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TOP 5: United games at Christmas

Winter is a wonderful time, and Christmas is even more special. It is special because amongst all the utter, utter tedium of hanging out at home and eating the worst meat of all time, turkey, you get to watch an enormous amount of football. Christmas has so many games that it can destroy a season – just watch Arsenal fall apart in the next few months – and it poses a gruelling test. More often than not, United have come out with some success, ready to start the traditional strong finish to the season. And sometimes they’ve just been crap.

1 January 1996 – Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 Manchester United

In the warm up, Paul Scholes fell ill. Before the warm up, Peter Schmeichel injured his calf and Kevin Pilkington, Barcelona’s nemesis, started in goal. Added to that, both Phil and Gary Neville, not yet the reliable or excellent, respectively, defenders they would prove to be for United, made up half of a weakened defence.

But the piece de resistance of the United defence was William Prunier. Eric Cantona’s mate, who would be humiliated by him in Cantona’s testimonial a few years later, was notably first embarrassed here. It will go down in United history that William Prunier was one of the most useless signings ever made by United.

Which is, of course, unfair. He had shown in training enough for Alex Ferguson to request to extend his trial period, but the defender turned him down. He was only playing because United were in the middle of an injury crisis.

While United fans might remember him with disgust and embarrassment, they should remember it was he who walked away, not the club who turfed him out. He would go on to an entirely respectable career at Montpellier, Napoli and Toulouse, retiring in 2004. Having been recruited by Ferguson for his ball-playing ability rather than for a no-nonsense approach, Prunier is in fact the template for future United signings like Laurent Blanc and Rio Ferdinand.

21 December 1996 – Manchester United 5-0 Sunderland

It might have set Manchester United on the trail of yet another title, but this game should be appreciated for what it means in just one respect. This was Eric Cantona’s finest moment of the season and gave fans something to remember him by, before they realised that this would his last season ever.

He has scored more important goals, and he has scored goals that came at times of greater pressure. But in this game, having been criticised for his recent form – and unbeknownst to the fans, realised his time was up – and with United 4-0, Cantona was able to effect something mesmeric. Starting a run from midfield after precise footwork to evade challenges, he played a 1-2 with Brian McClair and scored the most beautiful goal of his time at United. The celebration was understand and cool at the time, but is poignant in retrospect.

19 December 1998 Manchester United 2-3 Middlesbrough

Before Sven Goran Eriksson and before David Moyes, United had already replaced Alex Ferguson. For the game against Middlesbrough, United had Jimmy Ryan as their manager, replacing Ferguson, as he was at a funeral in Scotland.

United were without Jaap Stam, and a miserable defeat saw United in third place. Third place in the Premier League, without Ferguson, and without Stam. This was the eleventh consecutive game that United had failed to keep a clean sheet, and the game proved that they weren’t always able to keep coming back from the dead.

And so what happened next? They came back from the dead against Liverpool in the FA Cup. They came back from the dead as a 10-man team against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final. They came back from the dead home and away to Juventus. They came back from the dead against Bayern Munich, winning the Champions League final in a manner that makes the hair stand up on the back of your balls.

13 December 2010 – Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal

In the recent past, and since then, and before then, Manchester United beat Arsenal because they had a mixture of physical flimsiness, too many bad players, and mental blocks against United. This match was no different.

The game was notable for one of the last hurrahs of Ji-Sung Park’s success as a defensive winger in the big games. Before anyone decides to launch a full-scale war at the term, ‘defensive winger,’ that’s what Park was, so there. A player regarded as hugely intelligent and disruptive (to the opposition) by Alex Ferguson and the rest of the coaching staff, it was Park who scored the only goal of the game.

With 20-year-old Wojciech Szczesny making his Premier League debut, United exploited the fact that Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie (when he was just a dirty bastard rather than our dirty bastard) were on the bench, and won the game to reclaim top spot and go on to win the league. Again.

26 December 2012 – Manchester United 4-3 Newcastle United

Whereas United under Moyes give up in the last 15 minutes, United under Ferguson used to win games. The previous winter Wayne Rooney had done something to ensure that some people watched a bereft United lose at home to a terrible Blackburn Rovers, in an Irish pub on New Year’s Day, a pub that smelt of piss at the start of the game and piss and disappointment at the end.

But last season, United got Robin van Persie and had a will to win that compensated for one of the most imbalanced squad in recent history. James Perch scored after four minutes, but then Jonny Evans equalised, and then scored an own goal. Patrice Evra, still yet to receive an apology for being racially abused by Luis Suarez (and he’s still waiting), scored United’s second equaliser. But Papiss Cisse scored to put Newcastle ahead until van Persie popped up with another equaliser.

In the last minute of the game, Michael Carrick – now apparently dissatisfied with Moyes and certainly out of form under him – slid the ball through to Javier Hernandez – not apparently dissatisfied with Moyes and certainly out of form under him – finished from close range to put United on course for their last title for some time to come (possibly). It’s games like this that make you realise what United lost in Ferguson. For all his faults – and there were plenty – United scored in the last minute, United had determination, United had an aura of success and all the players tried for the manager. Treasure matches like this, because there’s no way of knowing when they’ll be back.



  1. Ovie Sunday says:

    things will change for good this time moyes bring new faces for united

  2. RedHanams says:

    Good read, although the attacks on Moyes seem petty

  3. Sparkz says:

    As I recall, we didn’t lose another game after the Boro defeat in 98. Undefeated in all competitions for the rest of the season

  4. United says:

    Hurray! We wons manageurial derby! Man Utd 1-0 Man City! Hurray! Ours dear Davey Moisy earnings more ££££ den Pellegrinu n Del Bosque as wil. Me told u ppl Davey deservings best. Davey is bestest managuer 4 me club man united. In dear Davey we shuld trust!

  5. Sparkz says:

    Thoughts on whether winning the CL may be our best chance of qualifying for it next season. Moyes’ tactics in Europe have been spot on so far as well.

  6. Fletch™ says:

    Nani Crocked, out for 2-3 weeks :roll:

    But Fellaini and Vidic are back training.
    Rooney could yet make the squad and will be assessed late.

  7. Fletch™ says:

    On topic:

    How not to remember 6-1 v Southampton at OT on Dec 22 2001.

    Goals from van Nistelrooy x3, plus Solskjaer, Keano and Phil Neville

    Time to party!
    Good times!

    Happy Holidays to all Reds, and the rest of them as well! Good cheer!

  8. wayne barker says:

    Wow just heard on talksport players union are going to court to try and get the transfer market abolished if they win would mean players would just have to give notice like any other worker

  9. Marko Maric says:

    I red athat Danny want to play central forward. If he want that so much, i would give him 2 games. I wouldnt be so stuburn like Moyes and put him wide. We saw how Sturidge, started to score since he dont play to wide.

  10. Mark Reid says:

    Nani injured he’s hardly played,not sure what’s going on with the lad he had great potential he just got a five year contract seems odd.

  11. Fletch™ says:

    Congratulations to David McDonnell. Name now made! Legend! ;)

    Somehow feel “Fortress Old Trafford” needed a few good bannings! :twisted:


    Man United have banned David McDonnell–because-2947483

  12. Marko Maric says:

    I dont understand why Alonso dont wanna stay at Madrid. He is good, no problems with first team football, no fights with anyone, no scandals, always quite and hard working. I mean, he never complained. On the other side, dont understand why Suarez suddenly signed for Liverpool? He wanted to leave, and obviously its very hard that Liverpool gonna win something. They need to invest big time. Dont get it. All big clubs wanted him, and he stays now.

  13. wayne barker says:

    Just listening to a Spanish reporter Messi is unhappy apparently Neymar makes more money hard to believe

  14. NefariousVirtuoso88 says:

    I was at the Newcastle game. Just amazing.

  15. Rachel Conlon says:

    united need 2 invest in playmaker role after xmas if united want 2 win the pl

  16. Tommy says:

    “In the last minute of the game, Michael Carrick – now apparently dissatisfied with Moyes and certainly out of form under him” Pathetic cheap shot, How do you know hes dissatisfied? Give me some quotes, You cant because you wont find any, he always starts the season slow even under Sir Alex and hes been injured for a large chunk of the season so far


    If what they said on talksport is true then thats the death of football, small clubs rely on producing young players and selling them on to keep going, If a player can just hand in his notice then most clubs will go under mark my words, pathetic abuse of player power!

    In England this is definatly the best time of the year for football, Love the boxing day fixtures last years 4 3 was the best game of last season for me, Poyet and Pellegrini moaning about no winter break, my advice to them is if they want a winter break change countries simple as that, Try Russia they get 3 months of a winter break, Its tradtional in this country and a winter break will displease all the football fans in England.


    I heard at around 5.30pm on weds reports of his team being leaked from maybe an inside job to the jounalist, He needs to find the mole and sack him whoever it is, changes how the other team will prefer to face us, Glad that jounalist has been banned, well in fairness jounalist is stretching it, Calling someone who writes for the mirrow a jounalist is the equivelant of calling someone who works in Macdonalds a chef!

  17. Tommy says:

    Christmas come early Nani is out, Hopefully he will be back in time for him to complete his medical at another club in january!

  18. samuel - united WE stand says:

    At least nani has justified his 17mill outlay.. Spare a thought for those that probably never will..

    “Moyes: Fellaini has got an injury that we hoped might have healed up but he is still feeling it. I’m going to send him for another scan and, if it hasn’t healed up, I might need to take a decision and get his wrist done as well” – Next thing we will hear is the belgian flying off to pluto and will resign as a footballer, anything to keep him away from the pitch eh moyesy?

  19. samuel - united WE stand says:

    Still tempting to go back to westham and bring back ravel.. I say give him one or two season and then see how he develops in maturity on and off the pitch.. If all goes well, why not get him back? He’s a united developed player and has all the attributes needed to fly the flag of the new manchester united. Wonder if moyes is willing to take some risks and think outside the box..

  20. samuel - united WE stand says:

    Seems out of all the 2011 fa youth cup winning team, larnell cole seems to be one still stuck playing reserves football? I have high hopes for him but what’s going on? His progress doesn’t seem to be accelerating, perhaps a late late developer as he is good technical qualities. All his team mates have gone on loan.. (obviously pogba and morrison have left).. The lad needs to kick on now, he needs to make the next step up to first team football. Maybe the coaches are holding him back and trying to sort out aspects of his game in order to step up, i’m not sure.

  21. sir matt martin says:

    Manchester United manager David Moyes has confirmed he intends to send Marouane Fellaini for another scan which could result in an extended period on the sidelines. Fellaini has not featured since the Red Devils’ home defeat by Everton on December 4, since when he has been troubled by a back problem. Moyes had thought the £27.5million Belgian would have
    recovered by now. However, that has proved not to be the case and Fellaini will be missing again when United entertain West Ham. Moyes is going to send the former Everton player for another scan. And, if the results are not positive, it is likely Fellaini will have the wrist operation he has been putting off for a while but is likely to keep him out for a number of weeks. “Fellaini has an injury to his back, which we hoped might have healed up but it hasn’t,” Moyes told reporters.”I am going to get another scan and if it hasn’t healed up then I might need to take the decision to get his wrist done as well. “We hoped his back would be better in 10 days but he is still feeling it. There is better news about Michael Carrick, who has not featured since the victory over Arsenal at the beginning of last month but should be available to face former club Tottenham on New Year’s Day after recovering from his Achilles injury.Michael has just started some work outside on the grass,” said Moyes. He is getting a little bit closer. He is roughly due to be back at New Year’s Day time. We might be able to squeeze a few more days out of it but I couldn’t be sure yet.

  22. sir matt martin says:

    lets just holp the juventus intrest in Nani is true, and they are willin to pay £20m.

  23. Marko Maric says:

    Thanks God, Fellaini is injuried, because he is usless anyway…27.5 millions for that guy hahhahahaha


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