Radio journalist and RFFH founder, Justin Mottershead – My first United game

I’m afraid I’m going to have to cheat here a little bit because to be perfectly honest I can remember very little about my first ever United game. It was a drab 0-0 against Southampton sometime in the mid-eighties and my only vague recollection of it was that Peter Shilton was in goal for the Saints and Jesper Olsen did something memorable for United, although not memorable enough for me to actually remember what it was! In my defence I was only at infant school age during that time and the other games that made up my first trips to Old Trafford, so have decided to fast forward to the first game I can truly remember, that came in the Rumbelows Cup as it was known against the then mighty Liverpool.

My dad had been a regular at Old Trafford for years and the first times he took me we’d walked from our house in Stretford to the ground but by the time of the Liverpool game we’d move to another part of Manchester so had to drive, but ended up parking near our old house anyway, near the since demolished Kendal Sports Club.

I can still recall the excitement I felt all day at school, knowing that I was going to Old Trafford, for a cup game against the all conquering Liverpool. Growing up as a United fan I’d become used to seeing the Scousers lift countless trophies, their matches featuring frequently on the telly and many of their ranks making up the international sides.

I went swimming with school in the afternoon and I remember my best mate Ryan, somewhat jealously proclaiming: “United won’t beat Liverpool tonight, they’re too good, Barnes is amazing.” Ryan was a United fan, who even played for the boy’s team but seldom went to matches and was simply trying to pour water on the flames of my excitement as I’d no doubt done his head in banging on about my imminent visit to the match, getting more giddy as the day wore on.

To put things into context, this was the season after Sir Alex Ferguson- or just ‘Alex’ as he was known then- had delivered his first trophy, the FA Cup. I’d been five when United had lifted the trophy in 1985 and can barely remember it, although I do remember celebrations in the street around my house, so the 1990 win had been very special. I was getting to the age where I was beginning to understand the game better and Italia 90 had been something of a watershed moment as players like Toto Schillaci, Roger Milla and Gazza dazzled me and my mates during the Summer.

The match itself was and still is one of my favourite memories of being at Old Trafford, this was a time when the atmosphere was truly something special, particularly against old enemies Liverpool. I’d been to Old Trafford a few times by then, always on a weekday as my dad refused to take me at weekends claiming it was too dangerous, as the hooligan era hadn’t ended, nor had the racism you could still hear on the terraces – one could argue the latter still hasn’t to some extent.

Despite this being a third round league cup tie, arguably the most insignificant game you could think of now, Old Trafford was packed and for a ten year-old like myself it was akin to being in heaven as the roar of the crowd helped the game get underway. The game itself was a good old fashioned cup tie with both sides really going for it and the crowd delivering an equally memorable performance off the pitch. I remember there was a bloke stood in front of us – we were in what would now be classed as the West Stand Upper – and all he seemed to do was face the crowd starting chants and constantly geeing everyone up, like some form of Mancunian middle-aged cheerleader.

United took the lead through a Steve Bruce penalty, this was the season where the centre back seemed to score almost every game- in fact he bagged eighteen in total during that campaign, a phenomenal record. The thing that shocked me most of all about Bruce’s opener was my dad’s reaction, I’d never fully grasped the rivalry and even hatred between the two clubs, despite not liking Liverpool I’d not fully embraced the antagonism that would flourish in subsequent seasons. My dad jumped up and down on his wooden chair, not on the seat but the actual back of the chair such was his euphoria and naturally he wasn’t alone as the entire place seemed to be going completely mental. Nothing could prepare me for what happened next as Mark Hughes scored on of my favourite ever United goals. Skipping past two Liverpool players about 30 yards from goal, ‘Sparky’ fired a rocket that flew past Bruce Grobbelaar and sent Old Trafford, my dad, the cheerleader and myself  completely potty. It was a great goal and being there to witness it against Liverpool of all sides, with my dad next to me made it all the more special.

The second half saw Danny Wallace replacing Hughes who’d taken a knock. I remember Wallace bursting through on goal only to be cynically brought down by David Burrows- a move nowadays that would without doubt warrant a red card, a three game ban and a shedload of righteous indignation all over twitter, the Liverpool defender got a booking. It seems in those days you had to cause at least grievous bodily harm to make the referee even consider reaching for a red card.

United eventually went three up through Lee Sharpe who was arguably my favourite player at the time – he’d be replace by Paul Ince for a few seasons, before he broke my heart. Sharpe tormented the Liverpool defence all night and was playing at the peak of his powers despite being relatively young. The goal came at our end of the pitch and we had a perfect view as Sharpe rocketed his shot past the increasingly hapless Grobbelaar.

Ray Houghton grabbed a consolation, not that it mattered, United had been dominant against a side many fancied to win the league and who’d gone six months undefeated. Barnes, my mates golden boy hadn’t played, but I remember my dad pointing to some stud marks on the pitch and remarking: “look Barnes has been playing, he’s the invincible man again,” a reference to an ongoing Red Issue joke made after the winger’s anonymous performance in Italia 90.

Coming out of Old Trafford I managed to lose my dad, coming over the bridge from Old Trafford towards Railway Road I saw him hanging off a lamppost looking for me, it wasn’t difficult as I was floating on a happy, joyous scouse-defeating cloud. I may have been only ten years old but as my mind raced I wondered if I was witnessing the start of something special, maybe the dawning of a new era, kids do think some daft things sometimes…


Follow Justin Mottershead on Twitter and read more of his Manchester United related work. A new project of his, Pride of all Europe, is also worth a look.

More Stories Danny Wallace Jesper Olsen Lee Sharpe Liverpool Manchester United Mark Hughes Paul Ince Steve Bruce


  1. Nice piece Jay; as normal from yourself beautifully written and conveyed. As if we are there and could imagine being with you at your two first United games.

    There is clearly a passion in the words used, United grips you in that manner, twists and turns you around. Tosses you about like a rubber ball, trying to come to terms of what It all means following this football club.

    A walk down memory lane to me, implies someone ‘ you’ hankers for your youth, the days when life was so much simpler.
    As you know social media, Facebook and Twitter as two examples have altered the landscape of communication drastically.

    Dale will confirm I’m not a fan of either, although have access to both, but seldom utilise them to me it’s hiding behind a screen and ghost persona that is in effect so impersonal.
    You just can’t get a feeling for the person behind the mask, so to speak. I think from Justin’s witten pieces, you get a good idea of his manner. Often piss taker – windup merchant, I often think, that’s his angle.
    Put out the line see who is biting the bait.
    Reel them in.

    They both are gradually killing full written communication on open forums, and allow vent to people who attack and can then hide behind an anonymous unknown personality. As you will recall I’m sure on your forum when Patrice Evra was racially abused through Twitter and Facebook by Liverpool fans. Which was shocking, but of no real surprise unless you live in a goldfish bowl, given the medium it is.
    Most of the sad people exchanging insults are a lot radio – rental.

    If anybody read the abuse Ashley Young got on his Facebook page on is birthday yesterday; you will be aware of the mentality of some people. Regardless of how he is valued in his first two seasons at the football club. Insulting him on his Birthday page designed just to convey congratulation’s.

    I did not know you were a Radio presenter Jay, assuming this is not hospital radio, you have the face for it! ‘ Joking mate.’
    You will eventually get my little barbed comments, elsewhere and I get the abuse I deserve, which is water of a ducks back, as It is am sure yours.

    If you fight your corner now in a public forum or indeed convey you care about something, write too much, your seen as a gobshite.
    One liners are the new fashion now on forums, not taking the effort to display you have a heart and do care about something like Manchester United.

    As you eloquently display in our article, walking us through your induction into match days, the emotions involved in the build up to the match, during the match and post game. Sensationally drawing a picture with words, which for a radio presenter is fairly critical, with no visuals to support the presentation.
    I diverse from the theme of the excellent article onto one of my hobby horses, communication vehicles and their use.
    Anyhow thought I would just put my Scottish two pennies’ worth in and say Hi Justin.
    Also wish you well on your new venture Pride Of All Europe, it reads well the few times I have scanned over the articles I have viewed, they are excellent.

    As ever having tackled you in the past over detail in some of your articles on RFFH, I’m still around fighting my corner, with my normal caustic, some consider dangerous attitude to Manchester United.

    Not to be crossed, as I will fight back, like a good Scottish lad.
    We shall meet again Justin, as they conveyed in gladiator; just not yet!

    Good article, sadly not mainstream in this age of United fans unswerving passion for transfer talk and reworked speculative pieces on signings.
    Rather than learning about the club, its history and a ‘ fans’ real – life memories. 🙂
    PS Always remember Justin I’m being trained to be a ‘ trouble maker’ in a good way. To inspire controversy and fuel debate.

    Dale I hope to read a great article this week on Stretty News, my Irish friend, on Roy Keane, it’s a special anniversary for one of my all – time favourite United players Dale.

    I could have written it for you Dale, but I’m not good enough -remember. 🙂 Joking – moved on, you have to, life goes on as does Manchester United, my NO1 love as it is the author of this article and you Dale.
    Cheers keep it real, keep it United.

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