Posts Tagged ‘United’

Sir Bobby: The Deepdale Gaffer



As Wayne Rooney closes in on the England goal-scoring record we thought we’d dig up a nice photo of the man he’s set to overtake; the legend that is Sir Bobby Charlton.

Rather than the usual images of Sir Bobby blasting one in for United or holding the World Cup aloft with England that we’re all so used to seeing, here we’ve opted for something a little less common. This pic is of Sir Bobby as he assumes the role of manager at Preston North End in 1973, a few months after hanging up his boots and leaving Old Trafford at the end of the 1972-73 season.

Charlton’s first task was signing his former United and England team-mate Nobby Stiles as player-coach. His first season ended in relegation however and although he began playing again he eventually left Preston early in the 1975–76 season after a disagreement with the board over the transfer of John Bird to Newcastle United. On the field he made 38 league appearances for Preston and scored 8 times.

After a brief stint with Waterford United in Ireland Charlton began doing punditry on matches for the BBC which continued for many years. In 1984 he became a director of Manchester United, a role he continues with to this day.


April ’73: Charlton Bows Out
Bobby Charlton retires from top-flight football


Bobby Charlton leaves the Stamford Bridge pitch with Peter Boneti in front of an East Stand that’s under construction.

His Final Bow

Bobby Charlton retires from top-flight football

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Seven years after lifting the World Cup and five years after winning the European Cup, Bobby Charlton finally hung up his ‘Manchester United’ boots on 28 April 1973; though his United career ended on a low note that day as the Red Devils lost by the only goal of the game in a league match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

During his career he scored 249 goals in a total of 754 appearances for the Red Devils, many of which were dispatched with his trade mark thunderbolt shot.

Born in the coal mining village of Ashington, Northumberland, in October 1937, he came from excellent footballing stock. Most famously, he was the nephew of legendary Newcastle United and England striker ‘Wor Jackie’ Milburn. Some have likened Bobby’s fierce shot with either foot to that of his uncle. And then there was his brother Jack who played professionally for Leeds United and England.

Bobby Charlton made his United debut in October 1956, in a league match against Charlton at Old Trafford. He scored twice, although he kept a secret from his manager, Matt Busby, which he later recalled during an interview. Busby had asked him if he was okay to play in that game. Charlton was suffering with a sprained ankle at the time, but wasn’t going to confess it to his manager: not on his debut. So he crossed his fingers and said he was fine.

Just two years later, he was to suffer injuries he couldn’t hide from anyone. At a snowbound Munich airport, Manchester United’s plane had landed to refuel. The team were on their way back to Manchester from Yugoslavia, in jubilant mood. They had drawn their match against Red Star Belgrade 3-3. The draw secured their place in the European Cup semi-finals. As the pilot attempted to take off the plane hit a perimeter fence, skidded into a frozen field and burst into flames. Bobby, along with Busby and several of his teammates, was hospitalized in West Germany. Twenty-one people lost their lives as a result of the crash, including seven of the Busby Babes. Among the seven was one player who many have argued was the greatest footballer ever. His name was Duncan Edwards.

As for twenty year old Bobby Charlton, he rose from the ashes of that disaster to rebuild a career that included many successful milestones: none more poignant than one night at Wembley in 1968. He was part of a United side that defeated Benfica at Wembley 4-1, to lift the European Cup. Bobby Charlton scored two of the goals that night. But he didn’t attend the post-match celebrations, preferring instead to be alone to remember his former teammates who were cut down in their prime, a decade earlier.

On the international stage he made a lasting impression in the minds of football fans everywhere; none more so than in July 1966. He was part of the England team, along with his brother Jack, which lifted the Jules Rimet trophy – England were the world champions and tears of joy coursed down Bobby’s cheeks.

He made 106 appearances for his country, a record that would probably still stand if substitutes weren’t awarded caps as they are today. But one record that hasn’t been broken is his 49 goals scored while proudly wearing the three lions badge on his shirt. Many have tried to surpass it, none have succeeded – although a certain current Manchester United player could overtake that achievement within the next 12 months.

Following his final game (incidentally, played on the same day as his brother Jack played his last game for Leeds United) Bobby Charlton went on to appear briefly for Preston North End (who he also managed) and, in 1976, Republic of Ireland side Waterford.

His post-playing career included a spell at Wigan as a board member, where he was also first-team manager. Then in 1984 he became a director of Manchester United, a position he still holds today.

His prowess on the football field led to him being named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year for 1967; and in 1974 he was awarded the PFA Merit Award. His career also led to an MBE and an OBE. Then in 2008 he received the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

Yet for all those successes gained off the pitch, none weas more richly deserved than the knighthood he received from the Queen in 1994. Arise Sir Robert Charlton. Not bad for the lad from a mining community in Northumberland.

Watch out for my book review of ‘Duncan Edwards – The Greatest’ which will appear here on Bobby FC later this spring.


Chelsea v United Preview
PLUS 2 CLASSIC GAMES: Dixon ends title hopes & Violett the hat-trick hero

by Karl Hofer.


80’s Away Day


Dixon netted a brace to end United’s title hopes

Perhaps one of the most painful defeats for United at the hands of Chelsea was The Blues 2-1 win at Old Trafford in April of 1986. Despite Everton and Liverpool breaking away from the chasing pack, both clubs were still grimly hanging on in the title race but neither side were in any kind of form going into this meeting. Chelsea were squandering away the games they had in hand on the leaders, having just been slapped 4-0 at home by fellow contenders West Ham and (even more disastrously) 6-0 away to neighbours QPR.

United meanwhile were starting to resemble that depressed drunk guy at the end of a night out, now rambling to themselves in the corner with bottle in hand having initially arrived as the life and soul of the party. They had seen a 10 point lead at Christmas dissolve into nothing and now Ron Atkinson’s side knew their long wait for the title would continue for sure unless they won this one. This was make-or-break for both clubs.

After a goalless first half, Kerry Dixon beat the offside trap to score his first goal for four months. United then equalised through a Jesper Olsen penalty, big Doug Rougvie doing what he did best; this time sending Hughes crashing to the floor in the area. But Dixon had the final say in the dying moments to knock United out of the title race and send the many thousands of travelling fans into delirium and the home fans into despair. The future looked bright momentarily for John Neal’s team but Chelsea would subsequently win only one of their last seven games to finish in sixth spot.

United’s poor form continued through the beginning of the following season, and with the club languishing at the foot of the table in November manager Ron Atkinson was dismissed – with Alex Ferguson and his assistant Archie Knox taking over that same day.

One to Eleven!

Without question the greatest match between the sides was an 11 goal thriller at Stamford Bridge back in October 1954. Ted Drake had taken over Chelsea in 1952 and had been busy trying to rid them of their image, one that saw them as the butt of many a comedian’s jokes in the music-halls up and down the land. Out went the nickname ‘The Pensioners’, replaced with the more respectable ‘Blues’. Also dispatched was the affable septuagenarian on the clubs crest. This was a new Chelsea, one that Drake was instilling with a winning mentality.

To that end Drake drafted in solid defenders Peter Sillett and future England boss Ron Greenwood, plus striker Roy Bentley. As a consequence the team established itself in the top flight and were no longer involved in relegation battles, but nobody expected more than a safe mid-table position when the 1954-55 season came round.

The favourites for the title were reigning champions Wolverhampton Wanderers and Matt Busby’s upcoming Manchester United side.


Dennis Violett was a hat-trick hero

The game on October 16th was a glowing confirmation of the emergence of the attacking prowess of the ‘Busby’s Babes’. The visitors went 1-0 up with Dennis Viollet opening the scoring but a pair of unknown amateurs making their debuts returned fire as Seamus O’Connell equalized before the Thermos-flask seller Jim Lewis put the home side 2-1 up. Tommy Taylor and then Viollet put United back in front 2-3, a lead they held at half-time.

The same pair in the same order, Taylor and then Viollet (completing his hat-trick) seemed to have put Matt Busby’s side out of sight at 2-5 but then Ken Armstrong pulled one back for Chelsea. Jackie Blanchflower looked to have sealed the points when he made it 3-6, but cattle-farmer O’Connell then scored twice to record a famous debut hat-trick and set up a grandstand finish, but United’s shaky defence clung on for an extraordinary 5-6 triumph.

Chelsea lost their next two games – completing a run of six games without a win – to end October in 12th place, Wolves having taken over from United at the top. But then Drake’s Ducklings got their act together losing only four more games all season as they stormed up the table and, beating Wolves home and away, shocked the nation to win the title. Their last defeat of the season was at Old Trafford – but by then the title, Chelsea’s first trophy in their 50 year history, had been won.

The Busby Babes would have to wait to make their mark on English football’s roll of honour.

The Odds

CHELSEA  v  MANCHESTER UNITED, Saturday April 18th, 5.30pm

If you fancy a repeat of that 5-6 scoreline then you’ll no doubt be delighted to hear that William Hill are offering a handsome 500-1 on it. Realistically the game is set to be a much tighter affair. A confident United (3/1) will be keen to unnerve Chelsea (10/11) early on, imposing their own game on the blues. The first goal of the game could prove critical.


Hazard: Game changer

There will be a lot of mutual respect, both managers know each other extremely well having worked together previously at Barcelona and Mourinho will be keen not to concede an inch to LVG – So Bobby’s Bets recommends a draw at 5/2, with a 1-1 final scoreline at 6/1.

Diego Costa is missing from Chelsea’s starting line-up and Loic Remy is fighting to be fit – he’s 4/1 to open the scoring if he makes it. You could opt for Oscar (13/2) or Fabregas (9/1)  but the 9/2 on offer for the penalty-taking and in-form Eden Hazard looks the better value.

If you think one of the visiting team will strike first than Wayne Rooney is the favourite at  13/2 with van Persie at 15/2 and Radamel Falcao at 9/1. But the man in form is the big Belgian Marouane Fellaini who is 9/1 to be the first scorer. If you fancy Juan Mata to do a ‘Frank Lampard’ then you can get 10/3 for the Spaniard as ‘anytime goalscorer’ against his old club.

Bobby’s Bet of the Day: 11/1 for Eden Hazard to score at anytime and the game to end a draw (Anytime Drawcast).

Odds courtesy of William Hill.


Nobby Stiles: England’s One Goal Wonder!

nobby-377152by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Wembley Stadium. Twenty third February 1966. England are playing West Germany in an international friendly, just prior to the World Cup finals.

The game is in the 41st minute. A cross-field pass is nodded firmly towards the German goal by England’s number eight, Roger Hunt from the edge of the six yard area. The West German keeper Hans Tilkowski could only parry the ball into the path of an incoming Nobby Stiles who bundled it into the net.

The 75,000 crowd could hardly believe their eyes. How come with Roger Hunt, Geoff Hurst and Bobby Charlton on the pitch, it was the diminutive Stiles who scored..? Once the shock had worn off the crowd roared their delight and Nobby ran back to take his place at right-half, as if scoring for England was an everyday occurrence. But it was the one and only time he managed to get onto the England score sheet.

Five months later, and wearing his toothless grin, he jigged across the Wembley turf holding the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft – a World Cup winner.

1968 European Cup Final at Wembley Stadium - Manchester United's Nobby Stiles and Bobby Charlton celebrate as they become European Champions for the first time

Nobby Stiles and Bobby Charlton celebrate becoming European Champions

He along with Bobby Charlton remain the only two Englishmen to have won both the World Cup and European Cup – after Manchester United defeated Benfica at Wembley in 1968.

But his biggest challenge came in 2013, aged 71. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, though his doctors expected him to make a full recovery, unlike his World Cup winning captain Bobby More, who died from the disease aged 51.

In all Stiles played 28 times for his country and was awarded an MBE in 2000 for services to football.

There have been other England internationals who have only scored once for England. But none have climbed to the summit of world soccer as did a certain Norbert (a name Sir Alf Ramsey always used when addressing him) Peter Stiles.

And I for one will always remember his celebrations on the 30 July 1966: an image that will live on in sporting history!


LVG Bailed Out By Blind!
United Look Lost Tactically As Rooney is Wasted Out Wide

by Rob Shepherd.


Louis van Gaal was left scratching his head at Upton Park

Louis van Gaal had the look of the emperor with new clothes as West Ham outplayed, outfought and out-thought Manchester United – until, that was, the final minutes when he was bailed out by Daley Blind.

United had been bereft of any attacking ideas despite what had seemed, on the face of it, fielding a team of offensive possibilities. At times it was a bit like the blind leading blind until Blind’s intervention.

But just when it seemed the Hammers had done enough to earn a deserved victory – they had indeed wasted a couple of late chances to seal it – Blind picked up the pieces of a half-cleared free-kick and did what none of the United forwards had managed all afternoon by producing an emphatic finish.

On the evidence of this though Van Gaal needs to get back to his whiteboard, and whatever other tools he uses, and find a formation that works. More to the point, one that doesn’t waste Wayne Rooney.

A couple of weeks ago, Van Gaal declared that playing 4-4-2 gave him a twitchy ‘a***’, saying that he felt more secure with a 3-5-2 or a variant of it. It was certainly a squeaky-bum afternoon for the United manager.

It was a turn-up for the books when Van Gaal fielded an unchanged team from their previous Premier League match; last week’s 3-1 home win over Leicester.

And it was once again 4-4-2 with a twist… the midfield was set out in a diamond shape. In that respect, you could describe the formation as 4-1-2-1-2.

Blind operated as the anchor man ahead of a back four, Rooney played towards the right, Adnan Januzaj to the left, with Angel di Maria roaming in the hole behind two front-runners Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao.

It is seen as a way of of getting all of United’s best attackers in the same team but as the game started to take shape it didn’t work that way, and Rooney looked lost most of the time.

The England captain found himself shuttling up and down, somewhere between right-midfield and and inside-right, and often embroiled in a battle with West Ham skipper Kevin Nolan.

If Rooney is deployed in a deeper role surely it should be more advanced, in the hole. Indeed it wasn’t long before it appeared United would have been better served had Rooney and Di Maria swapped roles. After all, Di Maria is naturally a wide player who thrives when he has space ahead of him to exploit his pace and trickery running at defenders.

As it was, the Argentine found it hard to find space, constantly crowded out by West Ham’s busy midfield and a direct pathway to Van Persie and Falcao was usually blocked by Alex Song who played the holding role for the Hammers. It meant United’s two strikers were starved of service not least because of a lack of width.

Rooney was reluctant to go wide, and his passing was too often square and safe. Januzaj just couldn’t get into the game.

Rooney looked lost played out wide

Rooney looked lost played out wide

Nor did the front two do much to help themselves. Both Van Persie and and Falcao were too static, making it easy for James Tomkins and make-shift centre-back Cheikhou Kouyate to keep them under wraps.

What, on paper, seemed to be a team full of attacking possibilities could not even get close to opening up the West Ham defence in the first half; keeper Adrian only having to make one save of note from a speculative Di Maria shot.

In contrast, West Ham’s similar diamond system was more fluid and full of possibilities. That was because West Ham’s two strikers Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho offered much more movement, as did Stewart Downing who operated as the tip of the diamond

While Di Maria was bogged down in the middle, Downing roamed around with menace and flitted from wing to wing.

Injury to Andy Carroll meant that Valencia and Sakho started together for the first time since the beginning of the season when Carroll wasn’t fit. Their pace, energy and finishing was one of the main reasons the Hammers got off to such a good start.

And there was a good case to argue that Carroll’s absence was a blessing of sorts. Without the long high-ball option into the big centre-forward, West Ham played a much slicker passing game, and the two strikers were a constant threat.


Kouyate fired West Ham ahead

While United’s defence looks far more sound and settled than it was at the start of the campaign – ironically with a back four that Van Gaal does not favour – there were still several alarms in the first half; West Ham just lacked a precise final ball or finish.

But that changed just four minutes after the break. Indecision in United’s defence from a set-piece, and weak work by Rooney, allowed Cheikhou Kouyate to bring the ball down from a free-kick, before swivelling to lash home. It was an exciting finish, but it was poor defending.

United responded by upping their tempo – but only a bit. It was still too predictable, lacking in pace and nous. And Van Gaal offered nothing in any inspiration from the sidelines. He just sat in his seat on the bench and stared blankly. His only idea to change things was to take off Januzaj and bring on Marouane Fellaini.

Van Gaal claimed the introduction of Fellaini was a ‘plan B’ but all it amounted to was United hitting more long balls. West Ham manager Sam Allardyce couldn’t resist smirking at the irony of that .

In the end the only way he could see United getting back into the game was to go route one.

So much for the tactical genius of the supposed Dutch master.



Louis van Gaal can Forget Winning the Title at Manchester United with 3-5-2

by Rob Shepherd.

Louis van Gaal insists the way forward for Manchester United is to ditch the 4-4-2 formation.

If that is the case then it would seem unlikely United will ever win the English league title under their Dutch manager.

Why..? Just take the Premier League years for a start.

Since its inception in 1992 every title winner – Manchester United, Blackburn, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City – have played with four at the back.

Mostly their formations have been 4-4-2, with variations on that theme.

In recent seasons there has been a move to 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 and twists to those basic shapes often in the guise of an anchor midfielder. But the bedrock has been the same: four at the back.

And, prior to that, no team that won the old First Division did so playing with three at the back on a regular basis.

There were occasions in the Eighties and Nineties when Liverpool –Lawrenson. Hansen, Gillespie – and Arsenal – Bould, O’Leary, Adams (and later Keown) did play 3-5-2 on their way to titles, although in the case of the Gunners under George Graham it was more like 5-3-2. 

This five at the back line-up was at times akin to the famous catenaccio tactic favoured in Italy for decades until AC Milan swept all before them with 4-4-2.

24FB81D000000578-2923481-image-a-32_1422022605482But essentially you would have to go back to the 1950s to see when three at back was the rule rather than the exception in England as the old ‘W-M’ formation evolved into what became the accepted shape of a team numbered one to 11 (pictured right).

1 Goalkeeper, 2 Right back, 3 Left back, 4 Right half, 5 Centre half, 6 Left half, 7 Right winger, 8 Inside right, 9 Centre forward, 10 Inside left, 11 Left winger.

This was 2-3-2-3 or 3-2-2-3 depending how deep the centre half sat.

It was under Ron Greenwood at West Ham at the start of the Sixties that 4-4-2 was really born in England when he withdrew his No 6 (a certain Bobby Moore) to play alongside the centre half in the role of attacking centre back rather than defensive midfielder.

Four at the back then became de rigueur. Most teams played 4-2-4, which is 4-4-2 with attacking wingers. But after ditching his during England’s 1966 World Cup win, Alf Ramsey and his ‘wingless wonders’ defined for some time the English way.

Van Gaal has said this system makes his ‘ass twitch’ because it unbalances his Manchester United team, even though they have won more games this season playing that way than in any other shape. 

Although Van Gaal never played a senior match for Ajax he was brought up in the Sixties and Seventies at the club which became famed for creating Total Football. It was essentially a fluid 3-4-3 which came to the fore with Holland at the 1974 World Cup finals.

The great irony is that the man who would have created Van Gaal’s mistrust in the English way was, well, English.

The guru of Total Football – according to the kingpin of Ajax and Holland at the time, Johann Cruyff – was Victor Frederick Buckingham who was born in London in 1915.

Buckingham played as a wing half for Tottenham between the wars. In 1959 he quit as West Bromwich Albion manager to take over at Ajax for two seasons. He returned for another spell in 1964 setting down the Total Football template.


Holland’s formation in the World Cup of 1974 was a fluid 3-4-3 with Cruyff the star man up front

While Cruyff dismisses Van Gaal as a control freak he eulogises about Buckingham, who at the start of the Seventies was manager of Barcelona (yes, really), the club where Cruyff would star as a player then a coach, laying down the foundations of the mighty team we have seen in recent years.

But Barca even in this ‘modern era’ (as if men like Buckingham were not ‘modern’ in their day ) play four at the back, although their shape like great rivals Real Madrid is a 4-3-3.

In short it’s the surest way of defending across the width of the pitch. If you have attacking full backs in that system then you have to have one or perhaps two midfielders who are prepared to hold. That’s also known as flexibility.

Of course it is naive to label and pigeon-hole formations. At any given time of a game you will see one shape morphing into another. But even the best teams need a starting shape. 

Essentially the great Brazil team of 1970 was 4-4-2. But with so many great players and great movement the front six was more a carousel than a system.

There is another irony here: at international tournaments since 1966 England have performed better when ditching 4-4-2.

In 1990 under Bobby Robson and then France 98 under Glenn Hoddle England played with 3-5-2 sweeper system, more like Germany of those days, and did well.

Although Terry Venables’s ‘christmas tree’ system at Euro 96 had a back four it was a long way from rigid straight lines of 4-4-2 that can limit a team and even promote the long ball as it did in Graham Taylor’s England.

But, as wise managers will say, the bottom line is identifying what shape suits your players best. Generally the better players a manager has, the better his team will be.


Hoddle was a regular user of the 3-5-2.

For a while at Swindon and then Chelsea, Hoddle saw some success with 3-5-2. Harry Redknapp has used the system with various teams from time to time. Howard Wilkinson did so at Notts County and then Sheffield Wednesday. But they are exceptions and not the rule.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United enjoyed season after season of success using 4-4-2, often with a twist, which usually saw the second striker operate as a No 10.

The rest of Fergie’s tactics were pretty straightforward: a back four, two central midfielders working in tandem (one ‘sticks’ if the other ‘twists’), two attacking wide men, an ‘inside forward’ and a centre forward.

Yet 4-4-2 gives Van Gaal a twitchy ass?

The Dutchman says it affects the balance of the team. Perhaps that’s because he has got the balance of his squad wrong. Either 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 just doesn’t seem to get the best of the talent he has at his disposal. As Gary Neville says it slows the team down too much.

The only time Fergie said he had a ‘twitchy ass’ – aka ‘squeaky bum time’ – was during the run-in for the title.

It’s a position clipboard-toting Van Gaal won’t be in this season. Whether he likes it or not, history proves that four at the back is the key to success in the Premier League.



Roy Keane
“The Second Half”
Reviewed by Richard Bowdery

The Second Half by Roy Keane with Roddy Doyle

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

ISBN-13: 978-0297608882

It might seem an odd choice to have a novelist, dramatist and screenwriter as collaborator for a famous footballer’s memoirs.

It might seem even stranger given that the footballer in question is Roy Keane and his previous autobiography Keane: The Autobiography (published in 2002) was ghosted by ex-Millwall legend turned journalist Eamon Dunphy.

RoyKeaneBookBut this different approach – and I’m sure it is completely different, though I must confess I never read Keane – works very well. In fact, as one might expect from a dramatist collaborator, the book reads more like dialogue than prose. It’s as if Keane is regaling his mates in one of Cork’s hostelries with stories of his life since the 2002 autobiography.

The Second Half has much less of a hard edge about it than I had expected. Indeed Keane isn’t afraid to bare his soul as can be seen when he lets on how he’d cried in his car, after Manchester United said they were letting him go.

It left a question hanging in the air: “Had United’s ‘enforcer’ gone soft?” Not a bit of it.

The crunching tackles came thick and fast as he laid bare his views on some of United’s coaching staff and former team mates, his punch up with Peter Schmeichel, and how he didn’t sign Robbie Savage because of a voice mail message.

As you may expect there is quite a bit of swearing; but then you’re in a bar and the Guinness is flowing so what do you expect?

If I have any criticism, it is that the book ends on a whimper, as if Roy just got off his stool, ambled towards the exit and disappeared into the night air without so much as a ‘see you soon lads.’

You’re left with a nagging feeling that more could have been said. The book would have been better for it. Although the legal eagles may well have insisted on sanitizing certain stories. But that is only a minor complaint.

For the most part it doesn’t fail to deliver, it’s a good, illuminating read on the man and the football industry. You come away having viewed Roy Keane in a different light: much more of a human being and much less of an aggressive caricature.

And reading between the lines I’m sure I could detect the reasons why Roy Keane gave up his role at Aston Villa – though at the time the book was published he was still coaching at Villa as well as working with the Irish national team.

I wait eagerly for ‘volume 3’ to see if my assumptions were correct.

BB Rating: 8/10



United Now Top Trumps as Liverpool ‘Stick’ on 18 PLUS: Barnes Double for Title Winning Reds

by Rob Shepherd.

You will have to be well into your thirties to remember clearly the last time Liverpool won the title.

For those of us a little older and who witnessed Liverpool dominate English football at the end of the Seventies and throughout the entire Eighties, a period when they also won the European Cup five times, it would have seemed surreal to predict that the title success of the 1989-90 season would be their last for over two decades.

And when Liverpool disposed of United 2-1 at Old Trafford in March 1990 – John Barnes (2) Ronnie Whelan (og) – setting them on the run-in to an 18th title, it seemed incomprehensible the tables would be turned so dramatically. At the time that made the title count 18 – 7 to Liverpool.

While Liverpool were still then a well-oiled machine, United remained a team of talented individuals lacking consistency or identity.

Liverpool eventually held off the challenge of Aston Villa led by their former boss Ron Atkinson, whilst United finished 13th, a place behind Coventry City.

It was highly likely Sir Alex Ferguson would have followed Big Ron out of the Old Trafford door at the end of the season (Howard Kendall had been rumoured as a successor) had United not gone on to win the FA Cup that season beating Crystal Palace in the final after a replay.

That success gave Ferguson the breathing space he needed to see big money gambles like Gary Pallister and Paul Ince produce and home-grown players led by Ryan Giggs come through, before huge impact signings like Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane and Eric Cantona made their mark.

The title score is now: United 20 Liverpool 18.

Yet for all United’s dominance the overall trophy count for both clubs remains pretty close. As this table shows:


The rivalry is not just about the shift in power over recent years.

It is deep rooted, it’s geographic context fueling the traditional rivalries and jealousies of both sets of fans – not just in football but in terms of their working class roots, industry, politics and even music.

Always played in a fraught and hostile atmosphere (sometimes hateful), there’s now the added spice as bitter rivals as players Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher go head-to-head as Sky TV pundits.

Despite Neville’s assertions, this is still a long way from being ‘a pub match’ though.

Can United maintain their recent momentum under van Gaal ?

Is Brendan Rodgers a one season wonder at Liverpool ??

Sunday could be a pivotal day for the future of both these great clubs.

Liverpool ‘Stick’ on 18

For those who have never seen Liverpool lift the title, here it is;


It’s so long ago that it’s the old Football League Championship trophy.

The teams from that day at Old Trafford:



Battle of the Bluffers
First Time in 25 Years Arsenal v United Has No Title Ramifications

by Roy Dalley.

Roy Keane’s dog will be well advised to steer clear when his master settles in front of the telly on Saturday night. Listen carefully and you might well hear the growls as Welbeck accepts manhugs, handslaps, best wishes and perhaps even a kiss on the cheek from his old Manchester United team-mates before the late kick-off at Arsenal.

It wasn’t always this lovey-dovey in the tunnel before and after this particular fixture, as Keane would bluntly testify. Once upon a time it was the prelude to Premier League titles, FA fines and suspensions, effing and blinding, pushing and shoving and the odd toss the pizza competition.

Vieira gets down with Roy Keane.

Vieira gets down with Roy Keane.

Last month was the 10th anniversary of a game so fondly recalled it has been awarded not one but two sobriquets: Pizzagate and Battle of the Buffet. It’s not just supporters who are still going on about it, the protagonists from both sides are also queuing up to reminisce to the media.

There’s now little doubt Fabregas was responsible for adding a few more autumnal colours to Sir Alex Ferguson’s features when a food fight broke out in the tunnel at Old Trafford. The flying pizza was the highlight in the aftermath of a defeat that brought to an end Arsenal’s unbeaten record of 49 matches (that, of course, had encompassed the entire previous season).

Wenger also ended up with egg on his face, at least metaphorically speaking, when he was fined £15,000 for calling Van Nistelrooy a cheat, and Reyes soon trooped back to Spain calling it the toughest game he’s ever known.

What makes the event even more remarkable is the fact Keane wasn’t even at Old Trafford that afternoon. He was nursing a stomach injury that was only compounded when news came through, as he recalled in his book: “I was gutted I missed the game, and all the fighting that went on in the tunnel afterwards.”


Now though the rivalry means something very different; little more than a side note concerning who will make up the numbers in the Champions League places for next season. Indeed it’s now more a Battle of the Bluffers; Arsenal’s Wenger has already put on his best Gallic shrug and conceded the title, while United’s van Gaal wore a poker face while bravely insisting they can still overcome Chelsea at the top of the League.

To be fair to the Deluded Dutchman he made that declaration before last week’s international break, during which De Gea, Carrick and Blind all added their names to United’s injury list. Certainly Welbeck will greet his former colleagues with a huge smile, feeling very confident of extending his goalscoring run of form for new club and country.

He could also lend more weight to the thought United seriously blundered when they allowed the blossoming England striker to take his talents to Arsenal at the end of the last transfer window.

“Not at the required level,” was van Gaal’s cold assessment.

Words that could reverberate if United return to Manchester on Saturday night 16 points behind Chelsea…



November 1971: A Hat-Trick of Hat-tricks from SuperMac!


by Karl Hofer.

On November 20th 1971, Third Division side Bournemouth thrashed the Southern League’s Margate 11-0 in the First Round of the FA Cup. Bournemouth’s hero that day was Scottish forward Ted MacDougall who scored no less than nine of the Cherries’ eleven goals.

The club was still known as Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic when MacDougall joined them in the summer of 1969 from York City for £10,000. The Cherries were relegated to Division Four despite the 21 league goals scored by ‘SuperMac’ that season, but under new manager John Bond they bounced back at the first opportunity and were doing well in the Third Division when they faced Margate in the FA Cup.

MacDougall wasted no time by scoring five goals in the first half alone. Not satisfied with that MacDougall went on to score another four after the break, despite the Margate manager asking Bond jokingly to substitute the forward at halftime.

ted_macdougallThe Cherries went on to face Walsall in the Third Round. Presumably they took note of SuperMac’s performance against Margate and decided to mark him, as he was unable to get on the score-sheet and they were eliminated 1-0.

MacDougall moved to Manchester United in September 1972 when he was signed by Frank O’Farrell for a transfer fee of £200,000, but despite scoring on his debut he was unable to settle at the club. He played for a variety of other clubs, including West Ham, Norwich and Southampton, before a second stint at Bournemouth. He also represented Scotland on seven occasions, finding the net three times. After turning out for a number of non-league sides he hung up his boots for good in 1984 and is now coaching the Atlanta Silverbacks in the United States.

His 9 goals in a game by a single player is still an FA Cup record.