Manchester United, Qualified Success

28/05/2017 18:03

Manchester United, Qualified Success

Manchester United have always been linked with European soccer for the simple reason that manager, Matt Busby, who was knighted by England`s queen Elizabeth II, after his team won the 1968 European Cup, and became Sir Matt Busby, took the club into Europe to compete in the European Cup competition in 1956-57, and thereby United became the first English soccer team to compete in what became Europe`s premier contest between respective national soccer champions in a knockout two-leg tournament format, with a single Final game in a neutral European capital to determine which would be Europe`s Champions. Following their league title win the previous season, 1955-56, Manchester United first competed in European football competition in 1956–57. 1954–55 Football League winners Chelsea had been denied the opportunity to take part in the inaugural European Cup by The Football League's chairman Alan Hardaker, who feared that European football would damage the integrity of the English game. However, Matt Busby, the manager of Manchester United, was a forward-thinking man and was determined to have his young team, known as `the Busby Babes`, compete on the European stage. With the backing of The Football Association's chairman, Stanley Rous (who would later go on to become the president of FIFA), Manchester United were allowed to compete in the 1956–57 European Cup culminating with a semi-final tie against Real Madrid. The first leg took United to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, where they were defeated, 3–1, in front of a crowd of 135,000. Although center forward, Tommy Taylor, scored on 82 minutes, 2-1, Enrique Mateos got a third for Madrid a minute after the restart. United were only able to draw 2–2 in the second leg back at Old Trafford, with Taylor and Charlton bringing the team back into the game after they were down, 0-2, and the club's first European season came to an end as Real Madrid went through, 5-3, on aggregate to a Final against Italy`s Fiorentina, which they won, 2-0, to record the second of what would eventually be five consecutive European Cup titles.

 After again winning the English title in 1956-57, Busby`s efforts to win the European Cup were curtailed in February, 1958, when the team that looked like winning its third consecutive English league title met with disaster returning from a European Cup quarter final with Red Star Belgrade that, although the leg ended 3-3, took United through to a semi-final with A.C. Milan, because United had won their home leg at Old Trafford, 2-1, coming from behind to win with goals from forward, Bobby Charlton in the 65th, and half back, Eddie Colman, in the 81st minute, after forward, Lazar Tasić, had opened the scoring for Belgrade in the 35th. The plane bringing the players back to Manchester crashed on take off at Germany`s Munich airport killing eight; reserve left back, Geoff Bent, captain for England and Manchester United, left back, Roger Byne, center half, Mark Jones, half backs Eddie Colman and Duncan Edwards, left wing, David Pegg, center forward, Tommy Taylor, and Ireland`s inside forward, Liam `Billy` Whelan. England`s right wing, Johnny Berry, never played again, and neither did inside forward, Jackie Blanchflower, brother of Danny, who captained Spurs to the league and F.A. Cup `double` in 1961, and said Jackie was a better player. The heart of England`s World Cup squad for Sweden in 1958 was ripped out. A patched up team beat Milan, 2-1, in the first leg, again coming from behind after a strike from inside forward, Pepe Schiaffino, in the 24th minute. United`s center forward, Denis Viollet, who`d scored in the second minute of the 3-3 away draw in Belgrade, before Charlton netted twice more in the 30th and 31st minutes, 3-0, got the equalizer against Milan in the 39th minute, and inside forward, Ernie Taylor, bought from Aston Villa after the disaster, struck home a late penalty in the 80th minute to give the team a slim advantage, but they were overwhelmed, 4-0, at the San Siro in Italy.

 Although Busby`s 1968 European Cup side that beat Benfica, 4-1, after a rare opening headed goal from deep-lying center forward, Bobby Charlton, cancelled out by Portugal`s right wing, Jaime Graca, 1-1, provided players for the successful England World Cup campaign of 1966, that is, right winger, John Connelly, and Charlton and central defender Nobby Stiles, who played in the Final against Germany, which England won, 4-2, it`s sure that soccer history would`ve been different had United`s players that lost their lives in the snow at Munich airport lived. That was but the first setback to United`s campaigning to qualify for and win the top European prizes. Although qualification for the European Cup was simple, the club had to win the league, which it did in 1964-65 and, after losing in the 1966 semi-final to Partizan Belgrade, 1-2, with Nobby Stiles getting United`s only goal in the 1-0 second home leg win in the 72nd minute, the club went on to qualify again by winning the English league in 1966-67, which resulted in the club winning the European Cup of 1968. Teenager Brian Kidd headed in for United`s third against Benfica, and Charlton scored from an acute angle with a dipping volley, 4-1. United would make the semi-final stage against A.C. Milan the following 1968-69 season, but lost, 2-1, on aggregate, with only Charlton replying for the `Red Devils` in the 70th minute of the second leg at Old Trafford, before Milan went on to defeat Ajax, 4-1, in the Final.

 The European Cup Winners Cup was simple too. The F.A. Cup winners qualified, and so Manchester United competed in the 1963-64 competition as winners of the 1963 F.A. Cup Final against Leicester City, with goals from Scots` center forward, Denis Law, and England center forward, David Herd. On 30 minutes, Leicester`s England `keeper, Gordon Banks, opted to bowl the ball out to Scots` inside left, Dave Gibson, which United`s Scots` midfielder, Paddy Crerand,  read. Racing in to intercept twenty-five yards out, Crerand passed to  Law, who turned and fired past Banks and two defenders to open the scoring, 1-0. On 57 minutes a cross field ball from United right wing, Johnny Giles, found Charlton unmarked. He raced into the box, and Banks could only parry the shot into the path of Herd, who tapped into the empty net, 2-0. Leicester center forward, Ken Keyworth, scored from a diving header in the 80th minute, after a weak shot from Scots` central defender, captain Frank McLintock, instead found Keyworth in the United` penalty area, 2-1. In the 85th minute Banks came for a Giles cross, and fumbled the ball into the path of Herd, who turned and fired past two defenders on the goal line, 3-1.

 In an amazing turnaround, Manchester United managed to lose their 1963-64 European Cup Winners Cup quarter-final with Sporting CP, who went on to win the trophy, after United led, 4-1, from their home leg at Old Trafford, but Sporting CP won the away leg, 5-0. Osvaldo da Silva, who`d looked like he`d scored only a consolation goal at Old Trafford, got a hat-trick, and although there`d been a hat-trick from Law in the home leg, before Charlton completed the scoring for United, 4-0, United`s stars didn`t shine in Lisbon. As runners-up in the 1963-64 league championship, United qualified for the Intercity Fairs Cup, which would be renamed the UEFA Cup in 1971 and, when it was amalgamated with the European Cup Winners Cup in 2004, it`d be renamed again as the Europa Cup played for in the UEFA Europa League. Reaching the semi-final stage in 1963-64, United beat Hungary`s Ferencváros, 3-2, with a penalty from Law and two goals from Herd at Old Trafford, but the team lost away, 1-0, in Budapest. Later, away goals counted double in the event of each team scoring the same number of goals, but then an eliminator was played and Ferencváros won, 2-1, with only a late 86th minute goal from England`s right wing, John Connelly replying for United, and Ferencváros went on to beat Italy`s Juventus, 1-0, in the Final.

 Busby`s retirement meant two things for United. The Inter City Fairs Cup had a `one club, one city` qualifying rule, which meant that, if Manchester City`s end of season league position was higher than United`s, if United qualified, they wouldn`t be admitted. The Inter City Fairs Cup`s inauguration was based on the idea that cities where trade fairs occurred would host a soccer tournament, and the first series took place between 1955 and 1958, when Manchester United were either winning the league championship in England (1955-56, 1956-57), or competing in the European Cup as champions (1956-57, 1957-58), before February 6, 1958, when the Munich air crash happened, and before the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, where players from the club were badly missed, and Brazil won the Final, 5-2, despite Sweden taking the lead through captain and inside left, Nils Liedholm. Brazil center forward, Vavá, then scored twice to make it 2-1, and twin striker, Pele, who would go on to win three World Cup Finals with Brazil (1962, 1970), got two more goals, sandwiched between a 68th minute strike from left wing, Mário Zagallo, to make it 5-2, after Sweden`s center forward, Agne Simonsson, had reduced the deficit, 4-2, in the 80th minute. The `one club, one city` rule for the Inter City Fairs Cup was perceived as restrictive by UEFA and the trophy was replaced by the UEFA Cup in 1971, although the number of teams allowed to compete in the Inter City Fairs Cup was now three from each country since 1962, and the `one club, one city` rule had also been abolished. For Manchester United, that meant league position and winning the League Cup were targets. The UEFA Cup came to be known as the `runners-up` Cup, and in England the League Cup Final winners were admitted, which was why a trophy United had seemingly abjured suddenly became important for Wilf McGuinness, Busby`s successor as manager, a coach at the club, who`d played as a half back in the Manchester United youth team of the 1950s, which was very successful, and indeed won the trophy on five occasions; 1952-53, 1953-54, 1954-55, 1955-56, and 1956-57. Wilf had been in the 1953-54 teams that beat Wolves, 5-4, on aggregate over two legs, and the 1954-55 teams that won over West Bromwich Albion, 7-1, and he`d captained the 1955-1956 teams, which defeated Chesterfield, 4-3. In 1956-57 he played 13 times for the team and received a championship medal for his contribution in the days before substitutes were allowed, and a runners-up medal in 1958-59 for his 39 league appearances. He made 19 appearances for the club in 1959-60, before a broken leg ended his career at the age of 22, and he became a coach; eventually replacing Jimmy Murphy as reserve team manager, after Murphy had steered a team featuring George Best to a sixth F. A. Youth Cup Final win in 1964 against Swindon, 5-2, on aggregate.

 Because of the vagaries of the Inter City Fairs Cup`s qualifying rules, Manchester United didn`t compete,  Because of the vagaries of the Inter City Fairs Cup`s qualifying rules, Manchester United didn`t compete, despite apparently qualifying as `runners-up` with the team McGuinness played for on 19 occasions in 1959-60, because the competition was biennial for the 1958-60 seasons. When McGuinness was manager, the UEFA Cup had replaced the Inter City Fairs Cup and winning the League Cup was important as a qualifying trophy. Consequently, United`s defeat in the semi-final stage in 1970, when they lost to Manchester City away, 1-2, and drew at Old Trafford, 2-2, in the second leg, 2-3, on aggregate, and in 1971 when they drew at home, 1-1, before losing away, 1-2, to lose to Aston Villa, 2-3, on aggregate, cost them the chance of qualifying for a place in the UEFA Cup for the 1970-1 season, and 1971-72 by winning the League Cup.  In 1970, a semi-final defeat to Leeds United in the 1969-70 F.A. Cup campaign, a tie that went to three games, after the first ended, 0-0, and the second also ended, 0-0,  before Leeds went through, 0-1, with a goal from Scots` captain and midfield general, Billy Bremner, after failing to qualify through the League Cup, cost Manchester United the chance to qualify for the European Cup Winners Cup by winning the 1970 F.A. Cup Final. McGuinness was criticised for keeping Scots` center forward, Denis Law, on the substitutes` bench throughout, in preference for Carlo Sartori, and failure to qualify for the UEFA Cup, or Cup Winners Cup, ultimately cost McGuinness his job on 29 December, 1970, just days after losing at Villa Park in the 1970-71 League Cup semi-final on December 23. Sir Matt Busby reassumed managerial responsibilities from his position as a director on the club board. McGuinness` failure to qualify for the European Cup, because of United`s failure to win the league, was also a factor in the board`s dismissal, and  Leicester City`s Frank O` Farrell became manager for the 1971-72 season.

 O` Farrell fared little better, and was sacked on December 19, 1972, when the appointment of the manager of Scotland`s national team, Tommy Docherty, was announced. Although Docherty steered United to relegation in 1972-73 amid acrimony over the team`s dismal performances, for example, `keeper Stepney was nominated penalty taker, because the outfield players wouldn`t accept the responsibility, and Irish midfielder, Sammy McIlroy, was top scorer with a paltry 6 goals. Docherty`s team won the Second Division championship in 1974-75, and appeared strong enough to finish third in the league in the 1975-76 season behind second place QPR, and champions, Liverpool, when the team also reached the F.A. Cup Final, which the club was easily expected to win against Southampton. The south coast team absorbed all of the pressure United could put on them to concede a goal, but won, 0-1, after an 83rd minute  Bobby Stokes` strike. Although Manchester United`s third place in the league did qualify the club for a place in the UEFA Cup for the 1976-77 campaign, it was a disappointment, and the team kept its promise to be back the following 1976-77 season and beat Liverpool, 2-1, with a shot on 51 minutes from England center forward, Stuart Pearson, bought by Docherty from Hull for £ 200, 000 to spearhead United`s attack in the Second Division. Pearson`s strike from his run at goal somehow snuck under England `keeper, Ray Clemence, and despite a 53rd minute equalizer from Liverpool`s hard shooting midfielder, Jimmy Case, United won 2-1, after a Lou Macari volley was deflected into the Liverpool net off the chest of Jimmy Greenhoff, who was awarded the goal on 56 minutes.


  United`s UEFA Cup campaign began against Ajax of Amsterdam, who were beaten on aggregate, 2-1, after United lost away, 0-1, and won at Old Trafford, 2-0, with goals on 42 minutes from diminutive Scot, Lou Macari, renowned for his prowess as a header of the ball despite his stature, and bought as a striker from Celtic by Docherty for £ 200, 000, and another in the 65th from Sammy McIlroy, who`d been dubbed `the last of the Busby Babes` when he`d made his debut in a game with Manchester City in which he scored during a 3-3 draw in 1971. United lost in the second round to Juventus of Italy, the eventual winners, despite winning, 1-0, at Old Trafford, thanks to a quick thinking volley from left winger, Gordon Hill, after right winger, Steve Coppell, back headed a forward ball by Northern Ireland`s right back, Jimmy Nicholl, who was out wide on the right and well behind the play,  to where Hill pounced. The partisan atmosphere of the Juventus Stadium in Turin was given as the reason for the defeat of `Doc`s Devils`, as they were known, 0-3. As with Busby`s `Babes`, no one will ever know what Docherty`s team could have achieved, because he was sacked after the Final for an alleged extra-marital affair with club physiotherapist Laurie Brown`s wife, Mary, which was a disaster almost equal to the Munich air crash. QPR manager, Dave Sexton, was subsequently appointed for the 1977-78 season in which United competed in the European Cup Winners Cup. After drawing with French side St. Etienne away, 1-1, United won at Old Trafford, 2-0, to go through to the second round where, in a disastrous tie with Porto of Portugal, United lost 4-0 away, and won, 5-2, at home, so losing 6-5 on aggregate. That the Portuguese conceded two own goals was a sign of the pressure Sexton`s team brought to bear at Old Trafford, but the awful defensive performance away made success a chimera before the game started. The following season Sexton`s United made it to the last minute of the F.A. Cup Final after a fight back from 0-2 down to be drawing 2-2 after goals from Gordon McQueen in the 86th minute, sent to play up front, because all the substitutes had been used, and the center back was injured, so McQueen would be a liability in defence, and midfielder Sammy McIlroy in the 88th minute. McQueen had been bought by Sexton, along with center forward, Joe Jordan, from Leeds United to give the team greater height in defence and attack, so it was a doubly ironic cross from Arsenal left winger, Graham Rix, that found the head of center forward, Alan Sunderland, who nodded it into the net almost on the `keeper`s line on 89 minutes, and Arsenal had won, 3-2.

 Dave Sexton did well in qualifying the club for the UEFA Cup through their league position in 1979-80, when the club finished just two points behind champions, Liverpool. The team lost the last game of the campaign, 0-2, at Leeds United`s Elland Road ground where, if it`d been 1981-82, they`d have had three points to take the title, because it was in 1981-82 that the three points for a win, instead of two, rule came into force in English soccer. As it was, Liverpool lost their final game at MIddlesboro, 0-1, because they could afford to. Even if United had beaten Leeds in the last game of the 1979-80 season, Liverpool`s superior goal difference of 51 would still have meant they`d take the title. In the 1980-81 UEFA Cup campaign, United encountered disappointment against Polish side, Widzew Lodz, drawing, 1-1, at Old Trafford, through a 4th minute Sammy McIlroy low driven shot at the 18 yard line, center, which the `keeper couldn`t stop from reaching the back of the net, left. The Poles responded almost immediately with a long range effort from a direct free kick taken by midfielder, Krzyst of Surlit, in the 6th minute. In Poland United drew, 0-0, so Widzew Lodz went through to the second round, because of the rule that away goals count double in the event of each side scoring the same number. By the commencement of the 1981-82 season, Sexton who`d paid more than £ 1 million for Nottingham Forest center forward, Gary Birtles, who didn`t score, was replaced by West Brom`s Ron Atkinson, who brought dynamic England midfield captain (1980-91), Bryan Robson, from his old club to join him at Old Trafford for £ 1. 5 million. It was Robson that put United ahead in the 1981-82 UEFA Cup second away leg against Spain`s Valencia in the 46th minute after a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, but the team lost, 1-2.

 That 1982-83 season saw Manchester United qualify for the European Cup Winners Cup competition by winning the F.A. Cup, 4-0, against Brighton in a replay after the first game finished, 2-2. Robson had joined England captain (1976-86), Ray `Butch` Wilkins, in United`s midfield. Bought from Chelsea for £ 800, 000  at the start of the 1979-80 season by Dave Sexton, it was a long range 72nd minute floated curling effort underneath the bar from Ray`s left foot, after Dutchman, Arnold Mühren, had found him, with a pass from deep in midfield, on the right edge of the 18 yard box, that put United ahead, 2-1, in the first Final. Brighton`s Scots` center forward, Gordon Smith, headed in from a cross on the right  after 14 minutes. United center forward, Frank Stapleton, bought from Arsenal, where he`d scored for `the Gunners` in the 1979 Final against United, by `Big Ron` Atkinson for £ 900, 000 in 1981-82, tapped in a cross from right full back, Mike Duxbury, that somehow eluded everybody to reach the far post on 55 minutes, before Brighton`s center back, Gary Stevens, scored right footed inside the Reds` penalty area on 87 minutes to force the replay, which began well for United when Welshman, right winger Alan Davies, in for England`s injured Steve Coppell, tapped the ball back to Bryan Robson from left inside the 18 yard box. Robson sent in a low driven shot from towards the left of the 18 yard line to find the right corner of the Brighton net for an opener on 25 minutes, 1-0. Just 17 years old at season`s start, Northern Ireland`s international center forward in the summer`s World Cup FInals, Norman Whiteside, headed in from a right footed Davies cross from the  left of the box five minutes later, 2-0. On 44 minutes Gordon McQueen headed on a free-kick, and the ball fell to Robson to tap in at the far post. The game was put beyond Brighton in the second half when Mühren scored a penalty in the 62nd minute after Robson had been brought down by Stevens.

 Ron Atkinson`s European Cup Winners Cup progress was brought to an end by Juventus at the semi-final stage in 1983-84. United had overcome Spain`s Barca at the quarter-final stage after losing away, 0-2,  a game young Scots` center back, Graeme Hogg, would remember for his 33rd minute  own goal. United won at Old Trafford, 3-0, with two goals from Robson and another from Stapleton. Juvé`s opener came on 14 minutes from a right footed shot just outside the 18 yard box by center forward, Paolo Rossi, who`d been the goalscoring sensation of Italy`s successful 1982 World Cup campaign, scoring Italy`s first in a 3-1 defeat of Germany in the Final. After a long lob from over on the left from left full back, Arthur Albiston, causing confusion in the Juventus` goalmouth, the ball fell to Davies who put it away on 36 minutes. United now needed to win away. Polish midfielder, Zbigniew Boniek, scored left footed for Juvé after a long through ball on 13 minutes, but substitute Whiteside, on for Stapleton on 62 minutes, equalized on 70 minutes after defensive midfielder, Paul McGrath, backheeled the ball to him in the Juvé 6 yard box. Unfortunately for United, Paolo Rossi got the last gasp winner on 90 minutes with his left boot from the left side of the 6 yard box, and Juventus were through to the Final where they beat Porto, 2-1.

 Before the 1984-85 season began, Wilkins, who`d come to the notice of the Italian giants during the European Cup Winners Cup campaign, was transferred to A.C. Milan, and Norman Whiteside made the switch from the forward line to midfield that, amongst others, Sammy McIlroy had done before him. Having qualified for the UEFA Cup by finishing in fourth place in the league, because Everton won the F.A. Cup, and lost to Liverpool in the League Cup Final, while Liverpool also won the title, which meant Everton would play in the European Cup Winners Cup, while Liverpool would compete in the European Cup, and the League Cup wouldn`t produce a UEFA Cup qualifier, so United`s fourth place did. The team progressed to the quarter-finals, where a Frank Stapleton goal on 60 minutes beat Hungary`s Videoton, 1-0, at Old Trafford, but the team lost, 0-1 away at Videoton`s Sóstói stadium in the west of Hungary`s city of Székesfehérvár, and then went out of the competition, 4-5, on penalties. Success came for United in the F.A. Cup Final after a Norman Whiteside run from far out on the right into the corner of the 18 yard box from where his left footed strike curled in past Everton `keeper Neville Southall at the far post in the 110th minute of extra time. The team were down to ten men with center back, Kevin Moran, sent off in the 78th minute for a professional foul on Peter Reid, who would have been clear through on goal, so it was vital that Whiteside scored.

 Although Manchester United qualified for the 1985-86 European Cup Winners Cup competition, disturbances at the Hysels Stadium, Brussels, Belgium, during the European Cup Final between England`s Liverpool and Italy`s Juventus, which the Italians won, 1-0, with a 58th minute penalty from midfield Frenchman, Michel Platini, saw England`s teams banned from European tournaments until 1990-91, when Manchester United again under the managership of Scot, Alex Ferguson, competed in the European Cup Winners Cup, after winning the F.A. Cup Final of 1989-90 defeating Crystal Palace after a run down the length of the pitch by Lee Martin, from his left full back position, ended with Neil Webb diverting the ball into his path, and he crashed in the only goal of the replay into the top left corner of the Palace net on 59 minutes. The first game had ended, 3-3. On 17 minutes, Palace`s center back, Gary O'Reilly, headed in from a free-kick. On 35 minutes, Brian McClair, converted from a striker`s role into midfield, like so many of his predecessors, made a run down the right wing, and floated a cross to the back post, where United captain, Bryan Robson, headed in, 1-1, on 35 minutes. In the second half, a cross-shot from right midfielder, Neil Webb, bought from Nottingham Forest by Alex Ferguson, for £ 1. 5 million, found its way to Wales` center forward, Mark Hughes, who`d been the club`s top scorer for consecutive seasons, 1984-85 (16) and 1985-86 (17), before being sold by Atkinson to Barcelona for £ 2 million, and who, brought back for the 1988-89 season by Atkinson`s Scottish successor, Ferguson, now fired low and into the corner on 62 minutes. Palace substitute, forward Ian Wright, had an immediate impact on 72 minutes, when he ran past United defenders to slot past Scots` `keeper, Jim Leighton, 2–2. In extra time Palace winger, John Salako, floated a cross to the back post where Wright volleyed in on 92 minutes, 2-3. In the second period of extra time, United`s winger, Danny Wallace, provided a through ball for Hughes to chase, and he calmly angled the ball past the onrushing Palace `keeper, Nigel Martyn, 3-3, on 113 minutes. Scotland `keeper Leighton took so much criticism for his failure to prevent Palace scoring, Ferguson replaced him for the replay with Les Sealey, who kept a clean sheet, and never looked back.

 After the Final, Ferguson signed right full back, Denis Irwin, from Oldham Athletic for £ 625, 000, who`d impressed the manager during the F.A. Cup semi-final against Oldham, which `Fergie`s Fledglings` won, 2-1, a replay after a 3-3 draw. Oldham had taken the lead after United `keeper , Jim Leighton, fumbled a low cross and center forward, Earl Barrett, stroked it into the net on 6 minutes. United`s equalizer came on 29 minutes when Robson, put through on goal, sent the ball right footed past the onrushing `keeper, low, and into the left corner of the net. The `Red Devils` took the lead when left back, Colin Gibson, headed a long ball from out on the right back across the Oldham 18 yard box into the penalty area, where Neil Webb`s head looped the ball over the `keeper into the Oldham goal on 72 minutes. On 75 minutes United failed to clear a cross from the right, and center forward, Ian Marshall, volleyed right footed into the net. In extra time, and fresh enough to chase a long ball, winger Danny Wallace, on as a substitute in the 92nd minute, found the right corner of the Oldham goal with a left footed shot. A cross from the left found Oldaham substitute, Roger Palmer, at the far post in the 113th minute, who eased the ball into the United net with his right boot, and Oldham were level, 3-3. In the replay a low, bobbling left wing cross from Danny Wallace, on 50 minutes, took a deflection from an Oldham defender, and found McClair at the far post where, right footed, he struck the ball into the net. On 81 minutes, a cross from the right found ex-United center forward, Andy Ritchie, waiting at the left of the six yard box, to loft the ball right footed into the roof of the United net. It wasn`t until the 113th minute of extra time that United center forward, Mark Robins, on for left back, Lee Martin, received a pass from United midfielder, Mike Phelan, who`d chased a long ball down the inside right channel. Running with the ball into the 18 yard box, Robins struck right footed into the left corner of the Oldham goal, 2-1.
 After the Final, Ferguson signed right full back, Denis Irwin, from Oldham Athletic for £ 625, 000, who`d impressed the manager during the F.A. Cup semi-final against Oldham, which `Fergie`s Fledglings` won, 2-1, a replay after a 3-3 draw. Oldham had taken the lead after United `keeper , Jim Leighton, fumbled a low cross and center forward, Earl Barrett, stroked it into the net on 6 minutes. United`s equalizer came on 29 minutes when Robson, put through on goal, sent the ball right footed past the onrushing `keeper, low, and into the left corner of the net. The `Red Devils` took the lead when left back, Colin Gibson, headed a long ball from out on the right back across the Oldham 18 yard box into the penalty area, where Neil Webb`s head looped the ball over the `keeper into the Oldham goal on 72 minutes. On 75 minutes United failed to clear a cross from the right, and center forward, Ian Marshall, volleyed right footed into the net. In extra time, and fresh enough to chase a long ball, winger Danny Wallace, on as a substitute in the 92nd minute, found the right corner of the Oldham goal with a left footed shot. A cross from the left found Oldaham substitute, Roger Palmer, at the far post in the 113th minute, who eased the ball into the United net with his right boot, and Oldham were level, 3-3. In the replay a low, bobbling left wing cross from Danny Wallace, on 50 minutes, took a deflection from an Oldham defender, and found McClair at the far post where, right footed, he struck the ball into the net. Oldham`s team that day included ex-United center forward, Andy Ritchie who, aged 18, had scored a first hat-trick (3) for Dave Sexton`s United on March 24, 1979, at home to Leeds in a 4-1 victory. In that 1978-79 season, Ritchie scored 10 goals in 16 full appearances, and was second top scorer after center forward, Jimmy Greenhoff (11), and right winger, Steve Coppell (11).  Despite getting another hat-trick against Spurs on April 12, 1980, at Old Trafford in another 4-1 victory, and in a season when United finished `runners-up in the 1979-80 league championship, Ritchie was sold by Sexton`s successor, `Big Ron` Atkinson, to Oldham during the 1980-81 season. Consequently, the semi-final of 1989-90 was a special occasion for Ritchie. So, on 81 minutes, when a cross from the right found Ritchie waiting at the left of the six yard box, he delightedly lofted the ball right footed into the roof of the United net. It wasn`t until the 113th minute of extra time that United center forward, Mark Robins, on for left back, Lee Martin, received a pass from United midfielder, Mike Phelan, who`d chased a long ball down the inside right channel. Running with the ball into the 18 yard box, Robins struck right footed into the left corner of the Oldham goal, 2-1.
 
 

 Though United couldn`t qualify for European competition until 1990-91, when they eventually defeated Barcelona, 2-1, in the Final with a brace of goals from Mark Hughes, the absence of the possibility of European qualification doubtless affected their efforts. United went 1-0 up on 67 minutes following a free-kick from captain, Bryan Robson, which was headed goalwards by defender Steve Bruce. United striker Mark Hughes tapped the ball over the line. Hughes cut the ball into the net from such an acute angle for the second that he had to spin it off the outside of his boot to ensure that it found its mark on 74 minutes. Dutchman Ronald Koeman's late free kick, which came off the upright and hit the legs of United keeper Les Sealey before crossing the line, reduced the deficit on 79 minutes. Having finished fourth in 1985-86, eleventh was the best they could do in 1986-87, and of course it was in 1987-88 that Alex Ferguson, then Aberdeen`s manager, was asked to replace `Big Ron` Atkinson. Ferguson almost immediately signed Brian McClair from Celtic for £ 850, 000, center half, Steve Bruce from Norwich City at Christmas for £ 900, 000, and 17 year old left winger, Lee Sharpe, from Torquay United for £ 200, 000 in April for the start of the 1988-89 season. The club were runners-up to Liverpool with 81 points, losing only 5 games, although the Merseyside giants lost only 2, and finished with 90 points as champions. Although United finished in only thirteenth place in the league in 1989-90 and Ferguson`s tenure as manager looked less than assured, the transfers of midfielder, Mike Phelan, from Norwich City for £ 750, 000, central defender, Gary Pallister, from Middlesboro for £ 2. 3 million, and West Ham midfield maestro, Paul Ince, for £ 1. 7 million showed that the club meant business, and the team`s success in the F.A. Cup Final replay, 1-0, ultimately resulted in their winning the 1990-91 European Cup Winners Cup against Barcelona, 2-1, and the Final of the European Super Cup at the beginning of the following 1991-92 season, which they`d qualified for as the winners of the European Cup Winners Cup. The team duly dispatched European Cup winners, Red Star Belgrade, 1-0, with a goal from Brian McClair on 67 minutes. In the inside left position, McClair was awarded a free-kick for a foul against him 30 yards from goal. Irwin played the free kick into the penalty area. Neil Webb caught Belgrade forward, Dejan Savićević, in possession after an attempted clearance. After beating defender, Duško Radinović, on the edge of the box, Webb hit a shot that struck the foot of the right-hand post and bounced back into the center, where an unmarked McClair struck the ball into the net, and Manchester United`s thirst for European glory remained unquenchable.