The 1995-1996 didn’t start too well for Manchester United, on the back of Ferguson selling Hughes, Kanchelskis and Ince. Sir Alex Ferguson put his faith in a group of young, bright players, who Alan Hansen famously claimed wouldn’t win anything. After losing out to the title by a point the season before to Blackburn, our biggest title challengers were expected to be Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle. Come Christmas, we were twelve points behind Newcastle and it was starting to look as though we’d go another season without success.
However, thanks to the ‘kids’ emerging as quality players, more than capable for the top flight struggle, and the return of the suspended Eric Cantona, United began to claw back the points. United racked up an important win at home to Newcastle, Andy Cole and Roy Keane scoring our goals, but went on to suffer a humiliating 4-1 defeat away to Spurs a few days later. Newcastle bounced back from their loss at Old Trafford, continuing to pick up points each week up until the middle of February, when they lost to West Ham. In the seven games that followed, Newcastle won just one, and suffered a home defeat against United, Eric the King scoring the only goal of the game. Their lead at the top had been cut to three points, as in the same period of time, United won six and drew one, claiming our rightful place as title favourites.
With two games to go and the title well within our reach, after Roy Keane scored our winning goal against Leeds, Ferguson claimed his crown for the mind games, saying that teams tried harder against United than they did Newcastle. Leeds’ next fixture was Keegan’s team, with Ferguson keen to encourage Leeds to repeat their hard working performance against Newcastle. The performance came, with Leeds hitting the woodwork twice, but failing to pick up any points. United’s lead had been cut to three points and Keegan was keen to set the record straight.
“Some of the things that have been said in the last few days have been almost slanderous,” an emotion Keegan ranted on Sky Sports. “I think you should send a tape of that [match] to Alex Ferguson. That’s what he wanted, isn’t it? You don’t say what Alex said about Leeds, you don’t say that in football. He’s gone down in my estimation. I would love it if we beat them, LOVE it. The battle is still on, they have not won it yet.”
Unfortunately for Keegan, his wish didn’t come true, with United scoring eight goals in their remaining two games, picking up the maximum six points, whilst Newcastle drew both of theirs. The title came back to Old Trafford, along with the FA Cup, and Keegan later handed in his resignation.
Eleven years have gone by since then, with Newcastle boasting a long list of managers who failed to bring a trophy to St James Park. The shock sacking of Sam Allardyce was announced last week, with Keegan’s name being mentioned as a possible replacement. The Newcastle fans had called for a Keegan-Shearer partnership, trusting these men as their messiahs. It all sounded a bit too dreamy and unbelievable for my liking, with Mark Hughes looking like the man for the job. However, it has today been revealed that Keegan has been given his old job back, much to the joy of the Newcastle faithful.
So welcome back Kevin Keegan! In a month’s time we’ll travel to St James’, and I look forward to seeing your infamous rant on all the channels again.