Cup Of Youth
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 Final, just 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.