09/07/2016 12:06

Manchester United`s Establishment

Sir Alex Ferguson introduced the squad rotation system at Manchester United during his tenure as manager based on money for expensive transfer fees paid for players coming in from other clubs, along with the promotion of more inexpensive junior talent, which afforded the team the opportunity of having a large pool of good players to achieve success on the pitch at `the Theater of Dreams`. From the Academy and on to the field of play at the Old Trafford stadium, where they plied their honed skills, `Fergie`s Fledglings` were left winger, Ryan Giggs, right winger, David Beckham, midfield dynamo, Paul Scholes, the industrious utility player, Nicky Butt, and full backs Gary and Phil Neville who, along with transferred talent, would eventually win the European Cup against Bayern Munich, 1-2, in Spain at F.C. Barcelona`s Camp Nou stadium, and after goals from center forward, Teddy Sheringham, bought from Spurs for £3.5 million at the start of the 1997-8 season, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who`d arrived from Norwegian`s Molde for £1.5 at the start of 1996-7. The goals in the 91st and 93rd minutes surprised a German team that had led since the 6th minute through a low free kick from forward, Mario Basler, which was awarded after United center back, Ronny Johnsen, brought down Carsten Jancker. With his right foot Basler bent the ball around the United wall from just outside the penalty area, and into the net beyond Danish `keeper Peter Schmeichel.

 The Germans led until United`s despair ended in a late attacking flourish of the never say die footballing style for which they are justifiably famed. United had a corner, and with little time left `keeper Schmeichel, who`d scored in similar circumstances, ventured up to Bayern's penalty area. Beckham flighted the corner in just over Schmeichel's head, and center forward, Dwight Yorke, 18 goals in the league that season, put the ball back towards the crowded area. Bayern substitute midfielder, Thorsten Fink, had been brought on by Bayern manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, who`d receive much criticism for it, because Fink replaced sweeper Lothar Matthäus, 37 years of age, and Hitzfeld clearly felt he was a tired risk by the 80th minute, but Fink failed to clear a ball that probably wouldn`t ever have troubled Matthäus, and the ball arrived at the feet of Ryan Giggs, whose shot fortuitously found Sheringham, who latched onto it gleefully to swipe it into the bottom corner of the net with his right boot. Neither Sheringham nor Solskjaer were chosen to start against Bayern, and as Sheringham was on for left winger, Jesper Blomqvist, in the 67th minute, Solskjaer, who`d scored 12 league goals that season, replaced center forward, Andy Cole (17), in the 81st minute almost immediately after Lothar Matthäus left the fray.

 Sheringham had scored only twice in the league, but had redeemed himself by scoring with a low drive under Newcastle `keeper Steve Harper after a through ball from Scholes, in the F.A. Cup Final, which United won, 2-0, and so Sheringham had been picked to be amongst the substitutes. Within 30 seconds of the restart after Sheringham`s substitute`s strike, another Beckham corner found the head of Sheringham, who nodded the ball down across the face of goal to where Solskjær, reacting quickly, stuck out his boot and poked the ball into the roof of the Bayern net. Matthäus` departure had ultimately sunk Bayern, and Hitzfelt was blamed, but United`s never say die attitude had won through for them again and the European Cup was theirs for only the second time in the club`s history since Benfica were beaten, 4-1, at London`s Wembley stadium in 1968. Although success in the F.A. Cup Final of 2016 seems like small potatoes in comparison, the modern soccer methodology of a large squad to pick a winning combination from was as much in evidence as it was when Ferguson`s team succeeded in the league, F.A. Cup, and European cup treble of 1999.

 The Manchester United squad that won the European Cup in 1968 contained only fifteen players to make more than 10 starts that season; `keeper Alex Stepney (41), full backs Shay Brennan (13), Francis Burns (36) and Tony Dunne (37); midfielders Pat Crerand (41), John Fitzpatrick (14) and Bobby Charlton (41); center backs Bill Foulkes (24), David Sadler (40) and Nobby Stiles (20); wingers John Aston, Jr. (34) and George Best (41); and forwards Brian Kidd (38) and Denis Law (23). Consequently, due to necessity United can be said to have used only four players in 1968, apart from their first choice starting eleven, because of injury to prolific striker, Denis Law, that is, the European Cup was won with a twelve man squad, whereas Ferguson`s squad contained 18 players to start more than 10 games, and Sheringham and Solskjaer, the heroes of the Nou Camp, weren`t among them. Even though Solskjaer scored 12 goals that season, he started 9 and was sub in 10, while Sheringham, who scored the opening goal in the 11th minute in the F.A. Cup Final defeat of Newcastle, 2-0, started 7 and was sub in 10. Consequently, Ferguson`s treble success was based on a much larger pool of established stars (20) than Sir Matt Busby`s 1968 squad, a formula United continued to apply in the aftermath of the retirement of Ferguson, and which bore fruit for Dutch manager, Louis Van Gaal, in the F.A. Cup Final defeat of Crystal Palace, 2-1, in 2016. What that proved was that a team that wasn`t established could win a major trophy, because the club had a squad that was strong enough to survive rotation with success.

 Surviving squad rotation with success was what Sir Alex Ferguson had planned for after his retirement as the most successful manager United ever had. In his last season before Everton manager, David Moyes, was appointed largely on the strength of being able to keep Everton in the Premier League for 11 seasons, Ferguson won the title with a rotating squad strength of 18 players who started more than 10 games; and central England midfielder, Paul Scholes, coaxed out of premature retirement for 8 starts and 8 substitute appearances, while Mexico`s Javier Hernández, in the tradition of Sheringham and Solskjaer, was third top scorer, after Robin Van Persie (26) and Wayne Rooney (12), with 10 goals from only 9 starts. The players who started more than 10 games were; `keeper David De Gea (28); full backs Rafael (27) and Patrice Evra (34);  center backs Rio Ferdinand (26), Jonny Evans (21), Nemanja Vidić (18), Phil Jones (13) and Chris Smalling (10); wingers Antonio Valencia (24), Ashley Young (17) and Ryan Giggs (12); midfielders; Michael Carrick (34), Tom Cleverley (18) and Shinji Kagawa (17); and forwards Robin van Persie (35), Wayne Rooney (22) and Danny Welbeck (13). Five of those players were in the team that beat Crystal Palace, 2-1, in the F.A. Cup Final of 2016; De Gea, Valencia (playing right back), Smalling (sent off in the 105th minute), Carrick, and Rooney. Two more were among the substitutes; utility defender Phil Jones, and left winger, Ashley Young, who came on for injured striker, Marcus Rashford, in the 72nd minute. Jessie Lingard, who`d substituted for the scorer of the 81st minute first goal for United, Spain`s Juan Mata, and became the winning goalscorer in the 110th minute, with a powerful volley from inside the area to the top left corner of the net, had been signed by Ferguson at 7 years of age, and had played on the left wing in the side that won the F.A. Youth Cup in 2011; 6-3 on aggregate; 2-2, and 4-1.

 Ferguson`s modern model of building an in depth squad to survive the rigors of changes in manager as well as the vicissitudes of fate and an ageing team had succeeded. Although Moyes and his successor, Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, bought well, and promoted youth when necessary, it was Ferguson`s plan that won for United. In what turned out to be Gaal`s final season before the much heralded arrival of Portugal`s Jose Mourinho as manager, Gaal used 16 players with more than 10 starts to their names, and Ferguson`s Ecuadorian buy for the start of the 2009-10 season, right winger Antonio Valencia, who came from Wigan for £16 million, made the Final line up in the wing back position, with only 8 starts in 2015-16. The players making more than 10 starts were; `keeper De Gea; full backs Matteo Darmian (24) and Marcos Rojo (15); center backs Chris Smalling (35) and Daley Blind (35); wingers Memphis Depay (16), Jesse Lingard (19) and Ashley Young (11); midfielders Juan Mata (34), Morgan Schneiderlin (25), Michael Carrick (22), Ander Herrera (17), Bastian Schweinsteiger (13) and Marouane Fellaini (12); and forwards Anthony Martial (29), Wayne Rooney (27) and Marcus Rashford (11). Of those 17 players, 7 were Ferguson`s, and his formula of a squad strong in depth, with flexibility enough to admit of a few mistakes, was a proven success: United had survived to triumph.

22/05/2016 11:45

12 Cups

Manchester United won the F.A. Cup Final on Saturday, May 21, at London`s national Wembley stadium, to conclude the pursuit for English soccer`s domestic honors in the 2015-16 season with a goal from just inside the Crystal Palace `keeper`s area. England`s Jesse Lingard demonstrated the virtue of players who`re able to seize upon a chance to instantly accept the direct route to a goal when it`s afforded. Often players shy away from taking opportunities, because they`re conditioned to weave a strategy of passes, before attempting a planned coup de grace. Lingard demonstrated the ideal footballer`s brain able to score when the opportunity offers. Rejecting the conditioning imposed upon players to rely on teamwork and industry, Jesse Lingard, who was preparing to play his usual part in a structured United passing build up, suddenly saw the ball bounce in front of him and to the right of the Crystal Palace goal and crashed the ball right footed into the top left corner in the 110th minute of extra time. Down to ten men, after center back Chris Smalling received a second yellow card for a bookable offence and was sent off in the 105th minute, the Red Devils from Manchester then had ten minutes to ride out before the trophy could be placed in the hands of deep lying center forward, captain Wayne Rooney ,12 years at the `theater of dreams` since being transferred from David Moyes` Everton to Sir Alex Ferguson`s Manchester United for £25. 6 million in August 2004 when Wayne was 19 years old.

 When the 2016 F.A. Cup Final medal was handed over, Rooney had scored 178 league goals for 5 league championship triumphs (2006–7, 2007–8, 2008–9, 2010–11, 2012–13), 2 League Cups (2005–6 against Wigan Athletic, 4-0, and 2009–10 against Aston Villa, 2-1), the European Cup (2007-8) against Chelsea on penalties, 6-5, after extra time, 1-1, and the 2008 World Club Cup against Ecuador`s LDU Quito, 1-0, in which Wayne scored that goal.  The role of the deep lying center forward has become a tradition at the club since England legend, Bobby Charlton, played in that position in the 1966 World Cup win at Wembley, after performing the same role in United`s first 1960s success, 3-1, against the 2015-16 league champions, Leicester City, in the F.A. Cup Final of 1963. Charlton`s was a role culminating in the club`s 1968 European Cup Final win over Benfica, again at Wembley, 4-1, and which began with a rare headed Charlton goal in the 53rd minute. Charlton, like Lingard, changed his style and took the direct route to a goal when opportunity afforded, rather than prettify the pitch with over elaboration.

 Although Lingard was in manager Alex Ferguson`s squad for the 2012-13 season in which the team won the league championship, he didn`t play. That trophy winning season was the last with Ferguson in charge, and the following season Everton`s David Moyes was brought in to take over after Sir Alex retired due to ill health. Moyes` sojourn at the Old Trafford stadium wasn`t a success. His big chance came against Sunderland in the 2014 League Cup semi-final. The team lost the first leg away, 1-2, but won the second leg at the `theater of dreams`, 2-1, and then squandered the opportunity to go to Wembley by losing on penalties. When Brazilian right full back Rafael, missed the last of five chances, the team had lost 1-2, with only Scots` midfielder, Darren Fletcher, finding the net for the reds.

 Dutchman Louis Van Gaal`s acceptance of the job after the Netherlands` relative success at the 2014 World Cup finishing in third place after beating Brazil, 3-0, with goals from United`s then center forward, Robin Van Persie, and center back to come, Daley Blind, who was a part of the new boss`s period of transition. Transfer fees were paid for players, for example, Blind from Ajax of Amsterdam for £13. 8 million, who came and went in rapid succession, like Real Madrid`s left footed Ángel Di Maria, bought for £59. 7 m on August 26, 2014, as a winger, and sold on to Paris Saint Germain for £44 m on August 6, 2015, as Van Gaal looked for a pattern of play acceptable to his vision. And of course Ferguson`s legacy went deep. Although Lingard didn`t play in United`s 2012-13 league title season, it was the 13th for Ferguson, and Lingard`s presence in the squad was an indication of the depth of resources available to Moyes and Van Gaal if they were able to deploy them well. Five of the 2012-13 championship winning United regulars were in the team for the F.A. Cup Final against Crystal Palace, along with winger Ashley Young (17 appearances, and 2 as a substitute in 2012-13), who came on as substitute for youthful center forward prodigy, 18 year old Marcus Rashford, in the 72nd minute of the 2016 F.A. Cup Final. Moyes` purchase, Juan Mata, United`s right winger for the three seasons since Moyes arranged his transfer from Chelsea on January 25, 2014, for £37. 1 million, equalized Palace`s 78th minute goal by midfielder, Jason Puncheon, after fine work from Rooney (22 appearances, 5 as substitute in 2012-13), on the right who, riding tackles, held on to the ball for what seemed an age, before lifting over the heads of the surprised defense a looping lob to the left of the penalty area that Moyes` September 2, 2013, £27.5 million buy from his former club, Everton, Belgium`s midfielder, Marouane Fellaini, chested down in the 81st minute for Spain`s Juan Mata to strike the ball into the left corner of the net with his left boot, and with no small degree of delighted panache.

 Ferguson protégé Jesse Lingard, who came on for Mata in the 90th minute, and Ashley Young (72nd) substituting for the injured Marcus Rashford later joined the starting line-up on the pitch, which included deep-lying center forward, Wayne Rooney, heroes of Ferguson`s era who wouldn`t be denied. Spain`s David De Gea (28 appearances in 2012-13), brought from Real Madrid for £17. 8 million by Ferguson to keep goal, was still there, and Antonio Valencia (24 appearances, and 6 as a substitute in 2012-13), the Ecuadorian right-winger bought from Wigan in 2009 for £16 million, switched to right full back occasionally by Ferguson, had learned enough in that position to play his part in the victory. England`s Chris Smalling (10 appearances, and 5 as a substitute in 2012-13), bought from Fulham in 2010, and for an undisclosed fee thought to be around £8 million, after a fine losing display, 1-2, to Atlético Madrid in the Europa Cup Final, was in central defense, and Michael Carrick (34 appearances, and 2 as a substitute in 2012-13), bought by Ferguson from Spurs on July 31, 2006, for £18.6 million still epitomized the English central midfielder`s passing role. England defender Phil Jones (13 appearances, and 4 as a substitute in 2012-13), bought by Ferguson for around £16. 5 million from Blackburn before the 2011-12 season, contributed another 6 (4) league appearances from players of the Ferguson era during the 2015-16 campaign for honors that began in the F.A. Cup against Sheffield United on January 9, 2015, and nearly didn`t, because it took a 93rd minute penalty from Rooney to snatch a 0-1 win away.

 Plus factors for Van Gaal were the emergence of young center forward, Marcus Rashford, who replaced Anthony Martial against Denmark`s Midtijylland for a Europa Cup tie at Old Trafford on February 25, 2016, when Martial was injured warming up. Bought from A.S. Monaco for a fee that could amount to £58 million, the then 19 year old French striker, Martial, subsequently top scored in the league campaign with 11 goals from 31 appearances, while Rashford emerged as the second striker who`d take United to Wembley with two goals against Midtjylland in that second round, second leg 5–1 Europa Cup win at home. Losing in the third round of the Europa Cup, 1-3, on aggregate to the English team, Liverpool, that went on to lose in the Final to Spain`s FC Sevilla, 1-3, United`s last hopes of a trophy in the 2015-16 season was the F.A. Cup, and another of `Fergie`s Fledglings`, Uruguayan right back Guilermo Varela, signed on June 11, 2013, from Peñarol in a €2. 8 million deal arranged by Sir Alex, was called upon to strengthen the defense in the absence of recognized strikers in the earlier rounds of the F.A. Cup against Derby (4th), 3-1, Shrewsbury (5th), 3-0, and the quarter final at Old Trafford against West Ham, 1-1, which the team won in the replay away, 2-1.

 Martial scored an 83rd minute equalizer against West Ham at Old Trafford when Spain`s midfielder, Ander Herrera, bought for €36 million on June 26, 2014, from Spain`s Athletic Bilbao, crossed from wide on the right to the far post where Martial was waiting to spoon the ball into the net with his left foot. That strike forced a quarter final replay, and Rashford scored the first goal at Upton Park in the 54th minute after Martial sidefooted a pass with his right foot from central midfield to Rashford wide on the right of the `keeper`s area, and as Rashford ran on towards goal and the defenders closed in, he sent a strike curling around a beaten defender into the top right corner of the net. Fellaini added a second in the 67th minute without Palace replying, after a complicated buildup in which Daley Blind, from central midfield, sent a forty yard pass to Fellaini deep to the back of the West Ham area. Fellaini brought the ball down on his chest and passed it right footed to Lingard, who took the ball to the touchline at the right of the goalmouth before crossing with his right boot to Martial, who drilled it right footed into the penalty area where Fellaini was now prowling the goalmouth, and Fellaini tapped the ball nonchalantly home with his left foot.

 The eventual result, 2-1, after a 79th minute headed consolation goal for West Ham from defender, James Tomkins, took United through to a semi-final against Everton, which the reds won 2-1 with an injury time goal from Martial in the 93rd minute. Rooney, in central midfield, had picked out Martial wide on the left, and Martial had moved infield to play a one-two with Marcus Rashford, and then another with Ander Herrera, who played him on and into the area. Martial surged between two defenders and, as the `keeper came out to narrow the angle, struck with his right boot to send the ball around the `keeper`s despairing grasp and into the right side of the net. Martial`s goal came after a 57th minute missed penalty by Everton`s Belgian striker, Romelu Lukaku, after United`s 18 year old Dutch right back, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, brought down Everton`s attacking midfielder, Ross Barkley, and a 75th minute own goal by United center back, Chris Smalling who, covering `keeper De Gea`s near post, deflected into the net a cross from Spanish right winger, Gerard Deulofeu. Martial himself had made the first United goal for Fellaini in the 34th minute. Pulling the ball back sharply from the touchline at the left side of the goal for the Belgian to sidefoot past the `keeper`s right with his left boot, Martial`s contribution that day earned him his place in the Final at Wembley.

 The other members of the F.A. Cup Final team that were entirely Van Gaal`s were Marcus Rojo at left back, the Argentine defender, and Copa Libertadores winner with Estudiantes in 2009, who bought from Portugal`s Sporting Lisbon for £16 million as an attacking left sided defender on August 19, 2014, was injured in the F.A. Cup Final and substituted in the 66th minute by Gaal`s other fullback buy from Italy`s Torino for £12. 7 million, Matteo Darmian, winning his first honor at Wembley. Although Guilermo Varela`s added steel at right back against Derby in the 4th round, 3-1, Shrewsbury in the 5th, 3-0, and West Ham in the first quarter final, 1-1, gave strength in defense to a United team in desperate need of strikers, before the purchase of Martial, and Rashford`s sudden emergence to score the first goal in the quarter final replay victory against West Ham, Gaal`s preference for former right winger, Antonio Valencia at right full back, and the purchase of then 18 year old left back, Luke Shaw, from Southampton for £30 million on June 27, 2014, suggested neither Varela, Rojo nor Darmian figure in Van Gaal`s projected future after the Final.

 Marcus Rashford managed 5 goals in 11 league appearances as a teenage forward in 2015-16 in stark contrast to Wayne Rooney`s 8 from 28 appearances, given Rooney`s own goals` statistics from 2009-10, when he scored 26 goals in 32 appearances, and 27 goals after 34 appearances in 2011-12. United`s 2016 F.A. Cup Final success 2-1 against Crystal Palace could be a swan song for Rooney and an exciting yet fading memory for some of the successes on May 21, 2016. Even that of injured teenage scoring sensation, Rashford, whose place in the side was taken by the eventual scorer of the winning goal on the day, Jesse Lingard.

12/05/2015 11:01

Bryan Robson And Steven Gerrard


Leeds United`s center back, Norman Hunter, was often blamed for failing to make a tackle wide on the England right on the half way line against Poland in 1973, which resulted in a goal for Jan Domarski from a simple through ball from the winger Hunter had failed to dispossess. Grezgorz Lato honed in from wide on the left and, ignoring the alarming figures of Derby County center back, Roy McFarland, and Liverpool left back, Emlyn Hughes, sprinting back to put themselves between the ball and the net, coolly passed into the path of Polish forward, Domarski, as he raced into the England penalty area wide on the right to drill a hard shot too close to Peter Shilton`s body for the England `keeper to reach down and collect it, and it went underneath him and into the England goal on 55 minutes. Despite a 63rd minute penalty from Leeds United`s center forward, Alan `Sniffer` Clarke, England went out of the World Cup, as the contest finally ended 1-1, because of the forwards` inability to put a goal past Polish `keeper, Jan Tomaszewski, in open play. Jan had been labeled a `clown` before the game by England manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, whose team had won the World Cup 4-2 for England against Germany in 1966 at Wembley Stadium, London, with a hat trick from West Ham striker, Geoff Hurst, and another from his club compatriot, midfielder Martin Peters.

 Germany always claimed that England`s third goal didn`t cross the line, after Geoff Hurst`s right boot inside the penalty box crashed the ball against the bar and down behind the `keeper, while a disallowed goal for Geoff Hurst, assisted by Manchester city inside forward Francis Lee`s wing trickery, in the quarter final against Germany in the 1970 World Cup, gave the Germans revenge as they won 2-3 after that in extra time and England`s effort to retain the Jules Rimet Trophy failed while Brazil with star forward, Pelé, won the trophy for the third time, 4-1, against Italy and, by the competition`s rules, kept it. England had been coasting at 2-0 after a near post goal from Tottenham Hotspur`s midfielder, Alan Mullery who, from wide on the left of midfield, played the ball out wide on the right to Manchester City`s Francis Lee. Mullery ran into the German area and under the `keeper`s nose at the near post to steer in the cross that came in from Lee in the inside right position at the right corner of German `keeper Sepp Maier`s area in the 31st minute.

 England`s second came through Lee, again in the inside right position and, receiving a pass from Geoff Hurst further infield, crossed into the German penalty area, where Martin Peters drove in the ball at the far post in the 49th minute. England manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, then made the tactical error of bringing off legendary Manchester United deep lying center forward, Bobby Charlton, who`d kept the German sweeper, Franz Beckenbauer, who liked to go forward, back in defense. Beckenbauer broke away and rounded Mullery to score from distance just outside the England area at the right corner in the 68th minute, with a shot that bounced under Shilton and into the bottom left corner, and Charlton was withdrawn in the 70th. German forward and captain, Uwe Seeler, levelled the score in the 82nd minute, with an amazingly well directed angled back header after left back, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, almost in a midfield position had centered the ball with his right boot into the England penalty area.

 England center forward Geoff Hurst`s disallowed goal in the first period of extra time occurred in circumstances almost identical to the awarding of England`s third goal in the 4-2 defeat of Germany in 1966 as the Argentine referee, Ángel Norberto Coerezza, adjudged the ball to have crossed the line. Manchester City inside forward, Francis Lee, dribbled down the right inside the German area to cross the ball for Hurst to drive the ball into the net, but the ball was adjudged to have been out of play as Lee`s trickery took him dangerously close to the touchline as he sped past the German defenders. When Gerd Müller, who was known for being able to turn on a sixpence in the opponent`s penalty area to get his shot in, prodded in a goal almost on the goal line, after a cross to the far post from wide on the right by 53rd minute substitute, forward Jürgen Grabowski, which was headed back by left wing, Hannes Löhr, and over England` keeper, Peter Bonetti, to where Müller at the right post, and almost on the goal line, forced it in for 2-3 to Germany in the 108th minute of extra time, Germany`s revenge for Hurst`s 1966 goal that wasn`t was complete.

 Martin Peters` bid for a third World Cup Finals was as captain against Poland at Wembley in 1973 and England wouldn`t again be seen at the World Cup until France, 1982, when Manchester United`s `Captain Marvel`, Bryan Robson, would take center stage as England captain (1980-91) in the opening game and score the fastest then recorded goal in World Cup history after 27 seconds against France when Manchester United right winger, Steve Coppell, took a throw near the French corner flag, which was back headed across goal by Ipswich Town center back, Terry Butcher, and Robson, with his left boot angled high above the bounce powered the ball down and into the net. England left the Finals in the curious position of never having lost a game but being eliminated. Beating France, 3-1, in their opener, after another goal from Robson in the 67th minute and an 83rd strike from Ipswich Town center forward, Paul Mariner. Goals from Nottingham Forest forward, Trevor Francis, against Czechoslovakia, 2-0, and Kuwait, 1-0, saw England through their group, but a draw against West Germany in the next group stage saw the Germans box clever and Germany`s beating Spain while England drew with the Spaniards meant that the English went home unbeaten but unrewarded.

 The 1982 World Cup Finals were a confidence booster for Robson, who`d still not won a major trophy after his move from West Bromwich Albion to follow manager and mentor, `Big Ron` Atkinson, to Manchester United after Englishman, Dave Sexton, had failed to win a trophy at the club following his move from Queens Park Rangers after Scot Tommy Docherty`s surprise exit from Old Trafford after the team`s F.A. Cup Final win over Liverpool, 2-1, in 1977. Docherty was sacked after admitting an affair with Mary Brown, wife of the United physiotherapist, Laurie Brown. Ron took Bryan (£1.5 million) and Remi Moses (£0.5 million), a driving midfielder with a lot of stamina, from The Hawthorns to Old Trafford after the commencement of the 1981-82 season and, although Robson didn`t win anything with Manchester United that term, finishing 3rd in the league kept Robson`s England place for the World Cup Finals.

 Robson would take part in three successive World Cup Finals as England captain but winning the FIFA World Cup trophy was beyond a squad handicapped by poor management and better international competitors. Driving United on from midfield to attack and from defense into midfield, Robson was the powerhouse on the field for the club for at least as long as he was the heart of the lions of England. Winning F.A. Cup Finals for `Big Ron` against Brighton and Hove Albion in a replay, 4-2, after a 2-2 draw in 1983, and against Everton, 1-0, in 1985, ensured that, when Ron`s reign came to its inevitable end due to the ascendancy of a managerial star at Scotland`s Aberdeen that couldn`t be ignored for long by the Manchester outfit, Atkinson left as a success when Alex Ferguson arrived on November 6, 1986, after Robson had again captained England in the World Cup Finals in Mexico. Injured against Morocco in the group stage, Robson didn`t play again, but England reached the quarter finals against Argentina where superstar forward Diego Maradona`s infamous `hand of God`, steering the ball home with his fist with the referee unsighted in the 51st minute, gave the South American side an advantage England couldn`t overcome, and a run the length of the pitch in which Maradona beat half of the England team before scoring in the 55th minute justified the eventual outcome, a 2-1 win for Argentina, and the South Americans went on to win the final, 3-2, against Germany.

 The arrival of Ferguson at United, after the 1986 World Cup Finals as the only manager outside of the big two Glasgow clubs, Celtic and Rangers, to win a major European trophy, the 1983 European Cup Winners` Cup, meant even greater support than ever for Bryan Robson, United and England captain, and the team won the F.A. Cup Final against Crystal Palace in a replay, 1-0, after a 3-3 draw. Repeating his success in the European Cup Winners` Cup with Manchester United, 2-1, against Spain`s Barcelona, after managing Aberdeen to a 2-1 win over Spain`s Real Madrid in extra time, Ferguson and Robson were the first manager and captain at United to win a major European trophy since Sir Matt Busby and Bobby Charlton won the 1968 European Cup, 4-2, against Portuguese side Benfica. Adding the European Super Cup and the League Cup in the following 1990-91 season, Robson`s reign as England captain ended after the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy at which the national side reached a semi final against Germany, and drew 1-1 in normal and extra time before losing on penalties, 4-3, and Germany went on to win the final against Argentina, 1-0, with an 85th minute penalty from left wing back, Andreas Brehme.

 Injury prone, Bryan had been at his best for the qualifying campaign, leading England for the 50th time in a 5-0 victory over Albania and scoring both goals in a 2-1 win against Yugoslavia, and he played in the opening group F game against the Republic of Ireland, 1-1, but was replaced injured in the 64th minute during the 0-0 draw with the Netherlands by Aston Villa`s David Platt who went on to star in Robson`s role. England qualified from group F with a goal from Southampton center back, Mark Wright, in a 1-0 win over Egypt, before beating Belgium, 1-0, with a majestic Platt swiveling volley near the end of extra time in the 119th minute, while the expected victory over African side, Cameroon, in the quarter finals, was hard won, 3-2, and needed a second penalty from Tottenham Hotspur center forward, Gary Lineker, after an early headed strike from Platt following a cross from Nottingham Forest left full back, Stuart Pearce, in the 25th minute to get the team through after Cameroon led 1-2.

 Although Bryan retired from the England scene in 1991, his club career would go on with Alex Ferguson`s support for two consecutive championships before he retired as a player at the end of the 1993-94 season. United won the title in 1993, and the much sought after `double` of league and F.A. Cup in 1994. Although Robson didn`t play in the F.A. Cup Final in which the team defeated Chelsea, 4-0, he made enough league appearances, 10 (5), to qualify for another champions` medal. Only one other player of his era came close to Robson in his ability to carry a team forward on his own, Steven Gerrard of Liverpool, who after his debut season of 1998-99 managed to cajole and badger a club that hadn`t won a league title since 1990 to the European Cup Final of 2005 and beat A.C. Milan of Italy 3-2 on penalties after it was 3-3 in extra time. Gerrard scored the first Liverpool goal on 54 minutes when Liverpool were losing 0-3 and Steven`s ability to turn the team around and make triumph out of disaster was at the heart of Liverpool`s cup successes in a period when they couldn`t sustain a league campaign with the players they had. Although Gerrard made his England debut in central midfield in 2000, he wasn`t selected for the 2002 World Cup Finals in South Korea and Japan at which England eventually lost, 1-2, to Brazil in the quarter finals as the South Americans were on their way to a meeting with Germany in the final they won, 2-0.

 At club level Gerrard was inspirational, and Liverpool won a treble of League Cup, 5-4 on penalties against Birmingham City after 1-1 and extra time, F.A. Cup, 2-1 against Arsenal with goals from future Manchester United center forward, Michael Owen in the 83rd and 88th minutes as Liverpool came from behind, and the UEFA Cup in 2001, 5-4 against Spanish side, Deportivo Alavés, with Gerrard getting Liverpool`s second in the 16th minute to put the reds 2-0 up. The team added the European Super Cup at the beginning of the 2001-2002 season by virtue of winning the UEFA Cup, which qualified them to meet the European Cup winners, and Liverpool duly beat Bayern Munich, 3-2. After winning the League Cup again in 2003, 2-0, with goals from Gerrard (39) and Owen (86) against Manchester United, Liverpool`s 2003-2004 qualifying for the European Cup in fourth place in the English championship, and Final victory over A.C. Milan of Italy, gave them the opportunity to win the European Super Cup again at the beginning of the 2005-2006 season and CSKA Moscow of Russia were dispatched, 3-1. Before announcing his decision to leave Liverpool in 2015 for Major League Soccer in the United States of America, Gerrard inspired the reds to a 2011-12 League Cup win against Cardiff City, 3-2 on penalties, with Steven missing his own spot kick after a 1-1 draw ended 2-2 in extra time. The 2001 UEFA Cup was won with a `golden goal` from Deportivo Alavés` right back, DelfÍ Geli, who headed into his own net from midfield Welshman Gary McCallister`s free kick wide on the left in the 116th minute to gift the game, 5-4, to Liverpool.

 The pressure driven successes of the Steven Gerrard era were in keeping with his drive to compete. Victories over Birmingham on penalties, 5-4, in the 2001 League Cup Final, preceded DelfÍ Geli`s `golden` own goal in the 2001 UEFA Cup Final, and Liverpool were 0-3 down to A.C. Milan before winning on penalties, 3-2, after extra time and a 3-3 draw in the European Cup Final of 2005, while Liverpool`s 3-2 win over Cardiff City in 2011-12 after a 1-1 draw ended 2-2 in extra time emphasized the driving force of Gerrard and the never say die attitude that kept Liverpool winning trophies even when the side wasn`t capable of sustaining a campaign to win the league title.

 The Steven Gerrard factor seemed to be present at the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany when the England team went out of the competition at the quarter final stage against Portugal, 3-1, on penalties after the game had ended 0-0 after extra time and Gerrard missed his spot kick. The eventual winners, Italy, beat France, 5-4, on penalties after a 1-1 draw and extra time. In the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa, England lost to Germany before the quarter finals, 1-4, while the Final was won by Spain`s right winger Andrés Iniesta in the 116th minute of extra time against the Netherlands, 1-0. In the 2014 World Cup Finals England didn`t win a game in their group B with defeats to Italy, 1-2, Uruguay, 1-2, and a draw, 0-0, with Cosa Rica. Narrow success had given way to a broad margin in defeat for England, which suggests that tigerish denial of inferiority in order to win against better opposition has become the inferiority that causes defeat. Steven Gerrard made his debut for Liverpool in 1998-99 and was the driving force in the team that tigerishly refused to be beaten.

 Defeating Birmingham City to win the League Cup, 5-4, on penalties, Liverpool went on to defeat Deportivo Alvares in the UEFA Cup Final in extra time with an own `golden goal from Spanish right back, DelfÍ Geli, and the Super Cup against European Cup holders, Bayern Munich, 3-2, while after beating A.C. Milan to win the European Cup themselves on penalties in 2005 after being 0-3 down, Liverpool beat European Cup holders, CSKA Moscow, 3-1, to again win the European Super Cup. Although it`d be expected that the European Cup holders would beat the UEFA Cup Winners in the Super Cup because the UCL Champions are the champions of their domestic leagues, it`s often true that the supposedly inferior team, that is, the UEFA Cup Winners win, because of a tigerish refusal to be beaten. However, tigerishly refusing to be beaten isn`t a sign of football ability, which is probably why England under the captaincy of Steven Gerrard failed so consistently. Tigerish refusal to be beaten replaced ability as the method applied to winning the World Cup and that was ultimately fatal to England`s campaigns.

 Teams led by Bryan Robson could have won the World Cup. England achieved fourth place overall in 1990, losing 1-2 to Italy in the game that decided third and fourth, but England without Robson, who retired from International competition with England in 1991, didn`t qualify for the World Cup Finals in the United States of America in 1994, while with Steven Gerrard as captain their highest achievement was a 2006 quarter final defeat against Portugal, 1-3, on penalties, after extra time when the game had ended 0-0 in normal time, which represented tigerish refusal to accept defeat as a game plan for a side devoid of ability, because they`d left it out of the squad, lest it interfere with the tigerisnhess of Gerrard, who was 18 when he debuted and 25 when Liverpool`s refusal to admit defeat led to their beating A.C. Milan in the European Cup Final of 2005. Although Liverpool won the 2006 F.A. Cup Final against West Ham on penalties, 3-1, after a 3-3 draw and extra time, it was typical tigerish Gerrard who, scoring in the 54th minute to make it 2-2, and again in the 91st minute to make it 3-3, evinced a refusal to admit defeat that ultimately represented the squad`s weakeness in terms of genuine ability, and Gerrard only led Liverpool to a single further trophy at the age of 32, the 2012 League Cup against Cardiff City, which Gerrard`s tigerish refusal to lose again resulted in a 3-2 victory on penalties after a 1-1 draw and 2-2 in extra time.

 Tigerishness has its uses but Manchester United after Robson, and in the same period of Liverpool`s successes with Gerrard, won four league championships (1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2002–03) as well as the 1999 European Cup against Bayern Munich, 2-1, and the 1999 World Club Cup against South America`s Palmeiras, 1-0, thanks to a left wing cross and a drive in at the far post from Robson`s replacement, Roy Keane. When Gerrard`s Liverpool won their League Cup of 2012, United had gone on to win four more championships (2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2010–11) as well as the 2008 European Cup, 1-0, against Chelsea, and the 2008 World Club Cup, 1-0, against Ecuador`s LDU Quito, with a goal from England`s dynamic center forward, Wayne Rooney. Tigerishness has its day but winning the league and then winning the European Cup is the sign of true quality, which is needed if England are to win the World Cup again.

01/09/2014 14:59

Three At The Back - And Seven Up Van Gaal!

Netherlands` coach, Louis Van Gaal, arrived at Old Trafford on the back of a World Cup semi-final defeat to Argentina, 2-4, after extra time and penalties when the full time score had been 0-0. The loss was his last managerial credential before joining Manchester United as their manager for the 2014-15 season. Van Gaal`s appointment was a move to hire a legitimate successor to Sir Alex Ferguson, and as the former manager of Dutch club side, Ajax, who`d won the European Cup in 1994-95, Gaal`s pedigree was adequate. After the year long debacle that was David Moyes, who`d arrived as manager at Manchester United from Everton at the beginning of the 2013-14 season, Gaal was welcomed as a manager who`d seen success and knew how to awaken a big club. Ajax of Amsterdam were three times European Cup winners in 1971, 1972 and 1973, and Gaal had rejuvenated that sleeping giant so the hope was he could do the same at Old Trafford.

 At Everton David Moyes had been an expert at avoiding relegation for a dozen seasons with the `Toffees`, but at Manchester United he`d inherited a team that had just won the Premiership yet again in 2013 before United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, retired with 13 championships, the two European Cups he was knighted by England`s queen, Elizabeth II, for having won, and sundry lesser trophies. Moyes also inherited a new Dutch centre forward from Arsenal, Robin Van Persie, who Ferguson had brought to bolster a makeshift squad desperate for a play maker to replace England`s Paul Scholes, who`d mysteriously been dropped by Ferguson for European Cup Final defeats to Barcelona, 0-2 in 2009 and 1-3 in 2011. Scholes had actually retired at the end of 2011 bitterly disillusioned before being begged back by Sir Alex to lead the campaign for the title in 2012-13, which United ultimately won with one of the least able squads Ferguson had assembled in his 27 years at the `Theatre Of Dreams` driven on by Scholes` persistent ability, as an already 10 times English championship winner under Ferguson, and of course there were Persie`s goals.

 David Moyes` catastrophe was to lose 1-2 on penalties in the League Cup semi-final to relegation candidates Sunderland after losing 1-2 away and winning 2-1 at home in the two leg contest where, as the teams were tied 3-3 after extra time, each side would have five penalty attempts to score. United only found the back of the net once with Scotland`s captain and right sided midfielder, Darren Fletcher, while centre forward, England`s Danny Welbeck, centre back, Phil Jones, left back, Rafael Da Silva, and rising young attacking Belgian midfield star, Adnan Januzaj, all failed to score from nine yards with only the `keeper to beat and a stationary ball placed for them to run up and take a kick at goal. If United had beaten Sunderland, Moyes would have had a final to his name and the team would have probably pulled together and gone forward as a cohesive unit, but embarassment in front of goal brings no forgiveness and the squad`s failure to progress afterwards in the league, F.A. Cup and European Cup meant the end of Moyes` credibility and tenure as manager at Manchester United.

 Louis Van Gaal`s tenure as Manchester United manager began without the possibility of European glory, because the club finished in 7th place in the league outside of the group of qualifiers for European competition. Defeat to League Division 1, Milton Keynes Dons, 0-4, in the second round of the League Cup meant Gaal had lost even the opportunity afforded to Moyes to give him a foundation for future success by progressing to the Final of the English Football Association`s third most important trophy after the championship and F.A. Cup. With a 3-5-1-2 formation Louis was introducing something alien to the usual way Manchester United play, which is 4-2-4 with wingers, full backs and a centre back pairing that leaves two midfielders and two forwards to support the wings and get the goals to beat the opposition.

 Three at the back and a return to the old fashioned wing back, instead of defending full backs on the flanks at the back to take care of the other teams` marauding wing play, was Gaal`s initial plan for the team. At right half, Bob Duckworth, centre half Charlie Roberts, and left half Alex Bell were the old half back line for Manchester United in the early 1900s, which brought the side championship success in 1908 and 1911 and the F.A. Cup in 1909 before the First World War (1914-18) to defeat German Imperialism in Europe curtailed soccer in England for the duration of hostilities. By the time Manchester United won the F.A. Cup for the second occasion in 1948, the half back line system of play was beginning to change. United`s half back trio were right half, John Anderson, centre half, Allenby Chilton, and left half, Henry Cockburn, that is, Matt Busby played three at the back as Louis Van Gaal was to do at the start of his reign as manager.

 Sir Matt Busby went on to win another F.A. Cup with United in 1963 and championships in 1952, 1956, 1957, 1965 and 1967 before crowning his career and retirement with a knighthood from England`s queen, Elizabeth II, after the European Cup Final win over Benfica of Portugal, 4-1, at London`s national Wembley Stadium, with goals from superstar midfielder, Bobby Charlton (2), who`d won the World Cup there with England in 1966, Northern Irish wing genius, George Best, and rising young England centre forward, 19 year old Brian Kidd, replacing the injured Scottish goal king of Old Trafford, Denis Law. That United team had recovered from the Munich air disaster of 6 February, 1958, when the plane crashed on take off carrying the players home after a 3-3 draw against Red Star Belgrade in Yugoslavia had seen them through to the semi-final of the European Cup where, depleted due to the deaths of several players, United would lose, 0-4 in the away leg, after defeating A.C. Milan 2-1 at home, and would fail to reach the Final.

 Manchester United had lost a team and so had England lost the backbone of a future at Munich where captain and left back, Roger Byrne, reserve left back, Geoff Bent, centre half, Mark Jones, midfield star, Duncan Edwards, wing half Eddie Colman, centre forward, Tommy Taylor, left wing, David Pegg, and Irish forward, Liam Whelan, all lost their lives. United`s transition into the modern era was necessarily perforce as new centre back pairings replaced the old half back lines. The single substitute rule implemented in 1958 for injury meant that teams a goal behind could deploy an attacking player and leave a centre back pair to cover in defence, which eventually became the normal pattern of outfield play.

 Although the scene blurred at Munich for Manchester United, the old half back line and its value to English soccer was losing importance. England right full back, Bill Foulkes, emerged as the `stopper centre half` partner at the back with stiff tackling Nobby Stiles, who would dance with joy alongside Bobby Charlton as a World Cup winner with England in 1966. But United`s love affair with the half back line of right half, centre half, and left half disappeared with the loss of Edwards, Jones and Coleman at Munich, while the emergence of Foulkes as the protypical United `stopper` aligned with Stiles tidying up after the big man, who made the rugged challenges and air interceptions as the ball was played in along the ground, or by wingers to opposing forwards, ensured that the half back line would remain a thing of the past until Dutchman, Louis Van Gaal, reintroduce the old system of play at the beginning of the 2013-14 English football season with Manchester United.

 Although Louis played three at the back without full backs, which was different to the original half back line deployed by English soccer sides in the years before the substitute rule allowed teams to bring on attacking players to change the scoreline by replacing a half back with a forward, the notion of wing backs as full backs wasn`t new. England`s John Aston, who also played at centre forward, was left full back for Manchester United in the 1948 F.A. Cup winning team against Blackpool, 4-2, while Irishman, Johnny Carey, originally an inside left bought from Ireland`s St. James` Gate for £250 in 1937, played right back. Van Gaal`s new look United reintroduced the concept of the wing back instead of the full back, and wingers, Ecuador`s Antonio Valencia and England`s Ashley Young, were asked to perform dual defensive and attacking roles down the right and left flanks.

 With five players in front of a half back line featuring Gaal`s 19 year old £30 million signing, left back Luke Shaw from Southampton, centre back or right back Ferguson signing, Phil Jones, and Ferguson nurtured protégée, Irish centre half and 3 times English championship winner, Jonathan Evans, wingers Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young had both defensive and attacking roles. Although United kept faith with their pattern of a two man midfield with wingers doubling as defensive wing backs, Spaniard Juan Mata signed on 24 September from Chelsea for £37.1 million by former United manager, David Moyes, was given by Gaal a combined playmaker`s and deep-lying third striker`s role behind Dutch striker Robin Van Persie and England`s captain and premier goalscoring sensation, Wayne Rooney, who`d been nurtured by Moyes at Everton, but had been transferred for £25.6 million to United as an 18 year old teenager himself for the 2004-5 campaign and had over 150 league goals to his name at the beginning of Gaal`s managership.

 Manchester United lost at home to Swansea 1-2 on the first day of the 2014-15 season with Van Gaal`s new old system of a half back line with wing backs and a five man midfield that included Mata as the deep-lying centre forward and play maker in the Bobby Charlton mould that had been United and England`s trademark in the 1960s when Sir Matt Busby had continued his 1940s and 1950s love affair with wingers. England`s John Connelly and George Best were Busby`s best known 1960s pairing on the wing and, with the now established Foulkes and Stiles centre back pairing, Busby deployed his deep-lying centre forward, Bobby Charlton, to such good effect that the team won the F.A. Cup in 1963, the league in 1964-5 and 1966-7, with the coveted European Cup of 1968 as the crowning glory to a career Busby couldn`t improve upon as a manager and retired after a disillusioning defeat to Estudiantes of Argentina in an violently ill tempered Intercontinental Cup Final over two legs, 0-1 away and 1-1 at home, which saw George Best sent off for retaliation.

 Busby had been at Old Trafford since the dark days following the end of the Second World War (1939-45) to again beat German Imperialism when United`s stadium had been made into rubble by the German bombs and the club had to beg Manchester City to use theirs at Maine Road. It wouldn`t be until 1999, when United faced South American champions and winners of the Copa Da Libertadores, Palmeiras of Brazil, that the club would win the Intercontinental Cup, 1-0, with a left wing cross from Welsh winger Ryan Giggs that found midfield dynamo, Ireland`s Roy Keane, at the far post putting his boot out to steer the ball home in the 35th minute. United had qualified for the Final as European Cup winners beating Bayern Munich, 2-1, with late goals from substitute forwards, England`s Teddy Sheringham and Norway`s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (on for England`s Andy Cole and Trinidad and Tobago`s Dwight York) to wrest that cup of triumph from the Germans` hands.

 Successive draws, 1-1 at Sunderland`s Stadium of Light, and 0-0 at Burnley`s Turf Moor, were the meager fruits of Louis Van Gaal`s initial games as manager at Manchester United, following upon his home defeat to Swansea on the opening day of the campaign, 1-2, and most fans` opinions were that two points from nine wouldn`t win championships and so that pattern couldn`t be repeated throughout the season even if Gaal`s three at the back half line was a permanent fixture in the Dutchman`s plans for the team`s future at the `Theatre of Dreams`.

 Versatile Argentine defender, Marcos Rojo, left back in the losing Argentine side in the 2014 World Cup Final against Germany, 0-1, was brought to Manchester United by Gaal on 19 August, 2014, from Portuguese club, Sporting Lisbon, for £16 million, and United brought Dutch international, Daley Blind, on 30 August from Ajax Amsterdam for £13.8 million. Blind had played in the left wing back position for Gaal`s Dutch team, beaten by Argentina and Marcos Rojo at left back on their way to the World Cup Final, 2-4 on penalties after extra time with the full time score at 0-0, and so Blind might be expected to fit in easily with the manager`s new system and plans. Argentina`s Angel Di Maria, a left winger, had already arrived from Real Madrid on 26 August for a club record transfer fee of £59.7 million, as Louis Van Gaal rebuilt a Manchester United side looking to develop a novel tactic for wrong footing what tends to be mainly right sided opposition, because having very good left footed players in every position is prohibitively costly for the less rich clubs and a sure way of obtaining a technical advantage for the wealthier.

 Cerberus was the three headed dog that guarded the entrance to the underworld of Hades in Greek mythology and Manchester United`s Cerberus under Van Gaal would is the half back line trio he fields against opposition playing mainly the four at the back system of full backs at the left and right of the `keeper defending against wingers with two centre backs as `stopper` and `sweeper` in front of the `keeper preventing opposition forwards from getting through and putting the ball in the net. Consequently, Van Gaal`s problem was the same as Manchester United manager Ernest Mangnall`s when Duckworth, Roberts and Bell were the half back line. Although Mangnall`s United won league titles in 1908 and 1911, as well as the 1909 F.A. Cup, Sir Matt Busby would face the same difficulty as Mangnall`s when Anderson, Chilton and Cockburn were his half back trio. United won the F.A. Cup in 1948 and the title in 1952 before the famous young players known as the `Busby Babes` began to emerge through the F.A. Youth Cup system of developing players and the `personality` of the half back line began to change in favour of adaptability rather than a team built on the cohesive efforts of just three individuals.

 The United youth side won the F.A. Youth Cup on the first five occasions from its inaugural inception in 1953 until 1957 and more adaptable young players such as the `gentle giant`, Duncan Edwards, who could play anywhere in defence, midfield or the forward line. Although Edwards, Jones and Coleman took their positions in a senior team that won English league titles in 1955-56 and 1956-57 until the Munich disaster curtailed Busby`s ambition to win the European Cup, youth`s adaptability meant that players could fill their boots without loss of impetus to the team. After Munich Geoff Cope emerged as a young centre back that made the Final of the F.A. Cup in 1958 while Wilf McGuinness, who`d qualified for championship winning medals in 1956 and 1957, and would be manager at United after Busby, was always a fringe member of the squad. Jeff Whitefoot was a right half for United in the title winning teams of 1952 and 1956, while Jackie Blanchflower, sometime Irish inside forward and a `better player` than Ireland`s captain, Danny Blanchflower, according to Danny, who captained North London`s Tottenham Hotspur to the double of league and F.A. Cup in 1961, was left half and centre half before Edwards` emergence as a more versatile and skillful asset to the team. Versatility was the byword for the modern Manchester United and the opportunity to improve the side`s striking capability from the substitute`s bench in 1958 meant the eventual disappearance of the half back line as two centre backs were believed to be enough defensive cover for teams going forward much more to score and secure victory without fear of injury thwarting their thirst for a win.

 Although Van Gaal`s three at the back formation with Manchester United at the beginning of the 2014-15 season seemed new fangled and controversial, in fact it was a return to the tried and trusted formula of the era before the 1958 substitute rule, which allowed teams to go forward more without fear of injury because a replacement forward on the subs` bench could be called upon to augment a team weakened by opposition `hard men` looking to break legs; as England`s `Chopper` Harris at Chelsea and Norman `bite yer legs` Hunter at Leeds United were known to do in their successful club sides of the 1960s and 1970s. Teams that promoted skill such as Manchester United rather abandoned three at the back after 1958 in favour of two centre backs and a left and right full back defending with the `keeper behind midfield, wingmen and forwards up front looking to score against teams adopting the protective strategy of substitutions for injured forwards. Gaal`s buying of predominantly left footed players for his half back line, midfield, and wings at the commencement of the 2014-15 season indicated his perception that the more creative would fit his Cerberus half back line as a system in which very good individuals would be the equivalent of Busby`s `Babes`, who could play anywhere and constituted the avante-garde of English soccer professionalism before Munich curtailed their efforts to transform English soccer from the half back line.

 According to the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) six substitutes could be used, including a `keeper, in competitive matches at the time Louis Van Gaal began his tenure as manager of Manchester United at the start of the 2014-15 season, which afforded additional protection for a team suffering injury to the half back or forward line. In other words, a half back line and a forward line could now be deployed, because the number of substitutes permitted of injury to either without damaging the team`s pattern of play. Van Gaal`s genius was to perceive that he could return to deploying a half back line and so reestablish that tradition of development at Manchester United outlined by his predecessor, Matt Busby.

 With the nickname of `Red Devils`, Manchester United`s three headed dog of a half back line, or Cerberus guarding the entrance to Hades, has a certain romantic attraction. Hades is the Greek concept of hell where the dead departed, who don`t go to heaven, remain. Hell is the place of torment by the `fallen angels` of Satan, known as `devils`, because it`s the place prepared for those humans who`re evil. Satan, of course, was the first angel of God, before he was cast down from heaven to the Earth along with the other `fallen` angels who supported his rebellion. God promised the fallen angels eternal pain forever as a punishment for rejecting God`s creation of Eve and Adam, the first man and woman, who would produce a humanity greater than the angelic host, but until then Christian iconography depicts the devils tormenting the evil amongst mankind with tortures devised by them. Although United`s half back line under Van Gaal represented the romance of keeping the opposition from putting the ball in the net, and that defeat which would be hell for the fans of the `Red Devils`, torment is undoubtedly a significant part of match days for supporters and players alike. If Gaal`s Cerberus half back line kept the ball out of the net, it wouldn`t be hell for the team or the fans and so Manchester United would remain in heaven.

 As Manchester United drew 0-0 with Burnley away at Turf Moor and left winger, Angel Di Maria, made his debut in midfield, Louis Van Gaal was on the brink of signing Daley Blind from Ajax as another defender with a left foot to play alongside Marcos Rojo and England`s Luke Shaw. Only Brazilian right back, Rafael Da Silva, England`s utility defender and midfield destroyer, Phil Jones, and centre backs, Jonathan Evans and Chris Smalling, remained from the era of Ferguson defenders. Although Uruguayan right back, Guilermo Valera, had been bought by Moyes from Uruguay`s Peñarol club, after Ferguson arranged the transfer at the end of his reign as United boss, Gaal`s influx of left footed players included his preference for formerly unknown, 20 year old Tyler Blackett, used as a left footed back throughout Gaal`s early games, and in the pre-season Champions Cup tournament in the United States of America in which Liverpool were defeated, 3-1, in the final. Gaal was sending a warning to right footed players like Da Silva, Jones and Valera that they might have to fight for a right back place with left footed players, just as Evans and Smalling would have to battle left footed centre backs to remain first choice defenders in the aftermath of 5 times English championship winner, Serbian centre half Nemanja Vidic`s packing his bags for Internazionale of Milan in disgust at Moyes` ineptitude and, his partner in defence at the back, former England captain and 6 time English championship winner, Rio Ferdinand`s equally dismissive exit to London`s Queens Park Rangers before Gaal`s arrival.

 Manchester United`s exit to MK Dons in the second round of the League Cup, 0-4, cruelly reminded many supporters of the team`s failure to progress to the League Cup Final of the 2013-14 season with the Sunderland goal at the mercy of their penalty takers in the home second leg of the semi-final qualifier at Old Trafford; Darren Fletcher, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones, Rafael Da Silva, and Adnan Januzaj. The players only managed to score once through Darren Fletcher out of five attempts, and the `Black Cats` went through with a meager two that ultimately signaled Moyes` failure and departure. Reliance upon three at the back in a half back line that harks back to the golden age of the early 1900s and Busby`s first championship winning teams might seem romantic, but letting in four to a third tier team isn`t. Success at Manchester United depends on the coach`s adopting a winning formula, and a balanced side of left and right wingers, with two strikers and two supporting midfielders down the middle as well as a centre back pairing, left and right full backs, works. Even with a `keeper that comes up to head goals in at corners, as Denmark`s legendary `keeper, Peter Schmeichel (1991-9), did for the `Red Devils` during the period in which he won 5 championship winners` medals. Schmeichel scored a headed goal against Russia`s Rotor Volgograd in the 1995-96 UEFA Cup to preserve the club’s unbeaten home European record, whereas Louis Van Gaal`s Manchester United lost their virginity at home in the first game of the 2014-15 campaign, 1-2 to Swansea City, with three at the back - and seven up!

16/06/2014 07:20

Cup Of Youth

The F.A. Youth Cup was inaugurated in 1952-53, the season after Manchester United had won the league title of 1951-52 with an ageing team of players that had won the F.A. Cup after WWII (1939-45) against the fascist `Axis` powers of Japan, Italy and Germany, which advocated a brutal philosophy of survival for killers. Many of the side that won the F.A. Cup in 1948 had played through the war years winning regional trophies, most notably the Manchester Senior Cup; 1940-1, 1942-43 and 1945-46 while travel within England was restricted: because of German aircraft and rocket bombing. In need of fresh talent, Manchester United`s coaches put pressure on the youth talent discovered by the scouts. The boys` teams, beginning with the inaugural Youth Cup of 1953, had five consecutive triumphs, which began the dismantling of the wartime side. United`s promoting of players from the youth ranks became the determining philosophy at Old Trafford`s `Theatre Of Dreams` and would bring many more trophies borne on the wings of youth.

 Of course the great tragedy of Munich, February 6, 1958, would loom large on the future. Some of those who emerged from the ranks of youth at Old Trafford`s stadium would lose their lives in the aircrash as the team returned from a quarter final European Champions` Cup draw with Red Star Belgrade in Yugoslavia. United had taken a 2-1 lead from Old Trafford, Manchester, and were 3-0 up after half an hour with goals from Dennis Viollet after just 2 minutes while left footed forward, Bobby Charlton, added two more on the half hour. The team had been 0-1 down to a Tasic goal on 35 minutes in the home leg; before Bobby (65 mins) and England wing half, Eddie Colman (81 mins), gave the side a lead to take to Belgrade. United eventually had to settle for a 3-3 draw, but it was enough for a 5-4 aggregate victory. Eddie Coleman didn`t survive the crash to go on playing, and United would lose England left back and captain, Roger Byrne; his understudy, Geoff Bent; England centre back, Mark Jones; England`s midfield giant, Duncan Edwards, `a man at fourteen`, as manager, Matt Busby, once described him; Irishman, Liam `Billy` Whelan, at inside forward, who`d scored 26 goals in the previous season`s championship win; English right wing, Johnny Berry; and Jackie Blanchflower, whose brother, Danny, captain of Eire, always maintained Jackie was a better player; even though Danny captained London`s Tottenham Hotspur, the first side of the modern era to win the English `double` of F.A. Cup and league title in 1960-61.

 Kenny Morgans, after playing under the captaincy of Wilf McGuinness for the 1956 Youth Cup triumph, had just begun to replace Johnny Berry on the right wing and had played against Red Star in Yugoslavia aged just 18 before the Munich disaster. Kenny had captained Manchester United in 1957 to an 8-2 aggregate F.A. Youth Cup win over West Ham United. Morgans (1), Alex Dawson (3), Mark Pearson (2) and Nobby Lawton (1) were the name players on the scoresheet. Nobby wouldn`t make his presence felt as a striker until 1960, and even then he scored only 6 goals in 36 appearances before being sold to Preston North End in March, 1963. Kenny Morgans survived the crash and made 9 more starts, but showed little of the skills he`d had on the pitch after Munich and made only four more appearances in the first team before leaving for Swansea in 1961 without scoring a goal in 23 appearances. Eddie Colman had been the captain of the first Manchester United side to win the F.A. Youth Cup in 1953. Edwards, Whelan, and Scanlon from that team, which beat Wolves 7-1 and 2-2 for a 9-3 aggregate win, all played against Red Star Belgrade. Ronnie Cope at centre half for the Youth Cup winning team of 1953 would be needed badly by United after the deaths of Mark Jones and Jackie Blanchflower, who often played at centre back if United felt they needed skill in that area rather than strength. David Pegg, who`d  played on the left wing in the 1953 F.A. Youth Cup win, travelled to Yugoslavia with the squad, but didn`t make the team against Red Star Belgrade. Pegg, Whelan (2) and Scanlon had all scored in the 9-3 aggregate defeat of Wolves in the Youth Cup Final of 1953, before making the step up to the first team as the older players from the championship winning team of 1951-52 gave way to youth. England left winger, Pegg, had to give away his life in the snow at Munich without even kicking a ball in Belgrade. The plane had been attempting to take off from the German airport but heavy snow had impeded the aircraft and the disaster happened.

 Centre half, Allenby Chilton, with Henry Cockburn at left half, and John Anderson at right half, were a part of the half back line format that had been the defensive formula for a generation before twin centre back pairings were adopted throughout English soccer. Chilton, Cockburn and Anderson had been the mainstay of Manchester United`s post-war push to the title of 1951-52 and the 1948 F.A. Cup Final win over Blackpool, 4-2, with goals in the 28th and 70th minutes from centre forward, `The Gunner` Jack Rowley (2), inside left, Stan Pearson in the 80th minute and Anderson in the 82nd. By 1958 Coleman, Jones and Edwards had assumed the defensive duties, while Jackie Blanchflower, who`d originally begun in the side at left half, before the emergence of Edwards, had moved up front as an inside forward. United`s captain at right back for the 1948 F.A. Cup Final win over Blackpool was Irishman, Johnny Carey, while John Aston, who often played centre forward, had been at left back. Aston had shared left back duties with Roger Byrne during the 1951-52 championship season and new captain, Roger, was still there at Munich, having won two further league titles in 1955-56 and 1956-57, before both he and his England international understudy, Geoff Bent, lost their lives in the crash.

 Before the war, Johnny Carey had been an inside forward, but post-war he reverted to defensive duties. He`d joined United from St James's Gate in November, 1936, for a League of Ireland record fee of £250 and made his debut on 23rd September, 1937, as an inside left. Playing in the wartime team, Carey was instrumental in bringing to Old Trafford`s Theatre Of Dreams, the Lancashire Senior Cups of 1938, 1941, 1943 and 1946 and the Manchester Senior Cups of 1936, 1937, 1939 and 1948, while his eventual replacement in the side, Bill Foulkes, would survive Munich to go on and win the 1968 European Cup against Benfica of Portugal, 4-1 at London`s national Wembley statdium, with goals from Charlton (2), the left wing Irish genius, George Best, and a young forward, Brian Kidd, in the team for the injured goal king of Old Trafford. In 1968-69 Kidd was having a great debut season in which he`d score a United career high 15 league goals. Foulkes would move up to centre half from right back after his debut on 13 December, 1952, aged 20, in a 2-1 win against Liverpool and wouldn`t retire until 1970.

 Jimmy Delaney had been brought from Glasgow Celtic where he`d been since 1933. United manager, Matt Busby, admired the outside right who`d been at Celtic in the years when they`d won the Scottish F.A. Cup (1933, `37) and the league title (1936, `38), and Delaney had been on the right wing for United in the F.A. Cup Final win of 1948 before returning to Scotland and Aberdeen at the age of 36, due partly to the arrival of English winger, Johnny Berry, who`d be on the right for United until his death at Munich. Inside forward, Stan Pearson, made his debut for United in 1937 and he was still there in 1952 when Manchester United won their first title since 1911 and only their third. Their first was under the stewardship of pre-war manager, Ernest Mangnall, in 1908, with the F.A. Cup of 1909 sandwiched between before the outbreak of hostilities with the German Empire during WWI (1914-18) stopped United`s progress. Stan scored 127 goals in 312 league appearances, 7 more than Mark Hughes, and 10 behind George Best.

 Above Stan Pearson in the all time goalscoring feats of soccer stars at Manchester United are Dennis Viollet and Jack Rowley, who was the centre forward for the club after his arrival for 3,000 GBP from Bournemouth aged 17 at his debut on 23rd October, 1937, against Sheffield Wednesday, but he`d have to wait until his second game against Swansea before he got his first four goals. Bought as a left winger, manager Matt Busby converted Rowley to centre forward, which remained his berth alongside Pearson until Stan left in 1952. Rowley remained until 1954 while he and Stan Pearson were being carefully replaced by Tommy Taylor, the England centre forward who`d also lose his life at Munich, and Dennis Viollet, who`d go on after the disaster to lead the forward line almost to a championship in 1958-59, but the team finished second to Wolves.

 Jack Rowley made 380 appearances in the United red shirt scoring 182 goals between 1937 and 1954, which meant that he and scoring partner, Stan Pearson, improved on the number of trophies won by Johnny Carey, who`d begun at the club in November, 1936. Because of long tenure in their strikers` positions, Pearson and Rowley won Lancashire Senior Cups in 1938, 1941, 1943, 1946 and 1951, and Manchester Senior Cups in 1936, 1937, 1939 and 1948, to go with their 1948 F.A. Cup win and their 1951-52 league championship win. Championship wins for Manchester United in 1955-56 and 1956-57 meant adequate replacements had been found for the giants of the pre-war era. Dennis Viollet would go on to score more goals, 159, than Pearson, while Munich survivor Bobby Charlton`s (1956-73) final total of 199 league goals for Manchester United eclipsed even Jack Rowley`s (1937-54) career haul of 182 during his campaigns.

  After Munich the teams that had won the F.A. Youth Cup were called upon to supply first team ability if not experience. Ronnie Cope, captain of the 1953 side was brought in at centre half, and Albert Scanlon, a left winger, who`d won F.A. Youth Cups in 1953 and 1954, when United had beaten Wolves on aggregate 5-4, with goals from Edwards (2) and Pegg (3), who`d captained the side and converted a penalty in each leg; the second leg being won at Molineux, 1-0. Scanlon was brought in so Bobby Charlton could take up his future role for World Cup winning England (1966) as a deep lying centre forward operating from midfield with strikers` boots for long range hitting. Wilf McGuinness was the future coach at Manchester United who`d be given the manager`s job after Busby`s retirement in 1969, while in 1954 and, after an aggregate 7-1 win in 1955 against West Bromwich Albion in which captain Eddie Coleman (4), Charlton (1) and Edwards (1) were the name scorers, Wilf had won Youth Cups as a left half, and in 1956 he himself captained the youth team to an aggregate 4-3 victory over Chesterfield in which Mark Pearson and Bobby Charlton were the name players who scored in the absence of Eddie Coleman, who was himself with the seniors. McGuinness and Cope were to become a bulwark for United after the Munich disaster in an initial half back line that included Freddie Goodwin, who`d not made the flight to play Red Star Belgrade in Yugoslavia through illness. Freddie had made his United debut in 1954 and had played for the team in the 1955-56 and 1956-57 victorious championship seasons without qualifying for a winners` medal. United`s first game after Munich was a fifth round F.A. Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford on 19 February, 1958, in which 17 year old Cope impressed with his composure at centre half and Mark Pearson, who`d been a 1957 Youth Cup winner, made his debut at inside left.

 Stan Crowther had been signed at left half from Aston Villa, who`d beaten Manchester United in the previous season`s F.A. Cup Finaljust hours before the kick off against Sheffield Wednesday. United won 3-0 with goals from inside right, Shay Brennan (2), who`d be the Irish right back for the side against Benfica in their 1968 European Cup victory over Benfica, 4-1, while young centre forward, Alex Dawson, who`d been in the 1956 and 1957 F.A. Youth Cup winning teams, got the other goal that sent United through to the quarter finals and another emotion charged encounter with West Bromwich Albion, who`d draw the first game 2-2 with goals from Alex Dawson and Ernie Taylor. Taylor had been brought by Busby as a reluctant stop gap at inside right from Aston Villa, but it was inside forward, Colin Webster, who`d made 15 appearances and scored 4 times for United in the 1955-56 championship campaign to win a medal, who got the only goal of the replay to beat W.B.A. 1-0 to set up a semi-final occasion against Fulham who held United 2-2 in the initial game with Charlton (2) ensuring the replay. United won 5-3 after a hat-trick from Alex Dawson and further strikes from Charlton and Brennan.

 Manchester United lost 0-2 in the F.A. Cup Final after losing in the previous season`s showpiece 1-2 to Aston Villa and a double strike in the 68th and 73rd minute from outside left, Peter McParland, which left United with too much to do and only a late 83rd minute consolation goal from centre forward, Tommy Taylor, cheered the fans. In the 1958 Final, the almost terrifying presence of colossal centre forward, captain Nat Lofthouse, and the venue of the national stadium, Wembley, awed a very young United and possible the referee also. Lofthouse scored twice; once using his gigantic strength to bundle United `keeper, Harry Gregg, over the line with the ball in his hands shortly after the interval with Bolton 1-0 up after catching the United defence cold on just 3 minutes. But United had shown that faith in youth produced resilience and hopes were that the club could rebuild from defeat to triumph over disaster. The following season`s campaign was intensely emotional with supporters wondering who would make the team and become the new soccer stars at the Theatre Of Dreams.

 Matt Busby responded by bringing to Old Trafford the `golden boy of British football`, centre forward Albert Quixall, who`d scored 63 goals in 243 appearances for Sheffield Wednesday for a then record transfer fee of 45, 000 GBP. The team was much more static than the fluid selection of the `Busby Babe` era when players from the youth and reserve teams were in and out of the senior side constantly as Busby looked to permutate amongst a large pool of talent that was reminiscent of the later era of Alex Ferguson who applied the principle of `squad rotation` to rest and freshen his troops throughout a long season`s campaign that brought him four trophies in 1999; the league; the F.A. Cup; the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. Busby`s policy of permutating a squad lay the foundations for Ferguson`s legendary success. But the Munich disaster had taken its toll. Pared to a nucleus of players, it`d be several more seasons before there was enough talent at the club to again sustain a long season`s campaign for trophies on several fronts.

 Ian Greaves who`d played 15 times at left back in the title winning season of 1955-56 for a medal, but made only 3 appearances in the successful 1956-57 triumph and missed the Munich crash through injury, was the obvious first choice replacement for Byrne after February 6, and with `keeper Gregg and right back Foulkes he formed a more or less permanent defence that had Ronnie Cope at centre half, Goodwin at right half and McGuinness at left half. With Charlton taking up the deep lying centre forward role in a roving midfield role from where he could direct play and try on his shooting boots, Quixall partnered Viollet with Scanlon on the left wing. On the right was Warren Bradley who`d been amongst England amateur internationals at Bishop Auckland loaned to United during their rebuilding program. Bradley made 24 appearances on the right wing in a 1958-59 season in which, ironically apart from Quixall, United`s goalscoring prowess was enviable; Bradley (12), Charlton (29), Scanlon (16) and Viollet (21) each weighed in for a season`s haul of 78 between them. Quixall found the net only 4 times in 33 appearances, which probably accounted for United`s failure to take the title that year. The fate of United`s `golden boy` was reminiscent of Gary Birtles`, who made 28 starts for United in 1980-81, after costing 1, 000, 000 GBP from Nottingham Forest, and didn`t score.

 United languished at the foot of the table for a couple of seasons before success again in the 1963 F.A. Cup Final defeat of Leicester City, 3-1, in which Denis Law (1) and David Herd (2) scored the goals in the 30th, 57th and 85th minutes. Herd was a proven striker bought by Busby from Arsenal in an attempt to raise United`s league title ambitions through goals, while Denis had been a goalscoring prodigy at Manchester City scoring 19 goals in 37 appearances in 1960-61, before Italian giants, Torino, took him away for a brief experimental sojourn in Serie `A` and a relatively disappointing return of 10 goals in 27 appearances. Busby paid a then record fee of 115, 000 GBP for the services of Law, who was so effective he became known as Old Trafford`s `King` (1962-73), finally scoring 171 goals in 309 appearances, and winning two league championships in 1964-65 and 1966-67 alongside Herd.

 The period of Law and Herd as striking partners was the most productive in terms of trophies that Manchester United would have before Alex Ferguson`s legendary reign properly began with the F.A. Cup Final replay win of 1990 over Crystal Palace, 1-0, thanks to a run and shoot from left full back, Lee Martin. On a speculative charge from his own penalty area to Palace`s, in the 53rd minute Martin accepted a ball on his chest before allowing it to fall to where he could unleash an unstoppable drive into the net. United were nurturing a future Arsenal `keeper in the reserves, Jimmy Rimmer, while David Gaskell, the 1957 F.A. Youth Cup winning `keeper had been between the posts in United`s defeat of Leicester, 3-1, in the 1963 F.A. Cup Final. JImmy Rimmer would make several appearances for United in the `keeper`s role after being  a part of the 1964 F.A. Youth Cup winning side that contained other stars of the future; left back, Bobby Noble, who made 29 appearances for the championship winning team of 1966-67, before injury ended his career; wing half, John Fitzpatrick; winger Willie Anderson, who would later be first team understudy to winger, George Best; centre forward or centre back, David Sadler, and left wing, John Aston. Best and Sadler would contribute to Manchester United`s championship successes in 1965 while Aston and Noble would have to wait to join them for the successful 1967 campaign, and they would also be amongst the pivotal members of a United team that would be the first English club to win the coveted European Champions` Cup, 4-1, against Benfica with goals from Charlton in the 53rd and 99th minutes, Best (92nd ) and Kidd (94th), after extra time when the scores were at 1-1.

 The story of the 1968 European Cup win is of a team bereft of the talent it needed. David Herd broke his leg in 1967 and never really recovered. Denis Law had a knee injury that kept him out of the Final and he was never really at his peak again. Nobby Stiles entertained viewing audiences globally as he danced around Wembley stadium after a Geoff Hurst hat-trick and another goal from West Ham colleague, inside forward Martin Peters, beat Germany, 4-2, in the 1966 World Cup Final, but star United defender Nobby was blind without his contact lenses and he had a reputation for losing them on the pitch, which caused him to lunge into life-endangering tackles. John Fitzpatrick would be getting his chance after the 1968 European Cup Final, so centre forward, David Sadler, played centre half against Benfica while, in deference to the needs of an injury hit team, Nobby Stiles received from Busby a berth in left midfield. Hugely exciting and dynamic winger, George Best, was moved inside by Busby so John Aston could shine on the left wing against the Portuguese. Without Law and Herd, 19 year old Brian Kidd was selected for the Final as a zestful replacement for Law, while Best was in Herd`s position up front. Although the chemistry worked particularly well for that game only, Bill Foulkes had been at centre back since 1951 or thereabouts and he didn`t move as well as he had. Busby`s retirement a year later after failing to master what the English newspapers described as, a `brutal` Estudiantes De La Plata in the Intercontinental Cup Final between the Argentinian winners of the South American Copa Libertadores and the European Champions, which the English team lost 1-2 on aggregate, had left Manchester United ruing a brief Renaissance inspired in no small measure by the winning graduates of the 1964 F.A. Youth Cup.

 Scot, Tommy Docherty, who`d managed Chelsea to a 1965 League Cup Final win, replaced Frank O` Farrell, who`d arrived from Leicester to replace Wilf McGuinness after he`d steered an ageing team to a 1969-70 F.A. Cup semi-final against Leeds, which United lost in the second replay, 0-1, after successive goalless draws, and Wilf`s inexplicable preference for Italian midfielder, Carlo Sartori, to goal `King` Denis Law. The League Cup semi-final of 1970 followed against Manchester City, which United lost on aggregate, 3-4, after a goal from Charlton in the first leg, which United lost 1-2 at Maine Road. In the second leg at Old Trafford, right full back, Paul Edwards, scored. Paul`s contribution to United, like Ian Ure`s,  bought from Arsenal as a centre half, wouldn`t extend further than the 1969-70 (18 appearances) and 1970-71 (29 appearances) campaigns. Ure would make 34 and 13 appearances respectively for United in seasons 1969-70 and 1970-71, and the defeats to Leeds in the 1970 F.A. Cup semi-final, together with the 1970 League Cup semi-final defeat, ultimately curtailed his United career. Despite a second goal from Denis Law, a 2-2 draw in the 1970 League Cup semi-final at Old Trafford put Manchester City through. After the 1971 League Cup semi-final against Aston Villa, which United lost on aggregate, 2-3, despite Brian Kidd scoring in each leg home and away, Wilf McGuinness` days as manager at the Theatre of Dreams were over and so were the playing careers of Edwards and Ure.

 Frank O` Farrell arrived feeling he was qualified to manage Manchester United after steering Second Division Leicester City to the title and into the top tier of English soccer by the end of the 1970-71 season. United were 10 points clear at Christmas but lost 7 straight games in the New Year and O`Farrell had had his chance. Tommy Docherty was appointed after the 1971-72 season and began an overhaul of the United playing staff, which would see the end of the careers of players like John Fitzpatrick at Manchester United. John was a one club player with an unquenchable thirst for success who appeared significantly for United for just four seasons before retiring through injury. He made 14 appearances in 1967-68, 28 appearances in 1968-69 for 3 goals, 20 appearances in 1969-70 for 3 goals, and 35 appearances in 1970-71 for 2 goals, while he received only a European Cup Winners` medal as the named `reserve` in 1968 to go with his F.A. Youth Cup winners` medal of 1964.

 The player to span the managerial generations at Old Trafford was Willie Morgan, a Scot brought by Busby for the 1968-69 campaign from Burnley to play on the right wing as a replacement for John Connelly who`d been transferred from Burnley to United in 1964-65 and had won a championship medal that same season. Morgan was used to replacing Connelly, because he`d done the same at Burnley when John left for United. Willie went on to survive managers McGuinness, O` Farrell, and for a while, Docherty, who gave Morgan the captain`s armband for the 1974-75 campaign to get promotion from the Second Division at the first attempt after the club was humiliatingly relegated to a Denis Law back heeled goal when the former `King` of Old Trafford had been offloaded back to Manchester City by Docherty as a player `past his prime`.

 Tommy Docherty bought Second Division veteran centre forward, Stuart Pearson, from Hull City for 200, 000 GBP, because of his experience and proven scoring ability at that level. Pearson repaid the money well spent with goals that would take United back to the top tier at the end of the 1974-75 season as Second Division champions. But the Pearson goal that would give United the platform for their first trophy since 1968`s European Cup triumph, came when Stuart drove the ball under the legs of Liverpool `keeper, Ray Clemence, for the equalizing goal in the 1977 F.A. Cup Final, which would be won, 2-1, after a strike from midfield battler, Lou Macari, was steered into the net off his chest by Jimmy Greenhoff, United`s centre forward. By the end of the 1974-75 season, Docherty had replaced Morgan on the right wing and Irishman Gerry Daly on the left. Daly moved into midfield but Morgan had survived his last manager. Steve Coppell, right wing, and Gordon Hill, left wing, were bought from Tranmere and Millwall respectively to be the wings of a prayer that would take United and Pearson to F.A. Cup Final success in 1977.

 Youth team players would emerge to make a difference, most notably centre forwards, Mark Hughes and Norman Whiteside, who weren`t F.A. Youth Cup winners, but did make the 1982 Final, which United narrowly lost to Watford, 7-6 on aggregate. Hughes (2) Whiteside (1) and the powerful shooting boots of midfielder, Clayton Blackmore (1), demonstrated enough to `Big Ron` Atkinson, then United`s manager after Docherty`s replacement, Dave Sexton, who`d guided Q.P.R to second place in the table, just one point behind Liverpool in 1975-76, had also failed to put the championship trophy in the Old Trafford cabinet. Hughes would score twice against Crystal Palace to force a 3-3 draw and a replay in the F.A. Cup Final of 1990, before left full back, Lee Martin, who`d been an F.A. Youth Cup Finalist with United in Manchester City`s 3-1 defeat of the red shirts in 1986, drove in the goal in the replay that would properly begin Ferguson`s reign as a successful manager. Martin was withdrawn in the 88th minute and was replaced by Clayton Blackmore, who would excel in the role for a season or so. Despite Mark Hughes` top scoring in 1984-85 and 1985-86, Atkinson sold him to Barcelona for 2, 000, 000 GBP, and he`d starred alongside Norman Whiteside in the 1985 F.A. Cup Final against Everton, which was notable mainly for United centre back, Kevin Moran, being sent off in the 78th minute, so leaving the side with only ten men, and Norman Whiteside`s curling shot from the right edge of the penalty area that went in at the far post in the 110tth minute of extra time to give United a surprisingly well earned win. Whiteside had scored in the 4-0 F.A. Cup Final replay victory over Brighton and Hove Albion after a 2-2 draw, but it was Atkinson`s decision to sell Hughes that was his downfall. After taking up the managerial reins for the 1986-87 season, Ferguson resigned Hughes in 1988-89 for 1, 800, 000 GBP and Mark didn`t drop below double figures for a season until his last in 1994-95 (8) when he still made the team for the F.A. Cup Final defeat to Everton, 0-1.

 F.A. Youth Cup Finalist teammate, Clayton Blackmore, was at left back when Mark Hughes added the European Cup Winners` Cup of 1991 to his trophy haul, scoring twice in a 2-1 defeat of Spanish club Barcelona. Clayton was on the left side of midfield when the European Super Cup was added that same year, 1-0, thanks to a goal in the 67th minute from Hughes` strike partner, Brian McClair, who`d been brought from Celtic by Ferguson for 850, 000 GBP for the 1987-88 season`s campaigning. Hughes and McClair combined again to bring the League Cup to Old Trafford for the first time in 1992, with McClair scoring the winning goal as early as the 14th minute, while Clayton Blackmore was making his last appearances as a midfielder/defender for United, since he became a fully fledged professional in 1985-86, as the twenty six year wait for the league title ended in 1992-93, before the `double` winning season of 1993-94 in which McClair and Hughes would each score to take United to an F.A. Cup win over Chelsea, 4-0.

United had won the F.A. Youth Cup in 1992 and again in 1995, with right back, Gary Neville as captain in `92 and his brother, Phil, captain in `95. In his team Gary had right winger and future England captain, David Beckham, who`d inspire United to a further European Cup win in 1999 against Bayern Munich, 2-1, in injury time with goals from Teddy Sheringham in the 91st and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the 93rd minute. Gary`s Youth Cup Final winning team of 1992 also contained left winger, Ryan Giggs, who`d go on to win one more European Cup than Beckham in 2008 when Ryan scored the winning goal in the penalty shoot out that beat Chelsea. Gary`s captain`s armband would last for most of his career (1992-2011), and Phil Neville would have a lengthy spell at Old Trafford (1995-2005) under his brother`s watchful eye. Phil`s F.A. Youth Cup captaincy bore its own fruit too. Ronnie Wallwork was the 1995 F.A. Youth Cup Final teammate of Phil`s that would go on to appear 12 times for Manchester United in the 2000-01 season to claim a championship medal as a defensive midfield player replacing the reds` usual driving force in midfield, captain Roy Keane, whose rugged `never say die` style resulted in his body making efforts it shouldn`t.

 Injury often restricted Keane`s season long effectiveness, as it had with former England captain, Bryan Robson, during his period of driving dynamism at Manchester United, and was as detrimental to the team`s success as critics claimed the jinking wing skills of players like George Best and Gordon Hill had been a handicap to the collective achievements of the side, because they were individually effective, but not incorporated into a pattern of play that the others could work with rather than admire enviously and lament that they couldn`t understand and so weren`t able to control. Uncontrollability was ironically the reason for the success of geniuses like Best and Hill. Genius was what frustrated the dour dullness of coaches obsessed with harnessing technically gifted performers. Less skillful players, who could never emulate unpredictability, wouldn`t get into a first eleven made up of creative individuals, and so the aim of the `professional` became fascistic elimination of the gifted talent. Players like Robson and Keane combined flair with aggression as dominant driving forces from midfield, which satisfied coaches` desire for involvement, but damned creativity while inculcating an ethos of physical disregard that inevitably produced what the critics had suggested unique invention did. With a midfield dynamo never fully operational due to breakdown, the side was limited by an engine that functioned marvelously but fitfully. Bryan Robson was even called `Captain Marvel` jeeringly, because he could perform superheroically in fits and starts, but it was all `sound and fury, signifying nothing`1 when he couldn`t make the team for the next encounter because of a thigh strain or a `niggling` hamstring, and clubs challenging for honors talked Robson and Keane up so that they`d make ever more prodigious efforts and break down before the prizes were handed out to the tortoises rather than the hare.

 The typical scenario was Manchester United under manager, Frank O` Farrell, 10 points clear at Christmas and an 8th place finish in 1971-72, following a hare start and an injury to aggressive yet skilful left wing, Ian Storey Moore, bought from Nottingham Forest for 225, 000 GBP, stalled the engine after the kick start from 11 starts and 5 goals which United had badly needed. Manager, Ron Atkinson, amassed 30 league points after winning 10 straight games at the beginning of the 1985-86 season, but the team finished 4th on 76 points. Bryan Robson dislocated his shoulder in February 1986, which ruled him out of any effectiveness he might have had with England in the 1986 World Cup Finals, and for Manchester United he made only 21 starts for 7 goals. Ron Atkinson`s solution was to have adequate replacements for injury prone Robson, which is why he brought defensive midfield star Remi Moses from W.B.A in the transfer package that secured the services of Robson.  Alex Ferguson did the same with Roy Keane, which meant an opportunity for Phil Neville to hone his talent for emergency central midfield duty.

 Juan Ramon, `the little witch`, had been the thorn in the side of Manchester United as they  lost 2-1 to Argentina`s Estudiantes De La Plata in the Intercontinental Cup Final of 1969, making the headed goal from Conigliaro in the 28th minute of the first leg, 1-0, and scoring with a header at Old Trafford in the 7th minute of the second leg, to make it 2-0 on aggregate, with only a Willie Morgan strike in the 89th minute as the consolation for United. Ferguson would bring Juan Sebastian Ramon, son of `the little witch`, to the Theatre Of Dreams, for the 2001-02 season for a then record 28, 100, 000 GBP, largely because United needed cover for a midfield that contained England`s Paul Scholes and Keane, and that had won three successive championships since 1999`s treble winning season, but was finding it difficult to maintain momentum in the face of strong tackles from opposition defenders trying to stop or injure those working in the engine room. Veron won a league title in 2003 before being lured to Chelsea by new owner, Russia`s billionaire Abramovich, while Keane`s retirement after 2005 led to Ferguson`s turning to West Ham United`s Michael Carrick (2006-14) as a ball player who could tackle without getting `crocked`, which steadied United`s midfield wondrously. Manchester United had won the Youth Cup Final in 2003 against Middlesboro and left winger, Kieran Richardson, who scored in the 3-1 win, would have some impact before and after Carrick`s arrival. With 8 starts and 7 substitute appearances in United`s championship winning season of 2006-07, Richardson represented the possibilities afforded by the then novel five substitutes rule implemented by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which made it possible to `spell` ageing performers like Ryan Giggs during the game to prolong their career.

 By 2014 Giggs had been a player at Manchester United since 1991 and was so well established he was given the role of caretaker manager after the sacking of Ferguson`s replacement, David Moyes, who`d flattered to deceive. Moyes lost a League Cup semi-final to bottom team Sunderland and failed to master a Bayern Munich team in the European Cup quarter final, 2-4, after taking the lead in a game that ended 1-1 at Old Trafford. United had been buoyed after a 58th minute headed goal from Serbian central defensive stalwart since 2005-06, Nemanja Vidic, who`d already declared he was leaving and the club would have nothing left to play for that season if Bayern won, which they did, 1-3, in Munich. United`s only strike came from Patrice Evra, French left back, who`d opened the floodgates in the 57th minute at 0-1 after being found in the penalty area by an out swinging cross from Ecuadorian right winger, Antonio Valencia, that missed everyone but Evra who delightedly crashed the ball into the top corner of the Bayern net. The strike was reminiscent of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer`s against Bayern Munich in the European Cup Final of 1999, which gave Manchester United a 2-1 victory. Giggs played on that occasion and would again in 2008, in some measure due to Richardson and other players spelling him for long periods of play when the winger`s ageing legs wouldn`t serve for more than an hour or so. 

 Teamwork gave Giggs his shot at managership on 26th April 2014, at home to Norwich, which United won, 4-0, but the side lost the next game at home to Sunderland, and that was it. Giggs didn`t yet have the experience, but his persevering with the mercurial brilliance of 19 year old Belgian, Adnan Januzaj, who scored in the 94th minute against Norwich and made 27 appearances in a roving striking midfield role that season for 4 goals, indicated Giggs` managerial pedigree. Against Hull City Giggs selected young forwards, Tom Lawrence (20) and James Wilson (18) for their debuts and Wilson scored twice, in the 31st and 61st minute as United won, 3-1. The last game of the 2013-14 season produced a 1-1 away draw at Southampton, where Adnan Januzaj continued his run in the team as United`s hope in the future. Although Netherlands` World Cup manager, Louis Van Gaal, would be arriving, Giggs` teammates had protected him enough: he`d be Van Gaal`s assistant.

 The Youth Cup had been won again in 2011 against Sheffield United, but Ferguson hadn`t had the option of keeping the midfield star of the team, Paul Pogba, who waited for his contract with the `red devils` to expire and signed on for consecutive championship success with Juventus in Italy`s Serie `A` in 2012-13 and 2013-14, and the Supercoppa Italiana against Lazio in 2012-13 after coming on as a substitute in the 20th minute for Claudio Marchisio and opening the scoring in the 23rd minute of what was to be a 4-0 win for Juvé. If United wanted to have Paul back at Old Trafford, the newspapers reported it`d cost 60, 000, 000 GBP, and it was shaping up like the Hughes` saga, where `Big Ron` had sold Hughes for 1, 800, 000 GBP to Barcelona and Alex Ferguson had to pay 2, 000, 000 GBP to have him returned. United`s youth team policy had now contributed to the rise of a new French star who`d play in the World Cup of 2014, but the role of `feeder` club to the Spanish giants, Barcelona had taken Hughes, and Real Madrid had taken Beckham and his groomed successor, Portuguese right winger, Christiano Ronaldo.

 David Beckham had been instrumental in bringing the 1999 European Cup to Old Trafford, when the right winger had crossed from the left for Teddy Sheringham to head the ball on for Solskjaer to put out his foot and steer the ball into Bayern`s goal in the 93rd minute, 2-1. Ronaldo had scored the headed goal against Chelsea, in Moscow`s Luzhniki stadium in 2008, from a cross by right back, Wes Brown, over by the right touchline on 26 minutes, which had given United a 1-0 lead devastatingly cancelled out by Frank Lampard in the 45th minute as the players were looking forward to the half time interval. The contest went to extra time and penalties when Chelsea captain John Terry fell on his arse in the rain where he had to score to win the trophy for the blues but missed. Giggs stepped up to convert his spot kick and the European Cup went back to the Theatre Of Dreams.

 Paul Pogba`s declining of a contract with United to play for Juventus was symptomatic of United`s failure to attract and keep good players at the club. United centre forward, Wayne Rooney, used United`s inability to lure new talent to raise his salary to 300, 000 GBP per week under David Moyes` stewardship, but United didn`t win a trophy. Louis Van Gaal`s arrival as the new Dutch boss at Old Trafford meant either Youth Cup Final success, productive of talent grown for the overseas market, as Paul Pogba ultimately was, or a youth policy designed to tie good young players to the club if overseas imports couldn`t be persuaded to brave the Manchester winters, and the absence of a tan, for a more satisfying path to heaven on the wings of the prayerful.


 1 Shakespeare, William MacBeth, `Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.` (Act 5, Scene 5, l. 24-8), 1599-1606.

13/06/2014 02:30

What Did Dave Sexton Ever Do For Manchester United?

Dave Sexton was Chelsea manager after Tommy Docherty left for Manchester United and United boss after Tommy Docherty was sacked shortly after the team he`d built to climb out of the Second Division of English football in 1974-75 upon relegation at the end of the 1973-74 season had won the 1977 F.A. Cup Final 2-1 against a Liverpool team that would have completed the treble of league, European Cup and F.A. Cup that year if United hadn`t defeated the Merseysiders at Wembley stadium, London, to take the trophy for only the fourth time in the club`s history and the first since 1963 when David Herd and Denis Law had scored the goals that beat Leicester City 3-1. United`s 1977 victory was recompense for their failure the previous season to beat Second Division Southampton in the F.A. Cup Final of 1976 which the team lost to a late Bobby Stokes strike in the 83rd minute. Although Stuart Pearson and Jimmy Greenhoff were the goalscoring heroes against Liverpool a year later at Wembley, an extra-marital affair with Mary, wife of the United physiotherapist, Laurie Brown, and the relative paucity of success for the United players during Docherty`s tenure, resulted in Dave Sexton`s being brought from Queens Park Rangers, where he`d nurtured a fine team that included Scotland`s playmaker, Don Masson, England right winger, Dave Thomas, England captain and midfield maestro, Gerry Francis, and the mercurial striking skills of England forward Stan Bowles.

 Although Sexton didn`t win anything with QPR, a team he`d bolstered with players from Chelsea, midfielder John Hollins and defender David Webb, the London team had come within a point of the league title in 1975-76. Success with Chelsea had come on the heels of Docherty`s departure as manager there in 1967 where Tommy`s side had won the League Cup in 1965. Sexton`s Chelsea won the F.A. Cup in 1970 and the European Cup Winners` Cup in 1971 before Sexton`s sacking by relegated Chelsea and his move to QPR in 1974-75 coincided with United`s relegation to the Second Division under Docherty. Sexton`s arrival at Manchester United for the 1977-78 campaign looked very similar to his taking over the reins at Chelsea after Docherty`s dismissal. Hopes at United were that Sexton would win a European trophy as he had at Chelsea with the squad Docherty had built there, but hadn`t been able to make the best use of, whereas Sexton had taken the players to successive triumphs in the 1970 F.A. Cup Final and 1971 Cup Winners` Cup. United had won the European Cup in 1968 at Wembley against Benfica of Portugal 4-1, with goals from Bobby Charlton (2), George Best and Brian Kidd, so ambition was high, but would Sexton be able to satisfy the demand for achievement at `the world`s biggest club`, as he had improved Chelsea`s standing in the early 1970s, when Docherty there hadn`t lived up to expectations; despite building a good young blues` side.

 The Chelsea core of Tommy Docherty`s League Cup winners` 3-2 against Leicester City were still much in evidence during Sexton`s successful period; `keeper Peter Bonetti, Ron `Chopper` Harris, at centre half, and midfield general, John Hollins, had been in Docherty`s `65 team, and alongside most notably, Peter Osgood, Docherty`s centre forward nurtured since `64, Bonetti, `Chopper` and Hollins would be there for Sexton against Leeds United in the 1970 F.A. Cup Final. Leeds were beaten 2-1 in a replay with Osgood making the scoresheet after a 2-2 draw, while the team beat Real Madrid in the 1971 European Cup Winners` Cup Final with Osgood scoring home and away in an aggregate 3-2 win over both legs. Speculation at United revolved around who`d be the backbone of the team for Sexton for the 1977-78 season after Docherty and could Sexton improve the United team to win as he`d done with the Chelsea side he`d also inherited from Tommy, `the Doc`, Docherty.

 Osgood had been in the Southampton team that had beaten United 0-1 in the 1976 F.A. Cup Final in the twilight of the England centre forward`s career, but Sexton had had the dynamic and forceful England captain at QPR, Gerry Francis, and speculation was rife that he`d bring the superstar performer to Old Trafford where he`d command the `serried ranks against the foe`1 (Sam: 2. 8) The reputed fee was 450,000 GBP and United had already lost out to Liverpool on Kenny Dalglish`s much heralded 440,000 GBP move from Scotland`s Glasgow Celtic to improve his soccer experience in England and replace English striker, Kevin Keegan, who`d opted to leave Merseyside for Germany`s Hamburg SV to broaden his own experience after Liverpool`s crushing 3-1 victory over Germany`s Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 1977 European Cup Final. As it turned out the rumors weren’t enough to persuade QPR to part with England captain Francis` undoubtedly great talent as a skilful midfield dynamo and goalscorer, so what would Sexton do? Gordon Hill, Manchester United`s left winger, substituted by tenacious Irish midfielder, David McCreery, in successive F.A. Cup Finals to bolster United`s defence when it looked as if they`d lose by more or lose their lead, was top scorer in consecutive seasons for United (1976-8), but Sexton decided to sell him to Derby County for 250,000 GBP and bring Wrexham`s Mickey Thomas from Wales to play on the left side of midfield. Most commentators believed the sale of Hill contributed to Sexton`s failure, but Dave had other contributions to make before leaving.

 The giant Scots` centre forward and centre back pairing at Leeds United, Joe Jordan (350, 000 GBP) and Gordon McQueen (495, 000 GBP), were brought to rectify a flaw many had perceived at the heart of the United defence, where Brian Greenhoff, a converted midfielder, had often looked too small to deal with towering opposition centre forwards like Peter Osgood, for example, which had left Scotland centre back, Martin Buchan, with often too much to do. It was also felt that United`s forward line had lacked height for many seasons since the decline of Brian Kidd, who`d scored against Benfica of Lisbon with his head as a 19 year old replacement for injured `King` Denis Law against the Portuguese side in the 4-1 European Cup Final triumph of 1968, but Kidd hadn`t fulfilled expectations after scoring a career high 15 league goals at Manchester United in his debut season, and it was expected that Joe Jordan`s height would now make itself felt in goals in an area United had been deficient since Kidd`s seasons` tally began to fall away drastically after Docherty`s arrival to replace Frank O` Farrell in December 1972 when Brian had 8 goals so far for the campaign. Brian Kidd would score but 2 more that season, and 4 in 1972-73 followed by 2 in 1973-74 when United were relegated at season`s end.

 Although Sexton gave an opportunity to Irish `keeper Paddy Roche in the 1977-78 season in which he made 19 appearances, Paddy`s performances towards the middle of the 1975-76 season when Tommy Docherty had inexplicably decided to drop England `keeper, Alex Stepney, and promote the raw young Irishman to put himself between the ball at the striker`s foot and the net, had been disastrous when it seemed as if United would sweep all before them that season on the wings of Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill. Roche was given a run of five consecutive matches in November, 1975. Although he kept the ball out of the net in two games, he lost ten goals in three losses to Liverpool, Manchester City, and Arsenal. Roche didn`t make another appearance that season and the defeat to Manchester City 0-4 at Maine Road in the 4th round of the League Cup was accounted suicide when the reliable Stepney was available. United hadn`t won a domestic cup in well over a decade and the decision to select the untried Roche over the seasoned veteran, Stepney, contributed to Docherty`s final removal as a manager of unsound judgement.

 Dave Sexton promoted a young South African `keeper, Gary Bailey, aged 20, who made 28 appearances in the 1978-79 season. Bailey`d paid his own airfare to attend a Manchester United trial and became amongst the best `keepers of his generation, although he was blamed for letting in a headed Alan Sunderland goal after a seemingly innocuous left wing cross from over by the corner flag by Graham Rix in the final moments of the 1979 F.A. Cup Final. United had lost 2-3 in what was amongst the earliest games Gary played in the team. Ultimately it was Sexton`s farewell, because United never came closer to winning a trophy under Dave`s management. Bringing England playmaker, Ray `Butch` Wilkins, from Chelsea for 800, 000 GBP was a bold move forward. Wilkins would go on to captain England and United. Sexton`s successor, `Big Ron` Atkinson from West Bromwich Albion, would be grateful for `Butch`, who would score dramatically from long range in the 1983 F.A. Cup Final draw, 2-2, with Brighton And Hove Albion, before United won the replay, 4-0. United finished two points behind champions Liverpool in 1979-80 and a leggy 22 year old Irishman, Ashley Grimes, made 20 starts on the left side of midfield, scoring 3 goals. Although Joe Jordan managed to get into double figures in 1979-80 (13) and 1980-81 (15), it wasn`t enough to keep Sexton at Manchester United. Irish defender, Kevin Moran, had emerged at centre back and would remain there for many seasons, but Yugoslavian defender, Nikolai Jovanovic, brought from Red Star Belgrade where he scored 50 goals in 359 appearances was much less impressive in the 19 starts Sexton gave him in the 1980-81 season. Paying a club record transfer fee of 1, 000, 000 GBP for Nottingham Forest striker, Gary Birtles, who started 25 times without finding the net, brought Sexton the sack.

 Ron Atkinson`s 1983 F.A. Cup winning side was but the first of only two trophy successes at the club during Atkinson`s tenure as manager. Bailey, McQueen, Moran, Wilkins and Grimes would be the Sexton imports and promotions present in the 1983 line up, while the 1-0 1985 F.A. Cup team would still contain Bailey and former Gaelic football star, Kevin Moran. Sexton had unearthed a `keeper and eventually a centre back, but Ron sent Gary Birtles back to Forest. Atkinson would sell `Butch` Wilkins to Forest at a time when he had the new England captain, powerhouse Bryan Robson, brought from his old club WBA to make a complete England midfield, but `Big Ron` sold Ray to Italian soccer giants A. C. Milan for 1, 500, 000 GBP, as later he`d sell newly emerged young Welsh striking hero Mark Hughes to Barcelona for 2, 000, 000 GBP in a Summer `86 move that further branded him susceptible to European glamour clubs looking to prey on Ron`s weakness for loving the limelight of the newspapers` sports` pages at the expense of the club`s fortunes.

 After beginning the 1985-86 season, with three consecutive defeats, Ron was sacked by the United board in November 1986 after a 4th round League Cup exit to Southampton with the club languishing second to bottom in the championship race. Legendary Rangers` centre forward, Scot Alex Ferguson, was brought from Aberdeen, where he`d been the only manager outside of the big Glasgow clubs, Rangers and Celtic, to win a European trophy; the Cup Winners` Cup in 1983. Docherty, Sexton and Atkinson had managed United out of the Matt Busby era of five championships between 1952 and 1967, but the title had eluded all of them. Hughes was pointedly returned by Alex Ferguson in the Summer of `88 for a club record 1, 800, 000 GBP from where he was playing for Germany`s Bayern Munich to commence the 1988-89 season as Manchester United`s centre forward. The F.A. Cup was subsequently won in 1990, with Mark Hughes putting United in front at 2-1 with a confusingly rare left foot shot into the top right corner from the left of the penalty area in the 62nd minute, before extra time and an equalizer for the physically indefatigable Hughes receiving a through ball from Paul Ince and driving a shot along the ground past the onrushing Crystal Palace `keeper into the bottom left corner to level the score at 3-3 in the 113th minute. United won the replay 1-0 with a goal from left full back, Lee Martin, who`d run speculatively upfield before surprisedly receiving the ball on his chest on the edge of the area and, finding it fall at his feet nicely, ran on to blast it high into the roof of the net with no little glee.

 Victory for Manchester United in the European Cup Winners` Cup in 1991 followed upon their F.A. Cup Final success of 1990, with Hughes getting both goals in the 2-1 victory over Barcelona. The European Super Cup was won against Red Star Belgrade, 1-0, in 1991, and the League Cup, 1-0, against Nottingham Forest, in 1992, with Hughes` striking partner, Brian McClair, brought from Celtic to start the 1987-88 campaign for 850, 000 GBP, getting the single goal on both occasions. But it`d be twenty six years after their first championship win in 1907-08, under the stewardship of Ernest Mangnall, before in 1992-93 Hughes` stolid reliability as a finisher, combined with occasional genius in front of goal, brought to Old Trafford`s Theatre Of Dreams Manchester United`s eighth championship and the first of the thirteen Alex would eventually win for the club before his retirement season`s last league title in 2012-13.

 Alex Ferguson`s eye for a striker was by then legendary after signing such devastating forwards as Mark Hughes (120), Brian McClair (88), Eric Cantona (64), Dwight Yorke (48), Andy Cole (93), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (91), Teddy Sheringham (31), Ruud Van Nistelrooy (95), Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov (48) so, when United`s spirit seemed exhausted in losing the title on goal difference to Manchester City in 2011-12, noone was surprised as Alex went to North London rivals Arsenal and bought Dutchman, Robin Van Persie for 24, 000, 000 GBP, to score the 26 goals in Ferguson`s last season that won the championship and a hero`s farewell for the manager.

1 .

19/05/2014 20:58

Brian McClair

Arriving at Manchester United at the beginning of the 1987-88 season, Brian McClair had won the Scottish FA Cup in 1985 and the Scottish league championship in 1986 as a goalscoring centre forward brought to Old Trafford by Alex Ferguson who bore a strikers` resemblance to future United captain, Bryan Robson, as a player for `Gers.

  For many years the taboo against playing for both Glasgow Celtic and Rangers remained until striker, Alfie Conn, who`d been transferred to England`s Tottenham Hotspur (1974-77) from Protestant Rangers (1968-74), went to the green hoops of Catholic Celtic (1977-79), where he scored 32 goals after netting 38 for `Spurs` and 93 for Rangers. Former `Gers centre forward, Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager (1986-2013), had no such taboo against Celtic players to enforce at traditionally Catholic United and McClair was brought to lead the line after Ferguson`s appointment at the start of the 1986 campaign failed to produce a trophy.  

 Indeed, Manchester United would be trophyless until 1989-90 despite McClair`s tally of 24 league goals in his first season, which established his place in the team and, although he was never really effective as a forward, Brian found favour with Ferguson in what was initially a midfield support role familiar to United fans from the days of Sammy McIlroy (1971-81) who`d begun as a centre forward as `the last of the Busby babes` nurtured by legendary manager, Matt Busby, scoring in a 3-3 draw against Manchester City at Old Trafford in the 1971-72 campaign and was preferred by succeeding manager, Tommy Docherty, in a midfield support role after the team was relegated and promoted in successive seasons (1973-75) before winning the only trophy of Docherty`s tenure, the FA Cup in 1977 with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool who were almost treble winners that season but for the Wembley upset as the Merseyside giants` league championship side went on to beat Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1 in the European Cup Final of that year. Super `Sam` had almost won the FA Cup the previous season for United but had inexplicably hit the left hand post with a header when it seemed impossible that it shouldn`t go in and the Old Trafford outfit had lost 0-1 to Second Division Southampton and a late `sucker punch` from Bobby Stokes in a Southampton counter attack after United had dominated throughout. Just as McIlroy`s goals dried up under pressure with his highest number of goals scored being 10 in 1975-76, so McClair reached double figures only thrice more, 10 in 1988-89, 13 in 1990-91, and 18 in 1991-92, in a `converted` goalscoring midfield support role.

 In a distinguished career Brian McClair emulated two Manchester United legends, Arthur Albiston (1974-88), Scotland`s left back, and England`s captain, Bryan Robson (1981-94), who both won three FA Cup winners` medals in a period of relative mediocrity. Arthur had been fortunate that an injury had kept Stewart Houston out of the 1977 FA Cup Final, but appearances in the 1983 Final against Brighton and Hove Albion (2-2 and 4-0 in the replay) and Everton in the 1985 Final (1-0) were the record breaking highlights of a fourteen year career at Old Trafford`s `Theatre of Dreams`. Midfield powerhouse Bryan Robson arrived when his manager, Ron Atkinson at West Bromwich Albion, decided he couldn`t accept the job in Manchester unless Robson went with him. Bryan signed in 1981 for a then record transfer fee of 1.5 million GBP but received only 1983 and 1985 Cup Final winners` medals for his dynamic efforts until Ferguson and McClair`s arrival and Manchester United began to fulfil their potential as the club with the greatest support globally and the financial wherewithal to rise from a falsely mediocre position that had embarrassed Old Trafford since Matt Busby (1945-69) had managed the club to European Cup Final victory over Benfica (4-1) in 1968.

 Although McClair scored only 5 times in 1989-90, his support from midfield was a factor contributory to Manchester United`s first trophy under Ferguson and since the FA Cup Final victory over Everton in 1985 overseen by `Big Ron` Atkinson. The victory was Robson`s third and last; even though a very young United side would win the FA Cup without him in 1994 while he was still a vital part of the championship winning squad that term. McClair would be a part of that success too, although he`d come off the substitutes` bench to score the fourth goal against Chelsea in the 92nd minute. Notable by their absence, McClair and centre half, Steve Bruce, didn`t make the 1996 FA Cup Final in which `Fergie`s Fledglings`, who`d won the double in 1993-94, were going for the FA Cup again after winning the championship in 1995-96. United won against Liverpool 1-0 after a typically mercurial performance from inspirational captain and French centre forward, Eric Cantona, who scored in the 85th minute with a volley through a crowd of Liverpool players inside the `keeper`s area. McClair and Bruce were surprisingly omitted but, after winning the Scottish FA Cup in 1985, the Scot did have three FA Cup Final winners` medals and so had emulated England captain, Bryan Robson, and fellow Scot, Arthur Albiston, left back for his country and United.

 McClair`s spell at United was rewarded with more than two FA Cup winners` medals to add to his Scots` Cup medal and league championship. Robson`s perseverance was rewarded by a winners` medal in the European Cup Winners` Cup Final of 1991 against Barcelona (2-1), followed by the European Super Cup (1-0) in which McClair scored the winning goal against European Cup holders, Red Star Belgrade, in the 67th minute. A league Cup winners` medal in 1992 following a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest with a goal from McClair in the 14th minute, before United`s first championship in twenty-seven years in the 1992-93 season, were rewards for injury prone Robson and squad player Brian, who both kept persevering and picking up trophies with just a few significant appearances towards the conclusion of fine career contributions. In 1992-93 and 1993-94, Bryan Robson made 14 and 15 appearances respectively and picked up a championship medal on each occasion before ending his career at United, while McClair also kept up appearances and claimed a championship winners` medal in his penultimate season of 1996-97 with his lowest number of appearances (19), before a trophyless 1997-98 (13) season saw the end of a United playing career that was never anything less than doggedly determined and fiercely understated in its illustriousness.

22/02/2014 15:38

Soccer Tsar Andrei Kanchelskis

Manchester United right winger, Andrei Kanchelskis, played for the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics (USSR), known as the Soviet Union before the Russian Federation was brought into being by President Mikhail Gorbachev on December 25, 1991. Before the USSR became the Russian Federation a Russian Soviet team that had qualified for the 1992 European soccer championships played under the flag of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which consisted of those nations of Eastern Europe that would be a part of the new Russian Federation, while others would remain independent (CIS) and some would join the European Union that had come into being in 1958 as a group of nations in Western Europe aiming to help each other economically.

 The European Economic Community (EEC) became the European Union (EU) in 1993 after its political aims expanded until it was a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with a defence system shared with the United States and others. The Commonwealth of Independent States` soccer team was important for Eastern Europe because it represented the goal of a European Commonwealth inclusive of Russia, who had players in the squad, and not a federation of states described as Russian because controlled by Russia in what was a new Soviet system of centralized government from the Russian capital, Moscow.

 Andrei Kanchelskis had begun his soccer career with Ukraine`s Dynamo Kiev (1998-90) before leaving for another Ukrainian club, Shaktar Donetsk, where he was a member of the team that won the Russian cup in 1990. Of Lithuanian origin, Kanchelskis was born in the Ukraine but chose to play for Russia 59 times scoring 7 goals. Alex Ferguson signed Andrei in 1991 for Manchester United and in 1992 he was a member of the multinational squad that took part as the Commonwealth of International States (CIS) in the European Championships in which the side finished 8th overall.

 The results of the Commonwealth of Independent States` (CIS) team were afterwards transferred to the Russian Federation national side and Andrei Kanchelskis participated in the 1996 European Championships as a member of the Russian Federation team. Andrei played in all three CIS games against Germany, 1-1, Holland, 0-0 and Scotland, 0-3, in which Manchester United`s centre forward, Brian McClair, in his 26th international appearance, scored his first for Scotland and the team`s second in the 16th minute after his shot was deflected past CIS `keeper, Dmitri Kharine, by left full back, Kakhaber Tskhadadze. In Euro` `96 Russia finished bottom of their group and Kanchelskis played in defeats against Italy, 1-2, and Germany, 0-3, but was omitted for the final drawn game against the Czech Republic, 3-3.

 Andrei Kanchelskis was the first choice right winger at Old Trafford until future England captain, David Beckham, made his debut in a 1994-95 season in which United failed to win a trophy despite appearing in the FA Cup Final against Everton, 0-1. The following 1995-96 season Andrei was transferred to Everton and David, who`d made just four first team appearances the previous season, began to emerge as the dominant right sided midfield star of his generation with 33 appearances and 7 goals. During his years at the Theatre Of Dreams, the Russian winger collected medals in the European Super Cup (1991), the English League Cup (1992), the English championship (1993 and 1994) and the FA Cup (1994), which included the elusive league and cup double (1994) that had only previously been achieved in the modern era by Tottenham Hotspur (1960-61), Arsenal (1970-71) and Liverpool (1985-86).

 Manchester United was becoming a political force as they prepared one of their players to play for a team that included Russia as a member of an international organization of nations, that is, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), rather than as a central governor of unfree states, which is what the Soviet Union had been and the Russian Federation would be after the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Because Andrei had played for an Eastern European union the possibility of a European Union with Russia as a member was mooted.

 Although politics isn`t generally felt to be a part of soccer`s remit, Manchester United`s triumph in the European Cup of 1999 was followed by the club`s acceptance of the invitation to play against Palmeiras of Brazil in the Final of the Intercontinental Cup which the English based team won, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish midfield supremo, Roy Keane, who arrived at the far post to drive in a pinpoint left wing cross from Welsh wing wizard, Ryan Giggs, in the 35th minute. United were making friends in South America and the next time they played for the World Club Championship against Ecuador`s LDU Quito in the Final they`d three South American players in the starting line-up, Brazilian right back Rafael, midfield creator Anderson of Brazil, and centre forward Carlos Tevez of Argentina, both of whom had helped the side at Moscow`s Luzhniki stadium beat Chelsea on penalties in the European Cup Final of 2008 to qualify for the World Club Championship Finals in Japan.

 Star right winger, Portugal`s Cristiano Ronaldo, missed in the penalty shoot out against Chelsea after scoring with a header to give United the lead. Chelsea midfielder, Frank Lampard, had tapped in from close range just before half time after a long range shot by Michael Essien was deflected; first off central defender, Nemanja Vidic, and then off his defensive partner Rio Ferdinand. `Keeper Edwin Van Der Sar lost his footing trying to recover and Lampard pounced. The game finished 1-1 and Brazil`s Anderson took the first penalty for United in the shoot out and scored. Anderson had come on as a substitute for defender Wes Brown at right full back. Wes had put in the cross from out wide for Ronaldo to score the United goal in normal time with a header. After added extra time Argentina`s Carlos Tevez scored from his spot kick in the penalty shoot out to decide the winners, but Ronaldo missed and Chelsea centre forward, Nicholas Anelka too. Ryan Giggs got the winner after Chelsea captain, centre back John Terry, fell on his arse in the rain and hit the post.

 Manchester United had appeared in the Intercontinental Cup Final on one other occasion after wining the European Cup in 1968. Played over two legs home and away, United faced Estudiantes of Argentina and lost, 1-2, on aggregate. Juan Ramon Veron, the `little witch`, Estudiantes` right winger, had crossed for forward Marcos Conigliaro to give the Argentinians a 28th minute lead to take to Old Trafford. Veron himself scored from a header in the 7th minute at the Theatre Of Dreams and a late goal from the boot of right winger, Willie Morgan, in the 90th minute wasn`t enough to win the trophy for United. But the club had won friends in South America. Unlike Liverpool who refused to play against the Argentine side, Boca Juniors, in consecutive seasons after winning the European Cup in 1977 and 1978.

 Although Liverpool agreed to play Brazilian team Flamengo in 1981 and lost, 0-3, the single game took place in Japan, and the Falklands war with Argentina broke out in 1982 over dictator General Galtieri`s invasion of the small group of islands under British government close to the Argentine mainland on the South American continent. Liverpool`s refusal to participate in a two leg encounter with Boca Juniors at Anfield and La Boca in Buenos Aires was because of prejudice against players from a nation Alf Ramsay described as `animals` when he was the manager of England`s World Cup winners in 1966. A Geoff Hurst hat trick against Germany won the World Cup for England, and just as the wave of feeling for Manchester United went some way to healing the rift between the English and the Germans after World War Two (1939-45) when the team`s plane crashed at Munich`s airport on February 6, 1958, and several players lost their lives as they prepared for the upcoming World Cup in Sweden, so Liverpool`s taking the hand of friendship with Boca Juniors could have lessened feelings of hostility between the people of the United Kingdom and Argentina. Germany`s World Cup loss of 1966 wasn`t felt so bitterly, because of the bridges Manchester United had built with the German people after Munich. Borussia Monchengladbach grasped the hand of the Argentinians in 1977, although the German side lost, 2-5, on aggregate, while Boca Juniors would again have been Liverpool`s opponents in the 1978 Intercontinental Cup Final, but the Anfield team wouldn`t travel to South America and the competition was cancelled; even though the 1978 World Cup Finals were to be played in Argentina and the English players needed the experience.


 Manchester United won the European Cup Final of 2008 against London`s Chelsea, at Moscow`s Luzhniki stadium in Russia, while their Russian winger, Andrei Kanchelskis, was prepared to play for a United Europe team in the 1992 European nations` championship, because a European Union inclusive of Russia is desirable. Friendship with South America is the prize for teams who win in Europe and Manchester United are sporting ambassadors for the world, because they choose not to hide from the responsibility which goes with global renown. To compete for the World Club Cup with European sides, the South American teams have to win the Copa Libertadores, which is the cup of freedom, that is, the cup of the liberators of South America, whereas Liverpool was the centre of the slave trade with the United States of America that, at its peak in 1799, transported by ship 45,000 slaves per annum to the Southern States of the Union. Refusing to compete for freedom`s cup suggests a preference for slavery rather than a United Europe or a United America.

 Manchester United`s England captain, David Beckham, won Major League Soccer`s (MLS) champions` cup with Los Angeles Galaxy of the United States` Western Conference (2011, 2012), so the L.A. Galaxy could compete for the World Club Cup of a United America and Europe. Liverpool`s failure to try to win for freedom against Boca Juniors of South America and make representations on behalf of Europe for peace before the Falklands war seems to have been what Liverpool`s winning of the old English divisions were for. To make war for Europe and divide America to maintain slavery. Liverpool were kicked out of the European Cup competition for their fans` killing Italian supporters of Juventus at the 1985 Final. With a reduced number of teams competing and three points for a win rather than two, Manchester United won the new English Premier league title of 1992-93 with Andrei Kanchelskis on the right wing; whatever his politics. Lithuania became a member of the European Union in 2004 while the Ukraine had become an independent nation in 1991. Lithuanian soccer star, Andrei Kanchelskis, born in Ukraine, chose to play on the right wing for Russia. He wasn`t hiding from Liverpool in South America; even though he had played for Everton.

21/02/2014 09:52

Praying For A Wing

Manchester United have always had a simple playing policy, which is to find the best wingers, like legendary manager, with 13 league titles, Alex Ferguson, found David Beckham (1993-2003) and Ryan Giggs (1990-), to make the forwards responsible for scoring goals, because of a plentiful supply of excellent opportunities, which worked with players like the beligerent and occasionally miraculous Mark Hughes (1980-86, 1988-95) who, never known for bagging hatfuls of goals, got his highest total of 17 in 1985-86 when Danish left winger, Jesper Olsen (1984-88), was the provider.

 Welshman Hughes` strike rate didn`t improve, but he was Mr Reliable. Hughes always got into double figures, mainly because of the speed and energy of United`s resourceful Ukrainian winger, Andrei Kanchelskis (1990-95). In Mark`s second spell at the club, after Ron Atkinson made the mistake that cost him the manager`s job and sold Hughes to Barcelona, Kanchelskis and Lee Sharpe (1988-96) provided support along the right and left flanks, while later Ferguson additions, England`s Andy Cole (1994-2002), Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (1996-2007), and Trinidadian Dwight Yorke (1998-2002) were more natural goalscorers and found it less arduous to find the net.

 Gary Birtles (1980-82) was a great performer for Nottingham Forest with Brian Clough as manager when Forest won the European Cup twice in succession (1979, 80), but Birtles was heavily criticized at Old Trafford for putting the ball in the net only once in 25 appearances after United manager, Dave Sexton, had Gary transferred to Manchester for 1.25 million GBP at the beginning of the 1980-1 campaign. Sexton was ultimately sacked because he preferred to bring left midfielder, Mickey Thomas (1978-81), from Wrexham for 300, 000 GBP, although United already had an excellent wing pairing of Steve Coppell (1975-83) and Gordon Hill (1975-78).  But Sexton sold United`s top goalscorer, Hill, for the seasons 1976-77 (15) and 1977-78 (17), before commencement of the 1978-79 season, and although Gary Birtles had joined from Nottingham Forest as a proven forward who`d won everything in the English game and European honours too, Mickey Thomas` industry on the left of midfield wasn`t enough to assist the new striker, who`d been used to a skilful provider in  wingman, Trevor Francis, and a Forest side brimful with enthusiasm and expectation of success based on a series of triumphs and displays of goalscoring prowess from the forwards.

 Dave Sexton had begun the 1977-78 campaign as manager after replacing Tommy Docherty, who`d installed Steve Coppell to replace ageing right wing and Scotland captain, Willie Morgan (1968-75), who`d been signed by United`s other legendary manager, Matt Busby, after the club`s first European Cup win of 1968 at Wembley against Portuguese champions from Lisbon, Benfica, 4-1. Busby wanted to move Irish winger, George Best (1963-74), from the wing into a more central forward role so Best`s goalscoring flair could be fully utilized in front of goal. Ironically, George`s goals tally increased but the team lost impetus after his move from out wide and won nothing until Willie captained the side out of the Second Division in 1974-75 as champions. After replacing Morgan with Coppell, Tommy Docherty seemed to have made a mistake similar to Busby`s with Best`s wide talent when switching the wing effectiveness of Irishman Gerry Daly (1973-77) into midfield from the left and replacing him with Gordon Hill, but for a while it seemed to have worked. Stuart Pearson (1974-79) appeared as England`s centre forward between Hill and Coppell for an England U-23 European Championship Quarter Final against Hungary at Old Trafford in March, 1976, which England won, 3-1. Hill scored in the 74th minute, but Hungary had won 0-3 in Budapest. The Hungarians went on to lose to Russia in the Final, but the new England trio of Pearson, Coppell and Hill had almost got the team through. United prayers seemed to have been answered by wings.

 Ultimately it was the removal of Gordon Hill from Manchester United that was manager Dave Sexton`s downfall, because he preferred industry to flair. Although Manchester United won the FA Cup with Hill`s style and panache, tenacious Irish midfield destroyer, David McCreery (1974-79), had displaced the England winger after being brought on as substitute for Gordon in successive FA Cup Finals (1976, 77) when Tommy Docherty had feared his team might concede a goal rather than score another. United`s tremulousness with regard to out and out wing play after Morgan`s arrival and Best`s move inside brought only three further domestic trophies, the FA Cup (1977, 1983 and 1985), after the league title of 1966-67, before Alex Ferguson`s reign as United`s most successful manager of all time began in 1986. Among Ferguson`s signings was Southampton`s winger, Danny Wallace (1989-93), but it was the 1988 signing of 17 year old Lee Sharpe from Torquay as a dazzlingly brilliant left wing at speed that would satisfy Alex`s future ambitions.

 Many had thought that Gordon Strachan, who`d been brought from Ferguson`s previous Scottish champions and European Cup Winners` Cup winners (1983), Aberdeen, by manager Ron Atkinson, who`d replaced Sexton, would renew the successful partnership the pair had in Scotland, but Strachan was a right sided midfielder rather than a winger and was transferred to Leeds. Despite finishing second in the table to Liverpool in 1987-88, a nine point gap didn`t inspire confidence, so Ferguson replaced Strachan with out and out wide man Wallace. Manchester United were to return to the traditional style of serving the forwards with the best opportunities from wingers who could get penetration and the emergence of young striker, Mark Hughes, from within the youth team ranks at Old Trafford set the stage for a feast of excitement as wingers dribbled speedily, swerving around opposition defenders to serve up the ball on a plate for forwards to feed their opponent`s always expectant goalmouth.

 Tommy Docherty was dismissed by the club for a lack of adventure, especially in the transfer market, when players like Celtic and Scottish captain, Kenny Dalglish, were available. Dalglish replaced forward, Kevin Keegan, who left Liverpool for Germany`s Hamburg S.V., after he`d helped win the 1977 European Cup for the Anfield outfit in a 3-1 victory over Germany`s Borussia Monchengladbach. Although Sexton agreed terms to bring Gerry Francis, the dynamically visionary tenacious England captain and midfield general, from previous club Queens Park Rangers (Q.P.R), the deal fell through. Dave`s subsequent policy in the aftermath of failure in the transfer market was to promote industry, rather than buy skill. Prolific Nottingham Forest striker, Gary Birtles, had been used to playing alongside genius, like Trevor Francis, the former Birmingham City star winger, who Clough made England`s first 1m GBP player, but an industrious Manchester United bereft of skill left Gary too much to do alone.

 If wingers don`t play the ball in to target men, like Stuart Pearson, who was transferred by Manchester United`s Tommy Docherty from Second Division Hull City to score the goals that brought promotion after United themselves were relegated to the Second Division in the 1973-74 season, goals can only materialize from midfield and the efforts of forwards unsupplied by the wings. As wings and a prayer, Coppell, Hill and Pearson carried the team on for the goals that beat Liverpool in the 1977 FA Cup Final win, 2-1. United`s wings had carried the side forward the previous season only to lose to unfancied Second Division, Southampton, 0-1, but goals from striker Jimmy Greenhoff`s chest (1976-80), deflecting diminutive midfield dynamo Lou Macari`s (1973-84) strike past Liverpool `keeper Ray Clemence from the right of the area, had won the game. 

 Manchester United`s experienced Irish midfielder, Sammy McIlroy (1971-82), had headed the ball forward for Greenhoff, who had headed on further to Pearson, whose powerful low shot went between and beneath Clemence`s legs to open the scoring in the 51st minute. Jimmy Case had equalized for Liverpool with a typical turn and strong right foot shot from just inside and centrally placed within the Manchester United area. Trapping a long through ball from the right boot of Liverpool full back, Joey Jones, wide on the left, Case had turned to blast the ball into the top right corner, past the despairing grasp of United `keeper Alex Stepney (1967-78) in the 53rd minute, who doubtless feared successive FA Cup Final defeats would be unbearable, but Macari and Greenhoff worked some alchemical magic in the 55th minute to eventually carry the day for the reds.

  At Manchester United it`s important they have the best wingers to carry the team forward and make the strikers score. If the goal machines don`t work with the best wings, the manager is justified in dispensing with forwards who can`t function.  Stuart Pearson scored goals off his elbows, knees, thighs, and the back of his head, when he wasn`t paying enough attention to the crosses from the heroes on the flanks who made him function in his position. Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill hit Pearson with the ball often, and as well as they could, but Pearson lived up to expectations by putting the ball in the net as much as he was able. Steve Coppell was the only winger to play along the flank at United for a while after Ron Atkinson took over the manager`s role, but the 4-3-3 system of two forwards and one winger took the club through to the FA Cup Final of 1983 where the team drew with Brighton, 2-2, before winning a replay at Wembley`s national stadium, London, 4-0.

 An injury to Steve Coppell ended his career just before the Final and his place was taken by Welsh right wing, Alan Davies (1982-85). The next season Davies scored United`s only goal as a substitute against Juventus in the home leg of the European Cup Winners` Cup Semi Final before the side lost in Turin, Italy, 2-1. `Big Ron` Atkinson had brought ageing left winger, Arthur Graham (1983-85), from Leeds and it almost brought victory against Juvé. Young Irish centre forward, Norman Whiteside (1982-89), had equalized after winger Graham had taken a pass from his full back, Arthur Albiston (1974-88), wide on the left. Arthur`s cross  found Irish utility player, Paul McGrath (1982-89), in the Juventus area and the defender, playing a midfield role, backheeled the ball for substitute Norman to crash a left foot shot high into the Italians` net.

 Norman Whiteside was the second youngest man ever to play in the first team against Brighton and Hove Albion away on April 24, 1982, aged 16. The next season he made 39 league appearances before contributing to Manchester United`s 1983 FA Cup Final success, which gave the club entry to the European Cup Winners` Cup of 1983-84. `Big Ron` had brought centre forward, Frank Stapleton (1981-87), who partnered Whiteside, from Arsenal for 900, 000 GBP as his first big transfer signing in 1981. Stapleton and cultured England central midfielder, Ray Wilkins (1979-84), brought from Chelsea by former manager, Dave Sexton, had scored the goals against Brighton in the drawn FA Cup Final of 1983, but United won the replay easily after Norman Whiteside got United`s third in the 30th minute with a header from a right wing cross by injured Steve Coppell`s replacement, Alan Davies. `Big Ron` had brought ageing left winger, Arthur Graham, from Leeds and it almost brought victory against Juvé in the European Cup Winners` Cup Semi Final. Seeing success came with wings, Atkinson brought the younger, Jesper Olsen, from Ajax Amsterdam to be newly emergent marksman Hughes` goal provider from the left wing in what were to be Mark`s most successful scoring seasons of 1984-85 (16) and 1985-86 (17), before the FA Cup Final triumph of 1985 in which Hughes` strike partner Norman Whiteside`s low curved shot from the right of the penalty area bent around `keeper Southall and snuck inside the far left post to beat Everton, 1-0, after United`s centre back Kevin Moran had been sent off and the team became ruggedly determined not to lose.

 If United are unsuccessful the onus is on the manager to improve the supply from the wings so that he can see if the forwards are up to the task, and if they`re not then he must get better players. Gary Birtles` goal dearth was due to Welshman Mickey Thomas` withdrawn midfield role, whereas Birtles` strike rate could only have been improved by the presence of prolific topscoring, Gordon Hill, jinking his way along the left touchline. Cutting inside to have a go solo, or putting over a cross onto the heads of the forwards, or a ball into their feet in front of the goal, Gordon Hill`s service would have brought thrill and spills and Gary Birtles would have scored a few he didn`t even consciously aim to bag in the midst of the storm.

 The first superstar Manchester United had was Welshman, Billy Meredith (1906-21), a winger, who helped the club to the FA Cup in 1909 and championships in 1907-08 and 1910-11. United`s next major trophy wasn`t until 1948 after WWI (1914-18) and WWII (1939-45) when Charlie Mitten (1946-50) and Jimmy Delaney (1946-50) were the wings. Matt Busby had seemingly turned to wide play in desperation but wingers were what soccer was about. Pulling opposition defenders around the pitch, clutching at shadows, so as to get their own players forward without being kicked, was the wingmen`s objective. Having shaken off their shadows, the wingers could play the ball into forwards who`d run upfield unhampered. The simple ploy had resulted in the more defensive playing system of a less creatively talented Leeds United team and their emulators. Under future England manager, Don Revie, Leeds took advantage of the single substitute ruling of 1965-66 to entrench the principle of stopping opponents from playing when you were ahead. In Italian soccer what was known as the catenaccio, that is, defend until certain opportunities for strikers arise, became endemic in the English game; to the extent that wingers disappeared and every schoolboy wanted to be a midfielder because the new substitute position was invariably filled by a utility player who primarily functioned as a stop gap central midfield jack of all trades and master of none who came onto the field to prevent play from developing against his team`s lead.

 The role of wingers had been to bedazzle and avoid being kicked because there weren`t substitutions before 1965-66. The belief that players were stronger then is a myth. The more central players gave the ball to the wingers who had to perform so that the other members of the team could run unimpeded and the onus was upon the wide player to make it easy for the forward to score or the manager would get a new winger. Soccer was changing after WWII because clubs had played with a single stopper centre half flanked by half backs. The modern era saw that wings were a consequence of fear and sides began to play with two mobile centre halves flanked by left and right full backs with a stronger, more creative midfield and a single winger. Players like George Best, who became forwards after a spell out wide, were expected to see that as a reward, whereas it was deleterious to the team to sacrifice a winger for goals that should be scored by forwards.

 Although George was very successful as a forward the club wasn`t. United had won the championship (1951-52, 1955-56 and 1956-57) but, although the wingers changed, that is, Johnny Berry (1951-58) and David Pegg (1952-58) for Delaney and Mitten, the centre back pairing still featured a stopper and a half back rather than two mobile centre halves, like `Dolly and Daisy`, the nickname given to Manchester United`s central defenders of the early Ferguson era, Steve Bruce (1987-96) and Gary Pallister (1989-96). Bill Foulkes (1951-70) and Nobby Stiles (1960-71) were the centre half and half back combination that won championships (1964-65 and 1966-67) with John Connelly (1964-66) and George Best on the right and left wings, before the introduction of two substitutes for tactical reasons in 1967-68 began to change the way in which defenders were selected.

 Tactical substitutions  homogenized the defence with the midfield through the preparation of utility players for the bench. All purpose defensive midfielders became indispensable and began to appear in all of the positions behind the forwards in front of the `keeper. John Aston (1965-72) was the man out wide on the left when United won the European Cup (1968), and when Busby brought Willie Morgan to the club from Burnley everything seemed set for further success but Matt retired and was replaced by coach Wilf McGuinness, who was so defensively minded that he refused to play prolific centre forward, `The King`, Denis Law (1962-73), in three attempts to beat Leeds United in the FA Cup Semi Final of 1970, which the team eventually lost to the only goal in a third replay.

 When Frank O` Farrell became manager after McGuinness` failure to change United to suit the modern era, he brought England left winger, Ian Storey-Moore (1972-74), from Nottingham Forest, but Ian didn`t survive the cloggers and was invalided out of the game of soccer. It was the period in which the tackle from behind was being outlawed so that strikers and creative players didn`t have fear of being chopped down by defenders they couldn`t see as they attempted to move forward. The outlawing of the tackle from behind made the game more skilful and exciting for fans who wanted to see the best from players.

 After being moved from the wing by United manager, Matt Busby, George Best had become an inside forward, but the gap out wide was too big for any one player to fill. The changing pattern of the modern game was confusing for United. With two substitutes permitted for tactical rather than injury reasons in 1967-68, attention focused on the centre back pairing and the desirability of playing with two wingers if a single sub would do for defensive cover. If centre halves were essentially full backs in different guise, either could be switched to the centre in the case of injury to a centrocampista, and vice versa, so a utility forward could be employed in the `sub` role, rather than another midfield half back. 

 The need for more defensive flexibility had resulted in United`s midfield tiger, Brian Greenhoff (1970-79), becoming a prototypical centre back of the modern era with Tommy Docherty`s team. Defensive flexibility was illustrated in manager Dave Sexton`s decision to prefer defender, Jimmy Nicholl (1974-82), at right back, before the 1979 FA Cup Final against Arsenal. Manchester United lost, 2-3, and Brian had expected to play in the right full back berth, but Jimmy who himself was a regular centre back, was preferred. Both were centre backs and Greenhoff was a half back, rather than a right back, but Nicholl was a right back and a centre back. Jimmy was preferred although Brian had played much of the season at right full back.

 Although Manchester United lost to Arsenal, defensive flexibility was further illustrated in centre back Gordon McQueen`s (1978-85) mobility and agility for the reds` first goal at 0-2. A right footed cross from a free kick by Coppell over near the right touchline found centre forward, Joe Jordan (1978-81), on the left of the Arsenal area and he drove it into the penalty area where McQueen slotted it home in front of goal in the 86th minute, 1-2. Sammy McIlroy equalized after a left footed forward pass over the Arsenal defence from near the centre circle found the midfielder in the Arsenal area in the 88th miinute, 2-2. McIlroy scored with a solo run and dribble but striker, Alan Sunderland, headed the winner for Arsenal from left winger Graham RIx`s cross wide on the left wing near the corner flag in the 89th, although improved defensive mobility would be United`s successful new strategy in the future.

 When Tommy Docherty took over in 1972 he`d continued the policy of the big centre half, Jim Holton and the half back, Martin Buchan. O` Farrell had inherited Ian Ure (1969-71) as the stopper bought by McGuinness from Arsenal to partner the more mobile Martin Buchan (1972-83). Frank had transferred Buchan from Aberdeen, and Docherty found future Scotland stopper, Jim Holton (1972-76), at Shrewsbury Town. It wouldn`t be until Kevin Moran (1978-88) and Martin Buchan were paired by Ron Atkinson in preference to the big stopper centre half Dave Sexton had bought from Leeds, Gordon McQueen (1978-85), that the future of paired mobile centre halves could be perceived as United and that was because the number of substitutes available was increased from two to five for the beginning of the season 1995-96, and that would be increased to seven for 2008-09, which meant that defensive and midfield cover could be given by a single player, like the new breed of utility half-back, Phil Jones (2011-), while specialist forwards appearing from the bench was an optimal solution that had become real.

 Brian Greenhoff`s role in an effectively seminal role alongside Martin Buchan in the heart of Tommy Docherty`s United defence showed the emphasis in the modern game would be upon mobility at the back and versatility amongst the forwards, because getting ahead became more possible after being behind if there was a fresh wide player to gee-up the striker amongst the `subs` as well as an all purpose half back. Always concerned to adopt the simplest and most effective route to glory, Alex Ferguson`s Manchester United threw caution to the winds and spread their wings to fly in Europe and bring home two more European Cups (1999, 2008) before the manager`s retirement led to greater caution, or perhaps more expansion with new manager, David Moyes (2002-13), who`d kept Everton afloat for a dozen seasons or so without winning anything, which didn`t augur well for a club used to celebrating triumphs on the wings and the prayers of the faithful supporters at the North Stand`s Stretford End.

 Soccer theory at Manchester United has been that the team will go forward if the wings are strong enough and, although the nickname of the `red devils` suggests bedevilment, angels have wings. Managers that bedevil the development of the club are devils to the team while defenders like Nemanja Vidic (2006-14) and Rio Ferdinand (2002-), mobile centre halves of Ferguson`s modern era, `devil` the opposition and wingers, like Cristiano Ronaldo (2003-09), who arrived from Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon to provide the impetus on the right flank for the 2008 European Cup win, raise the team to dizzying heights. Angels have wings and Manchester United are hell to play against, or so the opposition`s legend has it, so devils are welcome at other clubs and the better players have to look to Old Trafford to get a game and spread their wings further. If you`re fooled by the `red devils` image, you won`t fly on the wings of God at the Theatre Of Dreams.

17/10/2013 12:42

Thank You For Your Contribution

Manchester United have had many strikers over the years that made the grade but couldn`t make the team. In the early days only eleven players were able to play and there wasn`t a substitute twelfth man until the 1965-66 season. Players with limited experience found it difficult to get any if the team was successful. Managers found it difficult because they had to take too many chances on unknown quality when there wasn`t the possibility of making a substitute if a mistake had been made. David McCreery was the most highly profiled `twelfth man` of Manchester United`s modern era, following their European Cup Final win of 1968 against Benfica, 4-1, subsequent to the title triumph of 1966-67, which was the year after the twelfth man substitute was introduced as a usable option in English soccer. Manchester United`s decline may have been linked to the new phenomenon of substitutions, because the club failed to win a major trophy again until 1977. Northern Ireland star, David McCreery, was substitute for the F.A. Cup Final of 1976, which Manchester United lost, 0-1, to Southampton and replaced left winger, Gordon Hill, and in 1977, when Liverpool were beaten, 2-1, David McCreery again substituted Gordon Hill.
 The club and managerial staff effectively spent three decades, between the introduction of the `twelfth man` substitute in 1965-66 and the introduction of five substitutes to a bench in 1995-96, learning the art of substitution, and in an era when their rivals deployed more successfuly. Finally Manchester United appeared lazily thorough when Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came on in the European Cup Final of 1999 against Bayern Munich, 0-1, for Swedish left winger, Jesper Blomqvist, and England centre forward, Andy Cole, and scored in the 91st and 94th minutes to win the trophy, 2-1, in time added on for `stoppages`. To Northern Ireland, David McCreery was a defensive and creative midfield star, to whom manager, Danny Blachflower, gave the task of `man marking` the Dutch captain and play making legend, Johan Cruyff, home and away in 1976 and 1977 World Cup qualifiers, because of his tenacity and undauntedness. To Manchester United the pugnacious Irishman was a `supersub` in 1977`s F.A. Cup Final win, which was the club`s second only trophy in a decade, after the European Cup win of 1968. For Manchester United`s coaches, David McCreery epitomized the role of the `twelfth man` at the Old Trafford stadium, because he could be relied on to hold a game in midfield after the team was ahead. After five was introduced as the number of substitutes in 1995-96, and raised to seven in 2008-09, the arrival of the concept of a large squad of players to be shuffled in their various playing combinations meant a lessening of importance for the `supersub` destroyer and the emergence of the striking `supersub` in the mould of Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
 The first senior casualty of the introduction of the substitute at Manchester United was Gordon Hill, top scorer for Manchester United for the two seasons after his debut, 1976-77 (15) and 1977-78 (17), but the introduction of the more stolid David McCreery to good effect on so many occasions, as the sometimes frustratingly mercurial and unpredictable Hill`s replacement, made Gordon seem replaceable and eventually he was let go. Gordon had scored both goals with long range efforts against Derby County in the 1976 F.A. Cup semi-final, but Manchester United`s defeat to a late Bobby Stokes goal in the Final, 0-1, took the shine of Hill`s genius. In some ways Gordon Hill was the first of the stars Manchester United never had, but there were many others. David McCreery himself was deemed a career substitute at Manchester United from 1974-75 when he made two appearances from the bench as the team won the second tier championship of English football after being relegated in 1973-74 when a backheeled goal from former legendary Old Trafford striker, Denis Law, tragically transferred to rival neighbours, Manchester City, sent the club down. David McCreery made around a dozen appearances each season as a first team starter until 1978-79 when the play anywhere midfield battler eventually left for Queens Park Rangers where he could have a career as a first team player.
 Gordon Hill was a great left winger in the tradition of Manchester United, but George Best`s shadow lay upon genius at the club. Many held George, the Irish superstar of Manchester United`s left flank, responsible for the club`s decline after 1968 when he announced that he`d rather be on a beach in Spain than fighting to maintain the team`s greatness on the pitch. The emergence of the utility player who could be relied on largely to stop the other team from playing so that a lead could be maintained meant the decline of skillful players of footballing genius in preference for workhorse heroes or `supersubs`, like Liverpool`s David Fairclough, who could be relied on to come off the bench and score quick goals if the team needed, which they did in Fairclough`s title winning debut season of 1975-76 when David scored 7 from 14 appearances and 7 of those were as a striking `supersub`.
 Before Ryan Giggs emerged at Manchester United as a left wing Welsh wizard in 1991, who could deliver the ball regularly and accurately to the strikers, while weaving his immense skill to bedazzle opposition defences, suspicion of irrepressible talent after George Best`s deserting the club on so many occasions when needed, both on and off the field, led to the management`s disposing of Gordon Hill`s genius when it`d just begun to blossom, simply because David McCreery was reliably predictable. What Manchester United hadn`t yet learned was how to deploy a reserve striker from the substitutes` bench to flare unpredictably in the faces of opposition defenders who weren`t capable of adapting to newly introduced spurts of striking genius such as David Fairclough afforded the team at Liverpool`s Anfield stadium.
 Italian Carlo Sartori played in all three of Manchester United`s games against Leeds United in the semi-final of the F.A. Cup in 1970, and the team failed to win at the third attempt due to a 9th minute goal from Leeds` Scottish captain and midfield dynamo, Billy Bremner, when the other games had ended 0-0. Denis Law was Manchester United`s twelfth man for those encounters and was known as the `King` at Old Trafford`s stadium, the `Theatre Of Dreams`, because of his goal scorers` prowess. Manchester United couldn`t expect to beat Leeds United with their centre forward on the `subs` bench. Even if Sartori was glamorous as the club`s first foreign player, Carlo only made a dozen or so appearances for Manchester United in each of the seasons 1968-69 and 1969-70, which really shouldn`t have guaranteed him a place in the starting line-up ahead of goal hero, Denis Law; especially in a game as important to the club as the 1970 F.A. Cup semi-final.
 When 21 year old striker, Mark Robins, came off the bench to score the winning goal in the 1990 F.A. Cup semi-final against Oldham Athletic to take Manchester United to an eventual replay victory over Crystal Palace, 1-0, after a 3-3 draw at London`s national stadium, Wembley, the value of substitute strikers was finally appreciated by the `red devils` who`d themselves been `devilled` by their inability to deploy effectively since the inception of substitutes in 1965-66. Substitute appearances are an inevitability for athletic young players at the beginning of a career, but the old legs of Denis Law, on the bench for the 1970 F.A. Cup semi-final defeat to Leeds United, suggested that Manchester United needed to work on their deployment of players from the trainer`s dugout. Denis Law should have played against Leeds and Carlo Sartori might have been `sub`, but Manchester United didn`t win another trophy after the European Cup of 1968 until the F.A. Cup of 1977, when David McCreery came on to assassinate left wing magician Gordon Hill`s career and set back Manchester United for another half decade. In fact Manchester United had to wait for 26 years after 1966-67 before the team won the English championship again. The modern game, and Manchester United, had discarded the old half back line of centre, right and left halves after centre back, Bill Foulkes, retired in 1971, in favour of twin centre halves, which left the club needing to learn what to do with substitutes and how to deploy twin centre halves.
 The substitute function afforded the possibility of starting a new player and replacing him if he didn`t measure up, but the substitute position offered great opportunities for deploying strikers. Midfielders were at a premium in the early days of `subs`, because they could fill in as defenders at a pinch, although strikers as substitutes could turn a game around quickly. Before the number of `subs` was raised to 5 in 1995-96, and 7 in 2008-09, teams opted for the big rugged `stopper` centre half, because he was simple to deploy but, after the permutatable possibilities of squad rotation, the centre halves` position was susceptible to scrutiny by the coach. When Manchester United combined Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, the stolid giant at the centre with a half back complement replaceable by a utility midfield player from the substitutes` bench if tactics or injury demanded it, was a thing of the past. Two big centre halves and another on the bench meant that the days of midfielders, who could masquerade as backs, wings, inside forwards or forwards, were over. While at Manchester United, David McCreery marked Johan Cruyff out of an international game with Northern Ireland, although the Dutch `supersub`, Willy Van Der Kuylen, who replaced captain, Johan Cruyff, in the 71st minute, scored in the 74th to beat the Irish, 0-1, at Windsor Park. The instincts of the midfield destroyer and `supersub`, David McCreery, assassinated the career of a better player, Gordon Hill, at Manchester United, which might have served the interests of Northern Ireland but it didn`t serve the best interests of England or the club.
 England`s Brian Greenhoff was the epitome of the midfield utility tiger that found a position at half back alongside centre back, Martin Buchan, and which worked at Manchester United, but the role of the utility midfield player as a substitute was largely that of the assassin of better and more specialized players, who could really have made a difference to a team`s performances. Brian Greenhoff and Martin Buchan became a recognizable international class pairing as centre halves that translated into their respective English and Scottish teams, but the transition of utility midfield player to a specialized role was rare in soccer and, in truth, the versatile midfielder was a danger to the squad`s development, because he was so malleable as to deny the specialist players their due berth.
 The genuine improvement was in the role of the substitute striker, as a reserve who could be brought on as an immediate source of inspiration for fresh creative goal scoring endeavour. Choosing from five substitutes in 1995-96 was increased to a choice of seven in 2008-09, which meant creativity was elevated over nullification. The utility midfielder who could play anywhere, even in goal, was a negator of specialist potential, which was what the single substitute rule had produced in soccer. At Manchester United the resolution of the centre halves problem, posed by the decline in popularity of the half back line in the modern game, came about as a result of a greater number of substitutes being available, so that the utility midfielder who could play at half back alongside the big `stopper` centre half, if needed, was no longer valued. Soccer became more attack oriented and entertaining, because the centre back pairing could become much more specialized without having to rely on the utility players who could play half back, but not centre back, to cover for them if they were injured. The team could play specialist centre halves and have another on the bench, which left the way clear for midfield playmakers and attacking forwards to take the majority of the active substitute roles.
 The new look to soccer became obvious when full backs began to emerge who could play as centre halves. At Manchester United, left backs, Stewart Houston (1973-80), Mikael Silvestre (1999-2008) and Gabriel Heinze (2004-07), and right backs, Gary Neville (1992-2011), Phil Neville (1995-2005), Wes Brown (1998-2011), John O` Shea (1999-2011), Jonny Evans (2008-), Chris Smalling (2010-), and Phil Jones (2011-) emerged as centre half alternatives, because they were left and right halves, which may seem obvious to a layman, but full backs who played at centre half were few and far between prior to Bill Foulkes` (1952-71) making the transition from right back to centre half. In the Munich air disaster of February 6, 1958, Manchester United lost Mark Jones, England`s centre back, when the plane crashed on take off in the ice and snow of Germany`s Munich airport. Bill Foulkes took on the role of centre half, with left and right halves to support his defending, before the notion of twin left and right sided centre halves at the heart of a team`s defence was a coach`s received wisdom.
 Bill Foulkes` retirement left Manchester United to work on the problem of how to play left and right sided centre halves, with only a midfield utility player to substitute for one of them if injury occurred. The solution was full backs who could be, or would be, the centre halves, which left it possible for a striker, or attacking midfielder, to be deployed from the bench, and that`s what occurred before the number of substitutes was raised to five in the 1995-96 season. Although Manchester United were attached to the big `stopper` centre half concept, left and right sided centre halves replaced the giant centre back everywhere in English soccer, because transferring the logic of left and right at the full back position to left and right centre halves was inescapable, and the demise of the utility midfield player, like Leeds United`s Paul Madeley, who could play as a half back alongside the centre back, which was why the centre half and half back combination had survived as a playing option, was assured when the number of `subs` was raised to five in 1995-96 and seven in 2008-09.
 Because Manchester United`s solution to the problem of the centre halves` combining was to deploy a utility player in midfield to make it easier to replace an injured centre half with a centre back and half back combination, the role of the substitute striker and attacking midfielder wasn`t employed until the Alex Ferguson era. In 1992-93 the first title was won since 1966-67; twenty six years previously. The problem of supporting the defence while enabling the attack by means of a half back utility midfielder substitute ready to be deployable anywhere on the pitch was replaced with the idea of deploying specialist defenders, midfielders and forwards. The versatile utility player in the David McCreery mould had assassinated Manchester United`s title ambitions for more than two and a half decades, because the idea clouded the essential need, which was that the centre back and half back combination should be replaced by a balanced left and right sided centre halves` combination, either as a specialized role, or from the full back position, rather than that the side should attempt to cover all outfield positions on the field of play by means of a versatile utility player `sub`.
 In Manchester United`s championship winning season of 1992-93, the `twelfth man` role was more often fillled by Andrei Kanchelskis (1990-96), a right winger from Russia`s Shakhtar Donetsk, whose 13 appearances from the bench, as a `supersub` replacement for the tiring legs of wingers, Ryan Giggs and Lee Sharpe (1988-96), was outweighed by Andrei`s fourteen starts that season as Manchester United got to grips with the apposite deployment of a rotatable squad and `supersub`. Lee Sharpe played left back himself, if a problem occurred in defence with an injury to one of the centre halves, while first choice left back, Denis Irwin, for example, was switched to the centre of defence, which restored belief and utility to Manchester United as a team with left and right attacking wings.
 The midfield utility half back substitute encouraged the maintaining of the centre back and half back pairing so, although strikers were needed to score goals from the bench as `supersubs`, Manchester United`s top scorer over consecutive seasons, 1976-77 (15) and 1977-78 (17), left winger Gordon Hill, was sold because David McCreery was a half back. The desire to make provision for all eventualities by preferring utility players as substitutes had clouded Manchester United`s thinking since 1965-66, when `subs` were first introduced. Gordon Hill left for Derby County and, reliability being predictable, Manchester United with the dour midfield dullness of half back, David McCreery, had to wait another six years before 1983`s F.A. Cup Final victory over Brighton and Hove Albion, 4-0, gave them only their second trophy in two decades following on from 1968`s European Cup Final triumph.
 The five substitutes rule of 1995-96 made it possible for strikers to make short appearances and become stars by scoring quick goals at need, which hadn`t been possible before the substitute role began to be defined in 1965-66. David Fairclough was the first of the `supersubs`, who came on to change the course of the game with a goal, if the regular pattern of team play at Liverpool wasn`t producing the desired result. Prior to appearing as substitutes, strikers had to make the team. But opportunites for young players were reduced, because managers saw transferrable talent everywhere amongst the professionals playing against their side, or well enough somewhere to impress the talent scouts. With the `twelfth man` as a possible role, players opted to make themselves indispensable as utility midfield half back defensive attacking tigrish goal poachers; if they could. They were the assassins of football, preventing the talented defender, midfielder or forward, from making it through the youth teams to be amongst the seniors. But still a few young players managed to get amongst the goals at Manchester United, despite the utility players attempts at assassination.
 Mark Hughes was a young Welsh centre forward, who broke through the youth ranks to be the top scorer for Manchester United in the consecutive seasons of 1984-85 (16) and 1985-86 (17) before being sold to Barcelona for no very apparent reason. Alex Ferguson became the doyen of Manchester United fans when his first decision, as new manager after `Big Ron` Atkinson, brought back Mark Hughes from Europe to install him as first choice centre forward alongside Scot, Brian McClair, who`d signed from Celtic. In his second spell at Old Trafford`s `Theatre Of Dreams` Manchester stadium, Mark Hughes (1989-95) went on to make double figures in every season but his last and won the title in 1992-93 and 1993-94, the F.A. Cup in 1984-85, 1989-90, and 1993-94, the League Cup in 1991-92, the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1990-91, and the European Super Cup in 1991. Mark`s story was a success, but there were other young forwards who could have had the same degree of stardom and, though they rose for a time and were bright in the firmament of soccer heaven, they were lost again to sight when their star failed to achieve the desired magnitude.
 Gary Birtles was bought by then Manchester United manager, Dave Sexton, from Nottingham Forest after the beginning of the 1980-81 season. At Nottingham Forest the young forward had enjoyed unprecedented success over a few years; winning the league in 1977-78, the League Cup in 1979, the European Cup in 1979 and 1980, and the European Super Cup in 1979. In 1980-81 with Manchester United he failed to find the net, and in his best ever season at Old Trafford under `Big Ron` Atkinson in 1981-82, Gary Birtles scored 11 times, which was just enough in the shop window to get Nottingham Forest to pay a transfer fee to get him back. Gary Birtles wasn`t the first striker to find it hard going at the `Theatre Of Dreams` when transferred for a fee high enough to indicate the level of expectation. Ted MacDougall, the Bournemouth goal machine, arrived at Old Trafford after being signed by manager, Frank O`Farrell, and was heralded as `the new Denis Law` but fared so dismally as a goalscorer (5 in 18 appearances) that he reportedly pretended not to be who he was when an interviewer wanted to question him about his performances on the pitch during his only season of 1972-73.
 Although Brian Kidd will always be remembered for his scoring Manchester United`s third goal when the Benfica `keeper parried the 18 year old forward`s header and he headed it back and over into the net in the 4-1 European Cup Final win of 1968, that season`s tally of 15 was the highest in Brian Kidd`s career and the following season`s score of one goal only in 28 starts was disastrous. Just making it into double figures seemed the hallmark of Brian Kidd`s years as a forward at Manchester United, but in the season of 1972-73 when he shared the striking responsibilities with Ted MacDougall, Brian could only manage 4 goals, and in the relegation season of 1973-74 he struck home only twice in 21 starts. Kidd`s flattering to deceive was probably the single greatest factor in Manchester United`s decline.
 Alan Gowling went from Manchester United to Newcastle United where he scored bagfulls of goals but couldn`t cut through the ice and hit the mustard at Old Trafford`s `Theatre Of Dreams` when given his first team chance in 1971-72. The previous season`s campaigning had seen a young Alan making 17 appearances as a starter and netting 8 times, so the following season he was given 35 starts but only managed a return of 6. When Manchester United were relegated to the second tier of English soccer in 1973-74, the top scorers were Sammy McIlroy and Lou Macari, both of whom had been lauded as the new striking sensation before they even appeared in front of the home supporters at the Stretford End`s West stand. Although Sammy scored in a 3-3 draw against arch city rivals Manchester City in 1971, while Lou arrived from Celtic in January, 1973, as a diminutive striker who could rise above the opposing defence as if he`d wings on his heels, neither Sammy McIlroy nor Lou Macari would play in the front line for Manchester United after 1973-4 in which they each returned 6 goals only.
 Fortunately midfield berths awaited the industry of Sammy McIlroy and Lou Macari, but the role of striker at Manchester United was proven as a task for an indomitable will and desirefulness to win. Tommy Docherty`s solution to Manchester United`s goal dearth was Hull City`s centre forward, Stuart Pearson, who cost the manager  200, 000 GBP, and was a muck and doughnuts player who`d bully defences in England`s second tier until Manchester United would be promoted as champions and win the F.A. Cup Final of 1977 thanks to his own winning goal against Liverpool, 2-1, before new manager, Dave Sexton, began to look around for a player with more skill and more muscle.
 Dave Sexton`s offloading of left winger, Gordon Hill, and England centre forward, Stuart Pearson, seemed to have worked when Manchester United finished second in the title race, two points behind Liverpool, with 58 points in 1979-80, which was the closest they`d come before 1991-92, when they`d lose the title to Leeds United by four points with 78, and since losing the championship by two points to Manchester City in 1967-68 with 56 points. The only Manchester United striker to get into double figures in 1979-80, with 13 goals, was Scotland`s big `target man`, Joe Jordan, bought from Leeds United in 1978 for his heading ability and muscle, and along with Leeds United`s Scotland centre half, Gordon McQueen, who scored 9 times in 1979-80 from the back and was joint second top scorer for the club. Replacement on the left wing for England`s Gordon Hill, who`d top scored in the previous two seasons, with 17 and 15 goals respectively, was businesslike Welshman Mickey Thomas, who`d arrived in 1978 from Wrexham, and Mickey scored 8 times as Manchester United finished second in the league in 1979-80.
 The least of the forwards available to Manchester United that 1979-80 season was Andy Ritchie, who`d made 16 starts in 1978-79, for 10 goals returned, which was also Stuart Pearson`s goal tally that season, as he began to find it tougher at the top facing defenders who`d got used to playing against a striker who`d been signed for a second tier campaign from a second tier club, Hull City, in a ploy to get Manchester United promoted, after being relegated in 1973-74, by transferring a reputable second tier striker for a job that had to be done. Andy Ritchie was one of the young stars the club never had due to the limited opportunities he had to shine, and he left for Brighton and Hove Albion in 1980. Manchester United`s lack of conventional goalscoring capacity, and a seeming unwillingness to nurture raw striking talent, like Andy Ritchie`s, ultimately lost Dave Sexton his managership, and `Big Ron` Atkinson took over the helm in 1981-82.
 The big talent that didn`t quite make it under `Big Ron` Atkinson`s management was centre forward, Norman Whiteside, who signed professional terms in 1982. Norman was the youngest player since Duncan Edwards to take the field for Manchester United at 16 years, and for Northern Ireland before the World Cup Finals in Spain in 1982, where his performances convinced Ron Atkinson to start him alongside Frank Stapleton.  `Big Frank` was brought from Arsenal to repace Joe Jordan, whose inability to score enough goals had been glaringly obvious against `the gunners` in the F.A. Cup Final of 1979, which Manchester United lost 2-3 to a header in the dying seconds from Frank Stapleton`s `twinned` striker, Alan Sunderland, who netted a cross from far out on the left wing by left winger, Graham Rix. `Big Norman` was the youngest player ever to score a goal for Manchester United, eight days after his 17th birthday against Stoke City in the final game of the 1981-82 league season, and `Big Ron` decided he`d start the 1982-83 season `twinned` with Frank Stapleton in Manchester United`s attack.
 Norman Whiteside was a `throwback` to the playing style of the nineteen-fifties` `Busby Babes` and centre forward, Tommy Taylor, who died in the Munich aircrash disaster before he could play in the 1958 World Cup Finals in Sweden for England alongside the other lost members of the team; left back and captain, Roger Byrne, full back Geoff Bent, inside forward Eddie Colman, centre half Mark Jones, `gentle giant` Duncan Edwards, who could play back or forward to equal effect, and left winger, David Pegg. Johnny Berry, the England right winger, was so badly injured he never played again. The Manchester United players were the heart of the English team ripped out before the 1958 World Cup Finals won by Brazil, as they`d do with Pele as their great striker again in 1962 and 1970. Although England won the World Cup, 4-2, against Germany at London`s Wembley stadium in 1966, it could have been much better for England if the Manchester United team had lived.
 Norman Whiteside`s youth, and fifties` style of controlled aggression, combined with a clinician`s striking skill, reminded many of Manchester United manager, Sir Matt Busby, and his lost `Babes`, but the sad truth was that Norman Whiteside, like Joe Jordan before him, didn`t score enough goals. Only just reaching double figures in 1983-84 alongside newly emergent striker, Mark Hughes, `Big Norm` receded into midfield anonymity in the course of Manchester United`s progress to the F.A. Cup Final wins of 1983 and 1985, which were the zenith of Whiteside`s career, and that was over by the time he was 22 years old. Although Norman Whiteside headed Manchester United`s second goal in the 30th minute of the 1983 F.A. Cup Final replay victory, 4-0, after a 2-2 draw against Brighton and Hove Albion, and he scored the extra time winner against Everton, 1-0, in the 110th minute of the 1985 F.A. Cup Final after Manchester United were reduced to ten players when centre back, Kevin Moran, was sent off, he was a wasted talent. Rumours of drunken binges abounded in the corridors of Old Trafford`s stadium,1 the `Theatre Of Dreams`, and Norman Whiteside`s career (1982-89) ended at Manchester United because he wasn`t fit to play there by the age of 22. Injured for the season 1988-89, Whiteside made only 6 appearances before being transferred to Everton, which meant that he was 22 years of age for the best part of the previous season`s campaigning, 1987-88, in which he made 27 appearances for his, by then, usual handful of goals, and so at an age when most soccer stars are contemplating a heavenly future, Norman Whiteside had preferred a drink.
 `Big Ron` and `Big Norman` epitomized Manchester United before the arrival of new manager, Alex Ferguson, precipitated by Ron Atkinson`s bizarre decision to transfer Mark Hughes, leading scorer since his first full season of 1984-85, to Barcelona. Ron Atkinson replaced Mark Hughes with a pair of striking lightweights from Nottingham Forest, Peter Davenport, who arrived in March 1986, the season before Ron Atkinson was replaced by Alex Ferguson in November 1986, and Terry Gibson from Coventry City, who scored just once in 23 appearances in the red shirt during the 1986-87 campaign. Although Peter Davenport got 14 goals that season, Alex Ferguson`s transferring of Mark Hughes back to Manchester United in May 1988 from Bayern Munich, where `El Torro` had found a German home since Barcelona, was greeted with relief by everyone concerned with events at `The Theatre Of Dreams`. Mark Hughes arrived back from Europe experienced and ready for the fray beside strike partner,  Brian McClair, brought from Celtic by Alex Ferguson, and who`d found the back of the net 24 times from 40 appearances in 1987-88`s previous season`s campaigning. Manchester United had finished second, 9 points behind champions Liverpool with 90, and Mark Hughes` re-arrival was much anticipated.
 Brian McClair`s opening season at Manchester United was his best and, like Norman Whiteside and others before him, most notably Lou Macari and Sammy McIlroy, he receded into midfield while Mark Hughes` muscle and skill in front of goal brought him a dozen or more goals a season throughout his career and ensured his place in the hearts and minds of the fans of a generation. Season 1988-89 saw the brief flaring of a star before it diminished as Russell Beardsmore, amongst the first wave of the youth players to be given a chance and known as `Fergie`s Fledglings`, found a place in the first team in midfield, but the arrival of `the guvnor`, undauntable Paul Ince, from West Ham United, and cultured England midfield general, Neil Webb, from Nottingham Forest, limited Russell Beardsmore`s prospects. The diamond that would shine brighter, centre forward Mark Robins, made his debut as a starter on 7 January, 1989, in the F.A. Cup 3rd round against Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford. Mark Robins would make a name for himself the following season, 1989-90, when many people believed he`d saved Alex Ferguson`s career as a manager at Manchester United by scoring a headed goal from a Mark Hughes` cross after coming off the substitutes` bench for a victory, 1-0, over Nottingham Forest in the F.A. Cup 3rd round of that season.
 Mark Robins would go on to score again in the 114th minute of extra time in the F.A. Cup semi-final against Oldham Athletic to take Manchester United through, 2-1, and an ecounter with Crystal Palace in the Final at London`s national stadium, Wembley, where the team would draw, 3-3, before winning the replay, 1-0, after left full back, another of `Fergie`s Fledglings`, Lee Martin, ran the length of the pitch to take a ball on his chest from England star, Neil Webb, before lashing it into the top left corner with his left boot. Lee Martin`s star  wouldn`t be seen much more at left back for Manchester United and Russell Beardsmore didn`t even make the squad for the Final. Clayton Blackmore, a right sided midfielder in the mould of Leeds United`s Scottish winger with a powerful shot, Peter Lorimer, would replace Lee Martin at left full back for the European Cup WInners` Cup campaign of 1991 while Alex Ferguson persuaded Oldham Athletic to part with Denis Irwin (1990-2002) at a price and switched him to left back after Paul Parker`s (1991-96) arrival from Queens Park Rangers to fill the right back berth.
 Mark Robins` goal at Nottingham Forest was deemed by most to have saved the club, which finished 13th in the league that season of 1989-90. The generally held belief was that Alex Ferguson would have been sacked for non-achievement. As it was, Sir Alex Ferguson, as he became after being knighted by the English Queen Elizabeth II, to become the second Manchester United manager, after Sir Matt Busby, to receive the honour for winning the European Cup (1968), went on to win the trophy twice in 1999 and 2008, before retiring in 2013, having succeeded in bringing to the club 13 more championships. United then had the English record (20) for most titles won, which had been held by Liverpool until Sir Alex Ferguson transferred from Arsenal the services of Robin Van Persie at the outset of the 2012-13 season and the striker scored a netful of goals to wrest the title from Manchester City.
 The `red devils` had to wait twenty-six years before their first championship success after 1966-67. As another of `Fergie`s Fledglings` gave the team a platform for achievement, Darren Ferguson, the manager`s son aged 21, played in midfield 15 times at the 1992-93 season`s outset. Black striker, Dion Dublin, bought from Cambridge United aged 23, made 3 starts for one significant goal at The Dell when Manchester United beat Southampton away, 1-0, and for the first time at the fourth attempt won a game that season. Dion Dublin`s ability to come on and turn a game with his physically intimidating 6` 2`` presence, or get a crucial goal himself, was uncanny, but his star dimmed almost as soon as it`d begun to be seen. Although Manchester United won two consecutive titles, including the league and F.A. Cup (1993-94) during Dublin`s sojourn at the `Theatre Of Dreams`, Dion`s too few appearances didn`t earn him a winners` medal.
 Although midfielder Beardsmore`s appearances were few after the 17 (6) he made in 1988-89, even Russell picked up a European Super Cup Winners` medal in 1991 as an unused `sub` after Mark Hughes` brace in the European Cup Winners` Cup Final of 1991 had put the team through to the European Super Cup Final against the European Cup Winners of 1991, Red Star Belgrade, and Manchester United duly won the European Super Cup, 1-0, with a goal from Scotland`s striker, Brian McClair. For Manchester United, Brian McClair was a sweet avenger. Red Star belgrade were the team the club had defeated to meet A.C. Milan in the emotional but doomed semi-final of 1957-58`s European Cup competition when the team`s plane crashed on 6 February, 1958, and dashed the hopes of England`s finest that Spain`s stranglehold on the European Cup, through Real Madrid`s `galacticos` (1956-60), could be broken. Two goals in the European Cup Winners` Cup Final of 1990 gave Mark Hughes some revenge over the other Spanish club giant, Barcelona, 2-1, and victory in the European Super Cup over Red Star Belgrade assuaged the club`s thirst for vengeance some more. At Barcelona`s Nou Camp stadium, Mark Hughes had been labelled `the bull`, because of opposition defenders` goading of him for not being able to score; as Spain`s matadors waving their capes before the enraged eyes of the wounded animal.
 Rites of passage to manhood are famed. In Africa the Massai warrior has to kill a lion alone and unaided. When Manchester United`s plane crashed at Munich the passage to menhood for the team that died was denied. In Spain the matador`s killing of the bull is a rite of passage that `El Torro`, Mark Hughes, denied to the Spanish supporters who taunted him with the label, `the bull`, because he couldn`t get past the Spanish `matador` defence to score. When his goals won the European Cup Winners` Cup for Manchester United in 1991, 2-1, against Barcelona, he`d arrived at manhood, and when the club beat European Cup WInners, Red Star Belgrade, the team the `Busby Babes` had beaten for the remnants of the side to reach the semi-final of the European Cup in 1958 after the Munich aircrash, Manchester United`s passage to clubhood was achievable. The devastated team had recovered after Munich to win the European Cup at Wembley, 4-2, in 1968 against the Portuguese team Benfica of Lisbon. Although Mark Hughes didn`t play for Manchester United against Bayern Munich when the team won the European Cup Final of 1999, 2-1, he had played there after being sold on by Barcelona. When Manchester United won the European Cup for the second time in Sir Alex Ferguson`s managership in 2008 against Chelsea, Mark Hughes had been there too. Transferred to Chelsea for 1995-96, a season when Manchester United would win the `double` of F.A. Cup and league, Mark Hughes left as the new five substitute ruling came into effect, which made his transfer to Chelsea by manager, Alex Ferguson, seem almost as bizarre as Ron Atkinson`s decision to sell him to Barcelona for the start of the 1986-87 campaign. Mark Hughes would win with Chelsea, the F.A. Cup against Middlesboro`, 2-0, and the League Cup against Middlesboro` again, 2-0, in succeeding seasons, 1996-8, and the European Cup Winners` Cup against Germany`s Stuttgart, 1-0, as an unused `sub`. The rite of passage theme is unmistakable, but not only for Mark Hughes. Manchester United were approaching world clubhood and Mark Hughes` presence at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea was the workings of destiny.
 Mark Hughes had left Manchester United for Barcelona and Bayern Munich before returning to the Old Trafford club, which then transferred him to Chelsea, and the team had to achieve fateful victories over Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, where Mark Hughes had sojourned on his own way to manhood, to win the European Cup Winners Cup in 1991, and  the European Cups of 1999 and 2008. When right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, got the first goal of the 2008 European Cup Final from a header after a cross from right full back, Wes Brown, deep on the right after intricate touchline wing play between himself and indispensable midfield playmaker, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo was the Portuguese star there to remind Manchester United of Alex Stepney`s great `keeper`s save from Benfica forward, Eusebio, when the scores were 1-1 at Wembley stadium, London, in the 1968 European Cup Final. Manchester United went on to win, 4-1, while the teams at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow were level, 1-1, before extra time and penalties decided the winner between Chelsea and Manchester United. John Terry, the England centre half, slipped and fell on his arse in the rain as he took his spot kick, which hit the post, and Manchester United`s ever green left winger, Ryan Giggs, in his record breaking 759th appearance for the club since his debut in 1991, stepped up to put the ball past Peter Cech for Manchester United`s third European Cup. Chelsea may`ve been beaten but the Spaniards weren`t. The next season Manchester United lost to Barcelona, 0-2, in the European Cup Final and Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid.
 Although Manchester United won through to meet Barcelona in the 2011 European Cup Final, the team again lost, 1-3, and had achieved world clubhood but didn`t speak Spanish. The European Championship was won by Spain in 2008 and 2012, while the national team won the World Cup for the first time in 2010, which meant nationhood had suffered for the sake of clubhood amongst the English, who`d sacrificed England for, amongst others, Manchester United`s club successes in Europe and the world. Manchester United`s 1999 1-0 victory in the Intercontinental Cup (World Club Cup) Final against the Brazilian winners of the Copa Da Libertadores, champions of South America, Palmeiras, was followed in 2008 by the European Cup holders` triumph in the World Club Cup Final against Ecuadorian winners of the Copa Da Libertadores and South American champions, Liga Deportiva Universitaria De Quito, 1-0, but Spanish teams won the European nations` cup in 2008 and 2012 while Spain won the World Cup in 2010 and Manchester United were defeated in the European Cup Finals of 2009 and 2011 by Barcelona. Soccer is a world game, so clubs are more important than national teams, because they transcend national boundaries and aren`t clogged by parochial concerns such as inter city rivalries between City and United or cross pennine antipathies between fans from Lancashire and Liverpool and those from Yorkshire and Leeds United, for example. England mightn`t care about Manchester United, but the world does, which is clubhood.
 Manchester United aren`t Real Madrid or Barcelona but the name is known throughout the globe, and World Cups occur only every four years. England won the World Cup in 1966 at home, with Manchester United`s Nobby Stiles in defence and left sided deep lying centre forward, Bobby Charlton, inspiring the team through his shooting, and long and short range passing, but eleven Manchester United players won the World Club Cup of 1999 and 2008, and two were Brazilians, right back Rafael, left midfielder, Anderson, while centre forward, Carlos Tevez, was from Argentina. Although Irish captain and midfield rock, Roy Keane, tucked away a Ryan Giggs cross from far out on the left wing by ramming it in at the far post for a 1-0 World Club Cup win in 1999, and England centre forward, Wayne Rooney, drilled a low shot past the LDU Quito `keeper for Manchester United`s 1-0 win in 2008, clubs in the world game can`t win with just Brits. Just Spaniards might win the World Cup now and again, but the World Club Cup is more important because it`s genuinely international. Young Welshman Mark Hughes` journeyings from Manchester United to Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea showed `em with his wanderer`s star.
 David McCreery assassinated left wing top scorer, Gordon Hill, at Manchester United, but Johan Cruyff wasn`t removable. Johan had played in the Final of the World Cup in 1974, which the Dutch had lost to Germany, 2-1, after goal poaching centre forward, Gerd Muller turned on a sixpence in the box to score. Cruyff was deemed the world`s best and his club, Ajax of Amsterdam, had won three consecutive European Cups (1971-3), which must have intimidated his son, Jordi Cruyff, a striker signed by Manchester United from Barcelona for the 1996-97 season, which ended with the club as champions for the fourth time since 1992-93`s first success since 1966-67. Jordi Cruyff made 16 starts to qualify for a winners` medal but his triumph was to win the World Club Cup with Manchester United against Palmeiras, 1-0, as his father had done with Ajax Amsterdam in 1972 against Argentina`s Independiente, 4-1, on aggregate over home and away legs. Although he wasn`t even an unused `sub` against Brazil`s Palmeiras, Jordi Cruyff received a medal for being a Manchester United squad member, and the World Club Cup gong was the zenith of the player`s career, as it had been Johan Cruyff`s. The world game is club soccer, and the national game in the British Isles is the assassination of better players, which Northern Ireland`s David McCreery demonstrated against England`s star winger, Gordon Hill. The world`s clubs may as well strive for clubhood and players for the World Club Cup, because that way the nations of the Earth can give the world their best, rather than be dragged down by mediocrity masquerading as Mr. Reliable.
 In October, 2013, Manchester United manager, David Moyes, made the classic mistake of reducing the power of her wings. Replacing retiring manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, for the commencement of the 2013-14 season, after the club had won the championship for a record twentieth occasion in 2012-13, by 11 points from Manchester City, and on their usual wings and a prayer, David Moyes arrived as yet another doomed subscriber to the belief that three in midfield and one winger was more `sensible` soccer. Manchester United had ditched that idea with the arrival of seven substitutes, and the end of the dull half back era of `Judas` McCreery as `twelfth man`, on for top scorer, Gordon Hill. All Manchester United managers come to realize, or depart having failed to accept enlightenment, that the team never win anything without wings, so reducing the width of the team is an attempt at suiciding the club.
 With the implementation of the five `sub` rule in 1995-96, Manchester United were already on the way to the third of the eleven more titles they`d win on the left wing of Ryan Giggs, and the right wing of David Beckham, supplemented from the bench by English left winger, Lee Sharpe, and Russian right winger, Andrei Kanchelskis.  Having begun at Old Trafford against visitors Southampton on October 19, 2013, with Portuguese right winger, Nani, and young left wing Belgian prodigy, 18 year old Adnan Januzaj, who`d just signed a five year deal for 50,000 GBP a month, Manchester United manager, David Moyes, saw Adnan Januzaj play forward a 50 metre pass to England centre forward, Wayne Rooney, whose race through on goal was denied by Artur Boruc, although the S`ton `keeper couldn`t prevent Rooney`s strike partner, Robin Van Persie, netting the loose ball to give the team a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute.
 Though David Moyes seemingly couldn`t stop interfering with the team`s successful pattern, the advantage did last until the 89th minute. Many doubted the wisdom of bringing Marouane Fellaini from Everton, where David Moyes had been manager for 13 years without winning a trophy, although he`d kept the Merseyside club out of the relegation zone, which is what he was hired by Everton for. Strong tackling midfield Belgian ball distributor, Fellaini, kept Southampton`s forwards quiet at Old Trafford until the last couple of minutes of normal time. But David Moyes brought off Nani in the 69th minute for Ryan Giggs, the 40 + former left winger, to play on the left side of midfield, and in the 76th minute replaced right sided defensive midfielder, Marouane, with striker, Danny Welbeck, who`d once scored the previous season. By the 8th game of 2013-14`s 38 scheduled home and away league contests, Danny Welbeck had succeeded in getting into double that figure. David Moyes had contracted Manchester United`s `managers` malaise`.
 Having Moved Phil Jones, the latest versatile utility half back made to fill in for a central defender, into the holding role in midfield left vacant by Marouane Fellaini`s departure, and to the right of England`s cultured left footed playmaker, Michael Carrick, David Moyes brought on another `big strong lad` in the 87th minute. Although a genuine centre back, 6` 2" Chris Smalling, arrived to underscore Manchester United`s decade long problem with substitutes and `Judas` Jones half backs who cause confusion in the centre. Chris Smalling came on for centre forward, Wayne Rooney, fresh from scoring the first goal against Poland, in the 2-0 win that sent England through to the 2014 summer World Cup Finals in Brazil, and the Manchester United defence almost immediately conceded a goal in the 89th minute for a 1-1 draw. In removing Marouane Fellaini from his holding role in midfield, replacing him with the old-style `Judas` utility half back, Phil Jones, and bringing on Chris Smalling as a new centre back so late into the game, David Moyes compounded his reduction of the team`s defensive capability by removing its attacking teeth, Portugal`s right winger, Nani, and England`s centre forward, Wayne Rooney, which so publically castrated Manchester United on the pitch that it constituted a clinical returning of the club to the Dark Ages of a bird with one wing trying to fly while still needing a leg to stand on in the middle of the park.
McGrath, Paul `I`d hold my breath in games so they could not smell the drink', The Mail Online, .


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