CITY 5 MANCHESTER UNITED 1
League Division 1
23rd September 1989
City Oldfield(11 & 52), Morley(13), Bishop(35), Hinchcliffe(62)
Ref Neil Midgley
City Cooper, Fleming, Gayle, Redmond, Hinchcliffe, White, Bishop, Brightwell, Lake, Morley, Oldfield – used sub Beckford(78)
United Leighton; Anderson, Pallister, Donaghy, Duxbury; Beardsmore, Phelan, Ince, Wallace; McClair, Hughes – used sub Sharpe(71)
FROM THE PRESS BOX
It was difficult not to feel sympathy for Michael Knighton at Maine Road on Saturday. The afternoon began pleasantly enough for the new owner of Manchester United, his celebrity status confirmed by an orderly queue of supporters seeking his autograph before kick-off.
Yet what followed must have left Knighton seriously doubting the wisdom of his decision to purchase the club. A sickening display of crowd violence, which resulted in the game being halted for eight minutes, was followed by a dreadful performance by United, who have lost four of their first seven League matches. They were outplayed to such an extent that even Alex Ferguson, the manager, did not offer excuses.
Ferguson could have taken the soft option and reminded those supporters who demanded his dismissal that two key players, Robson and Bruce, were missing through injury. Wisely he mentioned neither man as he berated United’s defenders for the casual manner in which they dealt with Oldfield and Morley, the City forwards, who formed a memorable partnership in the absence of the injured Allen.
Ferguson said: “If you give away silly goals you haven’t got a chance. It’s like trying to climb up a glass mountain.”
City were magnificent. Their almost ceaseless onslaught gained its reward in the eleventh minute, when United’s frail defence was breached twice. Pallister’s failure to cut out a Hinchcliffe cross left Oldfield in the clear to sidefoot the ball home and then Morley swept in a cross by Lake.
As a competition, the game ended in the 35th minute. Pallister was again at fault as Oldfield skipped beyond his desperate lunge to deliver a cross which Bishop met with a brave header. Bishop, a former Everton reserve-team player, fully deserved that moment of joy, for he totally overshadowed his more expensive counterparts in the United midfield.
Neil Midgley, the referee, also gave an excellent performance. His refusal to award free kicks for petty offences not only kept the game flowing at a furious pace, but averted the possibility of further crowd unrest.
Second-half goals by Oldfield and Hinchcliffe, the latter a fine header from White’s instinctive, first-time cross, were no more than City deserved. Hughes’s goal for United in the fiftieth minute was superbly athletic but little more than a token gesture.
IAN ROSS WRITING IN THE TIMES 25TH SEPTEMBER 1989
…Our preparations for the game hadn’t exactly gone to plan. Niggling injuries to Andy Dibble and Clive Allen, coupled with an illness to Neil McNab, meant that all three were going to be sidelined for the key game. It was a huge setback for us, without the spine of our team, we’d be lacking a large chunk of experience, always so vital in a derby. Mel Macin had no option but to reshuffle his pack of players. Paul Cooper was draughted in to replace Dibs in goal, Ian Brightwell and David Oldfield were slotted into midfield and attack respectively, and Gary Megson and Jason Beckford were on the substitutes’ bench.
Significantly this change in personnel meant that half the squad was now made up of home grown former youth teamers. So, with Redmond, Hinchcliffe, Brightwell, White, Beckford and myself all figuring on the teamsheet, there were six boyhood Blues chomping at the bit to play in their first ever competitive derby.
…Come 2 o-clock the atmosphere was electric. Everyone was up for it . Even mild mannered old heads such as Coops and Meggo were roaming around like men possessed psyching themselves up and pumping their fists in preparation for the battle ahead. I got a little too fired up that day, if truth be told, losing my cool when an apprentice waltzed into the dressing room sporting a bright red tie.
“Get the fucking thing off!” I shrieked at the poor lad “why are you wearing that colour today of all days? Have you got shit for brains or what?”
Totally uncalled for, I admit, but all this intense derby frenzy had clearly messed with my head.
Helping to get us ‘in the zone’ that day was Tony Book. Mel Machin was more of a tacftician than a talker and, after giving the briefest of pep-ups, he passed the baton on to Skip. Maine Road’s resident warhorse cranked it up big time, with Mel nodding in agreement beside him.
“You’ll need to win your own personal battle today lads” he said sternly, pointing at us like the bloke in that ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster. “So take care with your first touch, your first pass, your first tackle. Do the simple things well and the rest will follow”, before ending his speech with a rally cry.
“We all know that United are going to come at us fast and hard, so just keep your fuckin’ composure and trust the players around you. You all know your job, you all know what the game means. Don’t let yourselves down.”
… As I crossed the white line on that sunny autumn afternoon, the last to emerge, as my superstition dictated, I was confronted with a swathe of sky blue shirts covering The Kippax, North and Main stands. Every man, woman and child seemed to be sporting their colours. This spectacular sight, combined with the sound of 40,000 City fans belting out ‘We’re the pride of Manchester’, made me come over all giddy and light headed. The last thing I needed was to get wobbly-legged, so I asked Trevor Morley to help calm me down by firing some balls to my feet, which he did while the usual photos and handshakes were taking place in the centre circle.
… It was United who started the game the stronger, despite the fact that, like us, they were missing a trio of integral players, Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce and Neil Webb were all out injured which was fantastic news for us. Robson, in particular, was the heartbeat of United’s team and we know that his presence was going to be sorely missed.
Not that Alex Ferguson’s side were a one man show, though, judging by the cut and thrust of the opening five minutes. Mark Hughes and Brian McClair immediately stamped their authority on the game, linking well and showing great fluidity of movement. Danny Wallace went on a couple of dangerous looking sorties, and Paul Ince justified his £1M price tag with some strong runs and incisive passing.
… As we desparately tried to stave off their threat and get a foothold in the match, Skip’s orders rang out from the dugout.
“Pick up… stay with your maaaan!” he brayed in his Somerset twang. “Know where they aaaaare!”
Unexpected events in the North Stand gave us some timely respite from the pressure. A group of United fans had foolishly infiltrated the home support and, after a bit of argy-bargy, started to spill out onto the perimeter area. As a precaution, referee Neil Midgley decided to take both teams off the field of play in order to let the stewards and police deal with the incident. So, while the Reds’ fans were escorted to their rightful place in the Platt Lane Stand, both teams were told to return to the dressing room.
… Mel and Skip were quick to anayse how the match was developing, telling us to adapt our game by getting tighter, moving the ball more quickly, and not allowing United to settle.
… Galvanised after our impromptu break, we started to move forward with more confidence and successfully managed to peg United back into their own half. Our build-up play paid dividends in the 11th minute when a marauding Trevor Morley was fouled near the halfway line. The resulting free-kick, a 60 yarder expertly despatched by Andy Hinchcliffe met the feet of David White whose quality first touch allowed him to whip the ball across the box. Gary Pallister was caught in two mindsand uncharacteristically failed to clear. An unmarked David Oldfield, hovering on the brink of the six yard box, pivoted and smashed a first time strike into the roof of the net.
… If David’s spectacular opener stunned United , the second one, scored a minute later knocked them for six. Trevor Morley’s fierce shot from the edge of the box was parried out by United keeper, Jim Leighton, to the left channel, I managed to pick it up and feigned to shoot twice, confusing the persistant Viv Anderson, before taking a shot at goal, Leighton blocked it again and, although the ball landed between three United players, it was tricky Trev who reacted first and forced it home, cue chants of ‘We Love You City’ from the Blue faithful closely followed by catcalls of ‘Fergie, Fergie What’s the score’.
…Suffering a particurlarly nightmarish game was Gary Pallister, whose hesitancy led to our third goal, Reddo brought the ball out of defence and clipped it into the path of Oldfield. After out-thinking and outpacingUnited’s number 6, Dave laid on the perfect cross for Ian Bishop, whose brave diving header, left the hapless Leighton in no-man;s land.
This is incredible, I thought as I rushed over to congratulate our goalscorer.
…The United lads ran back on to the pitch with added purpose, having probably been at the rough end of Ferguson’s legendary hairdryer. No doubt he’d convinced them that the game was still winnable and sure enough, within five minutes of the restart they managed to pull a goal back. And what a phenenal strike it was. Russell Beardsmore got the better of Hinchy, for once, and despatched a great cross to the far post. It was latched on to by an airborne Mark Hughes who, with superb control and agility, unleashed a bicycle kik which rocketed past Paul Cooper.
Here was our big test. Now was the time to steel ourselves and keep our cool. As the strains of ‘C’mon you Reds’ floated across from the away end, I could sense some nervous tension in the City stands as a stream of United half chances went begging. Luckily our fans’ conviction was restored when we grabbed our fourth. With United’s back line once again in disarray a crunching tackle involving Trevor Morley thrust the ball in my direction, hitting me in the stomach. The United players claimed handball and, as they stopped in their tracks, I was given the space to have a shot on goal. Leighton desparately half blocked, landing the ball at my feet once again, I contemplated having a tight angled shot, but hesitated when I saw Mike Duxbury moving in to thwart it at the near post, deciding instead to square the ball to David Oldfield. Dave, who was loitering with intent near the goalmouth rolled it in and killed off the game for good. Goodnight Vienna. Or catch yer later, as we say in Manchester.
… A few minutes later we banged in our fifth. Some clever interplay between Trev and Bish in the middle of the park culminated in the latter pinging a forty yard ball that soared over the head of United’s Mike Duxbury. David White half volleyed it with onre of the best first time crosses I’ve ever seen, planting the ball perfectly onto the head of Andy Hinchcliffe, who steamed in with an unstoppable header that nearly scorched a hole in the top left hand corner. It was a brilliant goal. Jim Leighton, scooping yet another ball from the back of the net, looked crushed. Behind him a mass exodus of United fans was taking place.
… As full-time edged ever closer, the temptation to start grinning like a Cheshire cat was almost unbearable.
With ten minutes to go, however, any hint of a smile was wiped off my face when a bulldozing, spleen-venting tackle from Mike Phelan left me with a shinful of stud marks. Despite my protestations there was no way I could stay on the field. As physio Roy Bailey slowly led me back towards the Main Stand I received a standing ovation.
… “Well done Lakey,” smiled Mel as I hobbled towards the tunnel. Skip leant back in the dugout, dragged on his cigarette, and gave me a knowing wink that said job well done.
… I was lying on the treatment table clutching an ice pack to my leg when the final whistle went, and the huge roar from the stadium almost levitated me to the ceiling. Before long my team mates piled in, happy and glorious, and the dressing room erupted.
Once the celebrations had died down, I gave a champagne fuelled interview to BBC Radio Manchester’s Ian Cheeseman.
“So what was the secret of today’s victory Paul?” he asked.
“I ate raw meat for breakfast” I said baring my teeth. Ian has since told me it’s his top favourite response to one of his questions.