FA Cup heroes
Ahead of Manchester United’s visit to Eastland on Sunday, Rant presents the third in a series of posts about the FA Cup.
Manchester United supporters have witnessed dozens of glorious cup moments over more than 125 years in the competition. Some stand out, for the people involved, the moments they created, and the stories told. Here’s a selection of the many that you might recall with affection. Leave your own favourites in the comments below…
William ‘Billy’ Meredith – 1909. Manchester United 1 – 0 Bristol City
Welsh wing wizard Meredith was caught up in one of the great sporting scandals of the early 20th century, after being suspended by the FA for being involved in a bribery scandal. It was alleged that at the end of the 1904-5 season Meredith bribed Aston Villa player Alex Leake £10 to lose. Then at Manchester City, Meredith moved across town while still serving out his ban. It proved to be one of the most astute transfers in early United history. Meredith, one of the early proponents of a Players Union, helped drive the Reds to First Division glory in 1907-7, scoring the goals that claimed United’s debut championship. A year later and Meredith starred in the FA Cup final against Bristol City at Crystal Palace, 24 April 1909 to win United’s first ever Cup. While Scottish forward Sandy Turnbull scored the only goal, Meredith was named United’s star by all who witnessed the game.
Meredith remained with United until 1921, scoring 36 goals in 335 appearances, before returning to Manchester City. He played until aged 47, often with a trademark toothpick between his teeth.
David Herd – 1963. Manchester United 3 – 1 Leicester
Football runs in the blood of Scottish forward Herd, who is the son of former Manchester City player Alec Herd, and the nephew of international Sandy Herd. David would bring one of the finest moments of another Scot’s managerial career: Sir Matt Busby. Busby said that it would take United five years to recover from the Munich Air Crash in 1958. How prescient the great manager was, with United trophyless until the 1963 FA Cup – a 3-1 victory over Leicester City at Wembley.
Herd’s career began in far less glorious fashion though at Stockport County, where he briefly played as a forward alongside his father. The striker’s performances brought a move to Arsenal for £10,000 in 1954, although he made few appearances for the Gunners in his first two seasons. However, 1956-57 proved a breakthrough campaign, with the forward scoring 18 goals in 28 games. He was the club’s top goalscorer between ’57 and ’61 but failed to win any silverware with the London club. That frustration brought a move north to United in July ‘61 for £35,000, with Herd making his debut against West Ham United in August that year.
Two years later and Herd would play a pivotal role in United’s first post-Munich trophy, scoring twice at Wembley to ensure United lifted the 1963 FA Cup. United legend Dennis Law opened the scoring on 30 minutes, before Herd added a crucial second just before the hour. On 56 minutes Bobby Charlton’s shot was only parried by Gordon Banks into the path of David Herd who tapped into the empty net to the job , to the job of most in the 99,604 crowd. Leicester pulled a goal back with 10 minutes to go when Frank McLintock’s shot was met by Ken Keyworth to score with a diving header. But if the goal momentarily brought Leicester back into the game, Herd ended all doubts with five minutes remaining. The Scot capitalised on Bank’s fumble to fire past two defenders on the line and bring the cup back to Manchester!
Herd also helped United to First Division titles in 1965 and 1967, before breaking a leg in March 1967. It was an injury from which the forward never really recovered, and was not selected for the European Cup triumph a year later. In total Herd scored 114 league goals for United before leaving Old Trafford for Stoke City in July 1968.
Norman Whiteside – 1985. Manchester United 1 – 0 Everton
Big Norm’s curling effort against the Merseysiders in ’85 remains one of the great FA Cup strikes. Cutting in from United’s right, Whiteside curled a stunning effort past the great Neville Southall in the Everton goal with 10 minutes of extra time remaining. Big Ron Atkinson and the United bench exploded in joy, with the league champions beaten against the odds. The match was memorable not only for the Northern Irishman’s goal, but Kevin Moran’s 78th minute dismissal. The first ever FA Cup final red card.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Whiteside was a genuine child prodigy having played in the 1982 World Cup finals aged just 17. As a player he has (almost) everything: a sublimed first touch, the ability to beat a man with ease, a ferocious shot and maturity beyond his years. There were only two things that came between Big Norm and true greatness: a yard of pace, and an injury record that ran pages deep by the time Whiteside call time on his career. A penchant for late nights did not endear the forward to Sir Alex Ferguson, who shipped him out of the club to Everton in 1989. It was a sad end for the man who had spent his entire career at Old Trafford to that point.
Whiteside scored 67 goals in 274 appearances for United, but few will be remembered with more joy than that Cup final strike.
Lee Martin – 1990. Manchester United 1 – 0 Crystal Palace
By Ingar Rostvåg Ulltveit-Moe – Wherever Lee Martin goes he’s reminded of his most famous goal playing for United: the 1990 FA Cup final winner against Crystal Palace. It was a goal that ended Manchester United’s five year long trophy draught after the 1985 FA Cup triumph. Four and a half years with Alex Ferguson (no “Sir” back then) had failed to bring the visible progress of a trophy for the “sleeping giant” until the 1990’s cup success laid the foundations for the following decades.
United fan Martin made his club début against Wimbledon at Old Trafford on 5 May 1988 and went on to play over 100 games for United, scoring just two goals. Martin was a pacey defender who slotted in well either at right or left-back. Quick, versatile and with a fine first touch, Martin’s career was unfortunately blighted by severe back trouble that he never fully recovered from. After a promising start to his United career he lost his place to the international defenders Denis Irwin and Paul Parker.
The 1989/90 season started with Michael Knighton juggling a football on the Old Trafford pitch, showing off as United’s potential new owner before the season opener against Arsenal. Knighton’s bid failed, and the club remained with the Edwards family. On the pitch, fan favourites Norman Whiteside and Paul McGrath were shipped out of the club the summer before, while new recruits Paul Ince and Danny Wallace joined from West Ham United and Southampton respectively. It was neither a promising, nor memorable campaign, with a 5-1 loss to City at Maine Road as one of the many lows. In the end United barely avoided the drop, finishing just three points above the relegation zone.
The 1990 FA Cup final against Crystal Palace on 12 May was a thriller of a game ending 3-3 with goals from Mark Hughes, twice, and Bryan Robson. The replay, scheduled five days later, marked the first of Ferguson’s trophies with United, starting the myth that Martin saved his manager’s job by scoring the match-winner. The match also demonstrated Fergie’s ruthlessness when the manager axed his keeper Jim Leighton for the replay, opting instead, for on-loan keeper Les Sealey. Leighton, it is said, never recovered from being dropped.
The replay was nothing like as entertaining, with chances few and far in-between. The games finest attack came after 72 minutes when 22-year-old left back Martin when on a marauding that was Neil Webb spotted from the right. Webb’s cross was perfectly executed for Martin to control on his chest under pressure and then hammer into the top-corner with his right foot. Manchester finally had a trophy to celebrate again and Ferguson could offer his players Champagne on the train back home from London to Manchester the following night; his job was safe!
For Martin it was the highlight of a short-lived United career. Ex-Red Lou Macari brought Martin to Celtic in January 1994, where the player appeared 19 times. After two years with Celtic, Martin had short stops at Bristol Rovers and Huddersfield before hanging up his boots at the age of thirty.
Eric Cantona – 1996. Manchester United 1 – 0 Liverpool
The Frenchman’s 86th minute strike against Liverpool in the 1996 FA Cup final remains one of the most iconic moments of an iconic player’s career. In truth it was a dreadful final, memorable more for Liverpool’s disgraceful cream cup final day Armarni suits than the game itself. But with extra time approaching, David Beckham’s corner was punched to the edge of the box by Liverpool goalkeeper David James, only for Eric Cantona to volley home a stunning winner. The United bench exploded with joy, as did Cantona’s team-mates and the United supporters in the Wembley stands.
There, of course, were dozens of fantastic moments involving Cantona at United, many of them burned into the collective memory of a generation. But the 1996 Cup final goal remains special among many for the late late show against bitter rivals. The Cup final goal wasn’t Cantona’s last strike in a United shirt, nor his finest, but within a year the Frenchman had retired, aged just 30, to the great sadness of millions of Reds.