As Manchester United fans, we’re extremely fortunate to support a team with such an incredible history made up of so many special moments, players and matches to be proud of. Our history is an extremely important part of what makes Manchester United the club that it is today and we should all be immensely proud of this. It is also enjoyable to look back on events and seasons which helped to shape the way that the club has developed over the years as well.
A question that is sometimes discussed by United fans is, “If you could go back in time and watch a Manchester United season again, which one would it be?” The answers to this question usually include the following:-
- From the Alex Ferguson Years – the 1998-99 Treble Season, the 2007-08 League and Champions League winning Season, The Double winning seasons of 1993-94 and 1995-96, our 1st League Title winning Season for 26 years in 1992-93 and 1990 for the FA Cup win marking Ferguson’s 1st trophy at United, followed by winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following season.
- From Ron Atkinson – it would be the FA Cup winning seasons of 1982-83 and 1984-85 especially for for the great semi-finals they involved.
- The 1970’s and Tommy Docherty would be for the season in Division 2 in 1974-75 where they won automatic promotion back to the top flight at the 1st attempt and the 1976-77 Season for that great FA Cup Final win over Liverpool at Wembley.
- For Sir Matt Busby – there are many seasons that stand out – 1947-48 for his 1st FA Cup win, 1951-52 for his 1st League title, 1955-58 for the Busby Babes and 1965-88 for the 2 League Titles and European Cup, plus players like Best, Law and Charlton.
- Finally, for the real students of United’s history – there is the period between 1908 and 1911 when the club won its first 2 League titles , its first FA Cup and moved to Old Trafford.
So many great seasons to choose from, makes it a difficult decision for many fans.
For myself, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have witnessed the Ferguson years in person being at the matches, so I would not choose one of those seasons to re-live and would go for one before my time. In terms of the football on the pitch I’d consider going for one of the Busby seasons, but for support, atmosphere and fan culture, my choice would be to go back in time and experience the incredible 1974-75 season, and attend all the matches home and away from that season. In particular, because of our amazing away support, I would choose that 1974-75 season.
When Manchester United were relegated at the end of the 1973-74 season, it was seen as a disaster for the club who, only 6 years earlier, had been Champions of Europe. However instead of turning out to be a disaster, the 1974-75 season would turn out to be a classic one for the team and especially for Manchester United’s support. The team had been in decline ever since 1969 and relegation to the 2nd Division provided the wake up call that the club needed. The result was some really impressive performances, with United finishing top and securing automatic promotion to the 1st Division again. In addition, what was impressive was that the fans really stuck behind the club during this time. During the 1973-74 Season, Manchester United were still the best supported club in England with an average home attendance of 42,721 despite poor performances on the pitch. However during the 1974-75 season, they would not only remain the best supported club, but the average home attendance went up considerably to 48,388. In particular, it was the club’s support at away games which would really stand out. This season really was the start of the Red Army invasions. I would loved to have been a part of that support that season and visited all those away grounds supporting United. The downside to this was the trouble and violence that many of our supporters caused on these away trips, which was a sign of the times in football all over England then and would remain so until the end of the 1980’s. Despite this trouble, United’s support that season was incredible and must have been a huge encouragement to the United players who knew they had the mass backing of their supporters.
The scale of our away support during the 1974-75 Season is probably best summed up below. I have taken this list from the excellent book ‘Red Army Years’ by Richard Kurt and Chris Nickeas, with the attendances compiled by United fan Andy Pollard:-
|Away Opponent||Attendance||Number of Reds|
Those followings are incredible and clearly set the pattern from then on for Manchester United to have the strongest away support in English football, something that as United fans we should be incredibly proud of.
Nowadays, it’s more difficult with reduced allocations – particularly at places like Sunderland and Middlesbrough. However, for me personally, I have been fortunate to be a part of some great away followings in my years as a United supporter under Sir Alex Ferguson. Taking away our hugely impressive support at all the domestic finals and semi-finals, plus the European finals in Rotterdam, Barcelona and Rome, the ones that stand out are:-
- 1992-93 Coventry City away – with United chasing their 1st league title in 26 years, approximately half of the 24,000+ crowd in Highfield Road that day were United fans.
- 1992-93 – Wimbledon away – league title celebration – approximately 25,000 out of 30,000 fans at Selhurst Park that day were United fans. There was always a similar sort of attendance each season that we played Wimbledon there.
- 1996-97 – Porto away – 10,000+ United fans there, unfortunately the Stadio das Antas and the police and stewards there couldn’t cope with the vast numbers of our fans that night.
- 2004-05 – AC Milan away – 10,000 United fans there. Bad result though.
- 2007-08 – Wigan away – Over 8,000 United fans on all sides of the crowd watching United claim their 17th League Title.
- Each Season – Blackburn away – our best allocation of the season sees 8,000 United fans travelling to Ewood Park.
- 2007-08 – Champions League Final – despite the huge costs involved for flights and accommodation and visa issues, over 21,000 United fans made the trip to Moscow to support our team there.
What really stands out in these figures is how the fans have always remained loyal to the club, through both successful and lean years. After returning to the top flight in 1975, the years that followed was hardly the most exciting or trophy laden patch in the club’s history, yet the fans stuck by the club, as United continued to have the highest average attendances in England. Our support now is following in a great tradition set by these fans – many of whom are still following the club home and away to this day.