Anyone else struggling to get out of bed this morning?
October 20th 1996
Newcastle United 5 – 0 Manchester United
It was United’s worst defeat since October 1984 when they lost 5-0 at Everton. Alex Ferguson said it was the worst scoreline of his 22-year managerial career. History was being rewritten, chapter by chapter: the flood of goals were the first United had conceded in nine hours and nine minutes. It was 999 time.
The stats marched all over United. Newcastle’s seventh successive Premiership victory, their first League success over United in nine years, propelled Kevin Keegan’s rampant side back to the top of the table.
But anyone who knows the champions and their manager will appreciate that they will swiftly be back.
Manager reaction: “When you lose 5-0, you take your medicine and go home. We can take it, we’ll be OK. We could have scored five goals ourselves, it was an unusual game, the biggest defeat of my career as a manager; but, I’ll put it down as a blip, we’ll go on from here.”
Six days later we got thrashed 6-3 by Southampton although fortunately a defeat at the hands of Leicester for Newcastle ensured we kept within three points of them. However, another defeat the following week, losing 2-1 at home to Chelsea, took us six points behind.
By the end of the season, we finished eight points clear.
Football is different these days and it’s hard to imagine a team losing three games on the trot going on to claim the title, however, this should give us a touch of perspective. Waking up yesterday morning felt like shit, going in to work this morning felt like shit, but once the euphoria over Liverpool’s result settles, it leaves us four points clear at the top with a game in hand. Christ, Liverpool aren’t even the team below us in the table, thanks to City’s result at Stamford Bridge.
You have shit days in football and you have great days. As United fans, we’ve had more than our fair share of great days and it’s easy to take that for granted. My desperation for us to get a result this season doesn’t compare with my desperation in the 06-07 season. That doesn’t mean I care less or I’m not as bothered, rather I’ve adjusted to being spoilt, just as I did in the 90’s. As well as being a wake up call for the players, the result was a wake up for the fans.
There are fans who sit a few rows in front of me at Old Trafford who like the idea of being a ‘top red’. Carrick is a wanker and Berbatov is a lazy twat, apparently. They are vocal with their opinions because they are pissed when they arrive, ten minutes late. They’re even more vocal in the second half after returning to their seats five minutes after kick-off so they could finish their pints. Then they get home before the rest of us because they leave five or ten minutes early, depending on the score. Top reds.
When Liverpool’s third went in they jumped to their feet and they were off. “Fuck this!” How easy it would be to ‘support’ a team in such a way. Jumping for joy in May but fucking off every time your team don’t get the result you want. Their exit stirred similar emotions in those sitting around me, “fuck off then! Don’t bother coming back!” and the like being hurled in their direction as they skipped down the steps.
By the time the final whistle went, there were far more empty red seats than there were those filled with dejected fans. Maybe the thought of hearing those bastards cheering at the final whistle was too much for them or maybe they wanted a good seat at the bar or maybe they were starving after missing lunch to get to the game. But those who did stay, sharing in the humiliation and disappointment, felt the satisfaction of being there. “We love United, we do!” was chanted, before “Champions of England! Champions of Europe!”. Don’t get too down lads, we’ve got a title to win here!
When you compare this with Liverpool’s 0-0 at home to West Ham, which also cleared large areas of their ground, they BOOED their team off. Can you believe it? Top of the fucking table and they’re booing. It’s disgusting. They think they’re the best fans in the country and they BOO their own team for a draw when they’re top of the league.
So, for those of you who stuck around, good on you. Those who left with twenty minutes to go, why did you bother coming? It’s time to get a grip because we want this title, we are more than capable of winning it, and walking out whenever it gets tough won’t cut it. I imagine none of the players wanted to show up at training this morning, knowing Ferguson was going to tear another strip off them, but they have to grit their teeth and get on with it, and as fans, we have to do the same.
Beating us at home and away will be the highlight of Liverpool’s season. We have bigger fish to fry than that.
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.