Red Retro: The FA Cup tale of two curlers… and a sending off

In the last Red Retro column, I touched on Manchester United’s long-term love affair with the FA Cup and why it holds so many great memories for fellow Reds. Whenever the subject comes up on our Social Media feeds, 3 years get mentioned frequently – 77, 83 & 85… we’ll gloss over 76 & 79, for good reason.


The year 1977 was influential to many lads of my age becoming life-long Reds. Glorious weather, legendary twin towers, United fans in full voice and the club on a revenge mission after the shock of ’76, and who stood in our way? Yes, the enemy Liverpool who were going for an unprecedented treble but goals from Pancho Pearson and a Macari/Greenhoff combo won the day for Manchester United. A truly memorable day for Reds of all ages.

Fast forward to 1983, Big Ron lead us to our first major final in the 80s with the opponents being Brighton & Hove Albion. Now, on paper this was a walk in the park but Brighton clearly hadn’t read the script and the match ended in a 2-2 draw but they came THAT close to winning it in extra time with possibly the most famous commentary in FA Cup Final history: ‘and Smith must score’. Fortunately for us, Gordon Smith fluffed his lines as Bailey made a great save with his legs.

The game will long be remembered for an absolute worldie of a curler from Ray Wilkins. The replay was how the original match should have been with Captan Marvel back in the team and scoring a brace that accompanied goals by Stapleton and a penalty from Arnold Muhren. Incidentally it was United’s last trophy before Sharp became our shirt sponsor.

It was 2 seasons before we made it back to Wemberlee as we had been knocked out in the 3rd round by Bournemouth in 1984. The less said about that the better but Norman Whiteside told us that Big Ron made them run until they dropped as punishment.

Talking of Norman Whiteside, the 85 final versus Everton was when he scored probably the greatest goal in a final with a sublime curler past Southall following a beautiful pass placed by Mark Hughes. Credit also goes to Gordon Strachan who made a clever run to give Whiteside space to get a shot in. That final was also famous for Kevin Moran becoming the first player ever sent off after a slightly (!) mistimed tackle on Peter Reid.

I could talk about this all night but there’ll be another time. Stay tuned for more Red Retro columns.

Finally, I’d like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Keep following us on Twitter @UtdBeforeFergie and on Facebook too. See you in 2015.

More Stories Arnold Muhren Gordon Smith Lou Macari Manchester United Mark Hughes Norman Whiteside Ray Wilkins Ron Atkinson