Having been a Manchester United fan since the mid-1980’s I’ve been extremely lucky to have experienced some incredible moments and dramatic matches, which will live in my mind forever. Outstanding goals, unbelievable late winners in matches, Doubles, a Treble, a Champions League Final penalty shoot out win, world class players and shared it with amazing supporters of our club. As well as this, I’ve experienced some extreme lows supporting Manchester United. These lows though, have only made the club and its supporters stronger, more resilient and have led them to fight back from this.
My lowest point watching Manchester United is without doubt Liverpool away in April 1992 – where we lost the League Title to Leeds United. This was the final season of the old First Division, with the FA Premier League starting the following season. I still remember that day in great detail, as I’m sure a lot of the players and fans who saw it will do.
Season 1991-92 was seen as the real breakthrough for Manchester United. After a very difficult 1989-90 season when we finished 13th, but had an amazing FA Cup run leading to Fergie’s 1st trophy with the club, 1990-91 marked a big improvement. In 1990-91, we returned to playing in Europe after a 5 year ban on English clubs competing, to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup against Barcelona. We also reached the League Cup Final and finished an improved 6th in the League. Added to this – in the summer of 1991, we had 3 new players who would strengthen our team – Peter Schmeichel, Paul Parker and Andrei Kanchelskis, plus the most exciting youth player since George Best – Ryan Giggs, who would be a regular in the 1st team.
As predicted the 1991-92 season went really well for Manchester United, right up to the end of 1991 and there was a real belief that the 1st League title for us since 1967 could actually happen. The only real disappointment up to the end of the year was being knocked out of the Cup Winners Cup to Atletico Madrid. New Year’s Day started off with a shocking 4-1 defeat at home to QPR, but the team soon recovered to beat Leeds United away in both the FA Cup and League Cup in consecutive weeks. At the time, there was great celebration, but the downside was that this would lead to a big fixture pile up for Manchester United, whilst Leeds could concentrate solely on the League. For the next few months, our form was good, but not brilliant as we dropped points in the league and we also lost to Southampton in the FA Cup on penalties. After we beat Nottingham Forest in the League Cup Final in April – we were still seen as still being in control to win the League, but there were real concerns about injuries, tiredness and a fixture pile up.
It was during this fixture pile up in April that United’s form would desert them. We had to play 4 games in a week – crazy. We drew away against Luton, who were about to be relegated, lost at home to Nottingham Forest and then lost away at West Ham, who were also relegated. So, as a result, it meant that our penultimate game, which was away at Anfield would now be a must win game. At the same time, Leeds were playing well, helped by concentrating solely on the League and also inspired by their new signing Eric Cantona.
So, to Liverpool away in April 1992 – a day I will never forget. I remember feeling nervous in the morning and not confident, but I thought there was still a chance. Driving to Liverpool that Sunday – we listened on the radio to the day’s early kick off – Sheffield United vs Leeds United. I remember that was a really dramatic game too, with goals, action and Sheffield United putting in a great performance. As we parked up near Anfield, the scores were still level with not long left to play, so we sat and listened to it. It was devastating – Leeds got a late winner. It was an unhappy and nervous walk through Stanley Park to the stadium after hearing that.
As we got to our seats behind the goal in the stadium, the United players came out for the warm up to huge boos from the Liverpool fans. The Kop was still terraces then, so filled up early – which also meant United and Liverpool fans would trade abusive chants with each other before the match had even started. The United players seemed calm enough in the warm up and I even remember Peter Schmeichel smiling at us. However, inside, they must have been aware of the Leeds win and the pressure they were now under, as it was a case of win today or the title really was over.
The match started and you could really feel the hatred from the Liverpool fans. I remember our fans chanting ‘UNITED’ and the Liverpool fans responding with ‘Leeds’ back at us. It wasn’t long before we were 1-0 down and to a goal scored by the worst possible person – Ian Rush. Up until then, Rush had famously never scored against United in loads of matches. What a time for him to do that. Soon after that, Rush went off injured aswell. For the rest of the match, United created some chances, but we could almost tell that they weren’t going to score. Liverpool got a 2nd near the end and we knew then that it really was all over. Once the final whistle went and we knew Leeds were now First Division Champions, we were absolutely devastated. The Liverpool fans were loving it and celebrating like they’d won the title, not Leeds.
We were locked in the ground for absolutely ages afterwards and left to think about what had happened. At the time – things seemed so bad for us. It was the 25th year in a row that we’d not won the League. We’d lost it to our hated rivals Leeds United, and this had been confirmed by us losing at Anfield of all places, to Liverpool. Liverpool had 18 titles, we were stuck on 7. It really couldn’t get any worse than how we were feeling that day. The lowest point on the football pitch that I’ve witnessed. If only we’d known what would happen in the following years. If someone had said to me then about the amount of trophies United would go on to win and the decline Liverpool would go into, I wouldn’t have believed them that day.
It is said that everything happens for a reason and clearly the Manchester United team and Alex Ferguson were made stronger and more determined by what happened in April 1992. This, along with the signing of Eric Cantona from Leeds United and the development of all the players Fergie had signed, made the Manchester United team of 1992-93 into English Champions again. Added to this, we would return to Anfield in 1993 and beat them there – with a Brian McClair winning goal in front of The Kop. Revenge for April 1992’s match. Our fans really celebrated that day and with every single trophy that we’ve won since that day.