Barclays League Division One: 18th March 1990
Manchester United 1
Whelan 82 og
Barnes 15, 54 (pen)
As we play The Mancs at Old Trafford tomorrow it seemed an opportune time to recall one of our rare victories there, in 1990.
The thought of going to Old Trafford in this period filled me with dread. It always seemed to be a cold, dark grey forbidding place, bloody miserable. Of course it’s not like that it just seemed that way as we always lost there! Even if we were in good form we seemed to lose. The stats seem to back this up. In the league we’ve played The Mancs at Old Trafford on 112 occasions, we’ve only won 14 times! This period was no different. During the 80’s The Mancs had the Indian sign over us. Out of twenty league matches played, we only won two. Would the nineties prove to be any different?
We were certainly in good form. Although Aston Villa headed the table by five points we had two games in hand and had won 11 of our last 19 games, drawing 8 and losing none. Injury ravaged United (no Webb or Robson, his arm had fallen off again or something) were near the bottom of the table and had only won two out of their last 14 league games. However like us they were in semi finals of the FA Cup.
The day bucked my normal impression of Old Trafford games. It was fresh spring day. About five or six of us rode up on the train. We had an entire carriage to ourselves so had The Story of the Clash playing on someone’s Walkman speakers. The sun was shining, the banter was great and everyone was positive. It was bloody good to be alive! At the ground there was a confidence I’d not experienced before. We knew we could, and this time really felt we would, take them.
The first five minutes saw a couple of half chances for each side however McClair had the ball nipped off his toe by Staunton and then Beardsley’s shot was stopped by the sheer number of Mancs defenders in the box. United tried to take the game to us but weren’t allowed to get beyond our eighteen yard area any attempts to make inroads were blocked by a silver shirt (or was it grey) usually Hansen, Hysen or an on rushing Grobbelaar. Although Hughes had a good chance stopped by the backside of his team mates, it was a good start. We took the venom out of the game, dampening the normally white hot atmosphere and things were going to get better.
Perhaps it was slightly against the run of play but Houghton found Beardsley in the centre circle. The United back four had tried to push up too early but Bruce was too slow. Beardsley’s through ball exploited the situation finding an onside Barnes who ran the length of the United half and easily slotted the ball under Leighton.
United nearly equalised after McClair’s centre was flicked up by Danny Wallace and volleyed at Grobbelaar. Brucey ended up sprawling behind his goal line but just managed to stop the ball from crossing it. Despite this we looked comfortable. It was not a typical Liverpool Mancs game, it was all very sedate with the fire and brimstone nowhere to be seen. This played into our hands we were allowed time on the ball and to acclimatise. Beardsley and Barnes were combining well and always looked dangerous. At the back Staunton was coltish and energetic but at times wayward. His exuberance was complemented by Hysen’s maturity and Hansen’s unruffled, pragmatic, “seen it all before” approach. Barry Venison provided balance on the right in-between preenings!
One up at half time. However, in the corresponding fixture the season we were in the same situation and blew it the second to lose 3-1. This time the Mancs were not going repeat the trick. Any chances of a come back were soon scuppered when Beardsley broke. He was tackled on the edge of the area only for the ball to drop to McMahon who fed Rush whose run was bought to crude end by an Anderson tackle just inside the box.
The penalty was an ideal opportunity for Rush to break his Mancs duck. He was playing his seventeenth game against them and still hadn’t scored, however he was still injured so Barnes stepped up and coolly sent Leighton the wrong way for his twentieth goal of the season.
Barnes nearly got his hat trick seizing on a mistake by Ince and opting to shoot when he could have set up Rush for an easier attempt. I suppose one can forgive “Digger” for this. A hat trick at Old Trafford would be a notable scalp, the last Liverpool player to achieve this was Fred Howe in November 1936. Barnes was his usual cool on the ball looking like he was out for a Sunday afternoon kick around. It was almost as if there was a force field around him such was the reluctance, or failure, of the United defenders to get near him!
United had a chance to get back into the game with an acrobatic volley by McClair from a Beardsmore cross that was superbly stopped at point blank range by Grobbelaar. Not only did he manage to stop the shot but he also prevented a possible follow up by somehow easing it the ball over the bar. However, minutes later United they were given hope thanks to Ronnie Whelan’s superb “chip” over Grobbelaar from the edge of the area! A mistimed back pass certainly showing a nonchalance of a side well in control. However there was to be no rousing finale and we saw the game out.
We went on to win the league that year, our last time. The Mancs finished thirteenth and had to wait another three years before they broke their run of twenty six years without a title. However, they did go on the beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final. Palace had beaten us 4-3 in a semi final thriller a Villa Park gaining some revenge for our 9-0 win earlier in the season!
Since this game we’ve won at Old Trafford on three more occasions, the last time being 1-0 in 2004 thanks to a Danny Murphy goal. The previous victories had also been 1-0 the scorer on each occasion? Danny Murphy! May be we should resign him, just for one day?
Manchester United: Leighton, Anderson, Martin, Bruce, Phelan, Pallister, Balckmore, Ince, McClair, Hughes. Subs Duxbury, Beardsmore
Liverpool: Grobbelaar, Hysen, Venison, Staunton, Whelan, Hansen, Beardsley, Houghton, Rush, Barnes, McMahon Subs Gillespie, Burrows