency in forward unit. United need two strikers not just one as Wout Weghorst has struggled to score despite putting in great effort to press. Club also need to clear the legal situation around Mason Greenwood.

1999 Man Utd vs 2023 Man City
It is very difficult to compare teams from two different era's. Latest one's will seem more evolved due to progress in overall development of the game of football globally. Nonetheless the figures of Peter Schmeichel, Dennis Irwin, Jaap Stam, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs will tower above anyone else from the Premier League. Tactical changes of Pep Guardiola will make John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Erling Haaland stand out. While Guardiola has managed great clubs across Europe and won silverware with big budgets and help from sporting directors, Sir Alex Ferguson awakened a giant in United to break monopoly not just in England but also in Scotland with Aberdeen and at the same rekindled the youth setup of Sir Matt Busby to win trophies with kids. Thus Ferguson is clearly way ahead of Spaniard in managerial stakes. By the way both United and City are yet to firm up as clubs to organise an annual Magnall Cup as initially mooted in January, 2020 and Magnall remains the only person to manage both sides of Manchester yet guiding them to success with trophies!

All in all it promises to be a great encounter irrespective of the result. History will definitely be made on the hallow turf of Wembley by sides from Manchester taking the centre-stage in 142nd edition of FA Cup. Manchester United are the only English club to have won the ultimate European Treble while Manchester City are the only English club to have won the domestic treble. After winning their first double in '94 United released a song "Come on you, Reds" with Status Quo and it went on to reach #1 in the official charts. Enjoy! If United can avoid being hit for a six and score momentous goal likes of Wayne Rooney overhead kick, Bruno Fernandes beating offside trap, Micheal Owen winning in injury time, Paul Scholes fantastic header, Roy Keane's diving header, Chris Smalling completing a 2-3 comeback win... in for a treat.

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.

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