Supporting United through the Lean Years Part 3

13 Jan

Supporting United through the lean Years Part 3

The 1970s were my favourite era, I think many fans enjoy most things more when they are new experiences, the highs the lows. Football isn’t about rationality just pure emotion. You wouldn’t keep paying money and wasting your own time for a product which doesn’t do what you want it to, but you do as a footy fan most of us will waste our time and money watching rubbish week after week.

Despite the 1970s being our least successful era. One FA Cup win, two FA Cup finals lost and two League Cup semi finals I loved watching the reds during this time. I have always preferred semi finals to finals. My first visit to Wembley in 76 was a major disappointment, not just the game but the stadium.

The standout highlights a 2-0 victory against Liverpool 1972 Davies and McDougall when I really didn’t think we stood a chance, I loved the FA Cup semi’s against Derby, Leeds and Liverpool and the League Cup games against Villa and Norwich. The Sunderland win at home 3-2 in the old 2nd division and the last game of the season the 4-0 victory against Blackpool. Home games and away games were fun and there was a camaraderie amongst the Red Army faithful. The first season back in the old top division was very exciting and we finished our highest position in the 1970s making a genuine challenge for much of the season, we finished 3rd. The football after that went downhill with injuries to Buchan and Macari the following season and teams working us out and the  entrance of Sexton.

The return of European football was brilliant who can forget the games and atmospheres against Juventus, Ajax and Porto.

For me I didn’t enjoy the 80s United as much as I did the 70s but that could be due to my age. Sexton took us to 2nd place in 1979/80 2 points behind Liverpool. We had become a much more cautious team and able to compete against teams physically. Had Sexton won us the title he may have gained legendary status however most United fans did not like his brand of football which was much more defensive than the United tradition. The following season Sexton was gone we finished 8th and despite winning the last 7 games on the bounce he was sacked.

Tommy Docherty had made scathing comments about David Sexton throughout his time at United and agreed with the sacking.

United’s first choice to replace Sexton was Bobby Robson but he turned us down whether he knew he was going to be given the England job in the near future is difficult to say. Surprisingly Clough was never really talked about despite once stating his outstanding desire to manage United. Big Ron was given the job. He had turned WBA in to one of the most talked about teams in the league and one of the most exciting and of course beating United 3-5 at OT was certainly a major plus point. I even know United fans who to this day say that is their favourite United game.

Big Ron was pretty well liked at OT, a return to the larger than life character such as the Doc and entertaining football.

He inherited a good team but like most managers he was given money to spend big money Robbo Mosses Stapleton Gidman Davenport Brazil Gibson Olsen et al. And we played some fantastic football none better than the season 1985/6 when we won the first 10 league games and many of us believed we had the title sown up. Heartbreaking to see that style, that form disappear and finish 4th 12 points from top spot.

His transfers tended to be hit and miss, the best of course being Robbo who never wanted to join United but Liverpool but they would not pay the transfer fee. Robbo became loved, adored, worshiped by the fans but he had set his desire to play abroad. A deal was virtually done to take him to Sampdoria in return we would get Liam Brady and Trevor Francis. Big Ron was never scared of making the big decisions however like those that had gone before him he lacked the winning mentality and experience of that to pass on to the team.

His sacking to many and certainly to himself was a shock. I remember my brother-in-law ringing me up and telling me Edwards had been going round chatting to people in the Executive seats asking them for their opinion on big Ron during one game.

Perhaps one of his biggest mistakes is he did not get on with Bobby Charlton, and he makes this clear in his autobiography. Whether it is true or not I cannot say but he believes Bobby tapped up Fergie and when Fergie agreed to eventually come Big Ron was shown the door.

Ron Atkinson apparently was the first non-Roman Catholic to manage United since 1932 Scott Duncan.

Tommy Docherty had made scathing comments about Big Ron throughout his time at United and agreed with the sacking.

Most on the board had wanted Terry Venables to replace Big Ron but Bobby Charlton’s determination got the board to support him and prompted Fergie to OT. Fergie had apparently come very close to joining both Arsenal and Spurs previously but the rumour is his wife did not want to move to London.

Fergie started well enough but made it clear that he didn’t think the side was good enough and wanted to instil more discipline and stop the drinking culture at OT. Fergie’s management style and success as we now know is built on power and control and he had to fight hard to achieve that. He didn’t know enough about the English game and players. He was offered John Barnes and asked his scouting team what they thought he was very disappointed to get back a not sure. He changed  the club from top to bottom bringing in Brian Kidd was very important in developing the youth development side.  However Fergie did keep Eric Harrison who had been brought in by Big Ron. However big Ron had let the United youth development side slip down the rankings of importance.

The major culprits behind the drinking culture were Robbo Whiteside and McGrath. All three were loved by the fans but after numerous failed attempts Fergie sold McGrath and Whiteside both also had major injury problems but amazingly McGrath went on to play some brilliant football for Villa and the Republic of Ireland for a while afterwards.

Towards the end of the 80s I think it fair to say most United fans would have not been upset to see him go. Looking at the brand of football he has become famous for it will surprise many our football wasn’t pleasing to the eye and results were disappointing 1988/89 we finished 11th.

United during the 1980s had finished 2nd twice in the league and won the FA Cup in 1983 and 85. I genuinely think at this point United could have become a club along the lines of Spurs had success not been just around the corner. The excitement and buzz that I had known since my first time going to OT had always been there but things were different, fans were very quick to mock and criticise and get on the backs of players. Even if we weren’t wining trophies there had always previously been a belief that they would enjoy the game and the good times were round the corner……how wrong we were

My highlights of the 80s were the brilliant start to the season under Atkinson when the football was as good as any of Fergie’s great teams 10 league wins on the bounce in 1985 and of course the game against Barca we won 3-0 in the Cup Winners Cup in 1984 and Whiteside’s winner for 10 men United in the FA Cup final against Everton the best team in the country.

In those days it cannot be stressed how important the FA Cup was, some people thought it was more important than the title, the excitement and dream of getting to watch your team play at Wembley was monumental. Moreover in the modern game the only European trophy which matters in the Champions League but the UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup were fantastic competitions which motivated fans and players alike. Today in truth most fans would probably point to the title and Champions League as the only titles really worth having in the cabinet. European games in those days were all knockout home and away ties and you could be drawn against any team, there was no seeding
Tommy Docherty had made scathing comments about Fergie throughout his time at United and was calling out for him to be sacked.

Next on supporting United through the lean years the 1990s perhaps not so lean

Supporting United through the lean Years Part 1

Supporting United through the lean Years Part 2


2 Responses to “Supporting United through the Lean Years Part 3”

  1. mohammed January 13, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    Always enjoy reading your memories of United. Looking forward to part 4.

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