Liverpool 1 Man United 3, January 30, 1960
You’ve got to love the Scousers. When Liverpool were drawn at home to Manchester United in the 4th round of the FA Cup in January 1960 it was immediately declared an all-ticket match, naturally enough as United had already attracted the two largest league attendances of the season, despite being in the bottom half of the table. So the locals duly turned up in their thousands at Anfield to join the long snaking lines for tickets. Many queued for more than twelve hours in grim wintry weather conditions, desperate to see the match. But, as the News Chronicle reported, ‘They felt silly afterwards…5,000 tickets were still unsold when the turnstiles were closed that night’.
That was not the only disappointment for the Merseysiders, then wallowing around in Division Two, just about registering in national consciousness as a slumbering giant of British football, a little while before Bill Shankly’s arrival prodded them back to life, with legendary effect.
I didn’t get to see the match in person but I remember it well from seeing the highlights on television on the BBC’s ‘Sports Special’, fore-runner of Match of the Day. What sticks in the memory was that it was one of the best performances I’d seen on TV by Bobby Charlton, who had been struggling with his form for much of the season, less than a year after his 29 goals had propelled United to the runners-up position in the old First Division, behind Champions Wolves. When the cup draw was announced I was nervous because whatever else one knew about Liverpool, the fame of the Anfield Kop (then still often referred to by its full Boer War appellation of ‘Spion Kop’) loomed large. It was still thought worth a goal start, and United’s form was very uneven to say the least. To speak only of the games I’d seen featured on Sports Special, I’d seen them swing from the brilliance of a 5-1 away win at Forest to the humiliation of a shameful 7-3 defeat at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, followed soon after by a sobering 2-1 loss at Tottenham. As always, the question was, which United would turn up for the Cup?
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