Thank You For Your Contribution
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.
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