3 Years of Excuses and Its still Crap...ta-ra Fergie! - The story of the season behind the banner.
Season 1989/90 was Alex Ferguson's fourth season in charge at Old Trafford. He had guided them to 11th in his first season and followed this up with an impressive 2nd place however they went backwards during his third as they finished 11th once again. Now having spent big in the summer, hopes were high of a title challenge. Having opened up the season with an impressive 4-1 demolition of Arsenal and a steady 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace, title hopes quickly evaporated as four defeats in five games followed. One was particularly hard to swallow as it was a crushing 5-1 derby day defeat to rivals Manchester City. The Old Trafford faithful were becoming restless and disenchanted with Ferguson and the calls for him to be sacked started.
Four wins in five games pushed United back into the top half of the table as November came to an end but the fans were less then enamoured to find themselves not only failing to mount a title challenge but to also be below City in the table. A run of eight games without a win including defeats at Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa left United languishing in 15th place and about to face first division rivals Nottingham Forest in a 3rd Round FA Cup tie. The fans had now had enough and repeated chants for Fergie to be sacked were common place and a banner was unfurled which said 3 Years of Excuses And It's Still Crap.....ta-ra Fergie. The board were being challenged openly by not just the Manchester press but the national press also.
Having already been knocked out of the League Cup by Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the season, the FA Cup represented United's only chance of silverware. As soon as the draw had been made, a lot of pundits were predicting that Forest would knock United out and heap further pressure on Fergie. The game itself was fairly uneventful with Forest putting United under a lot of pressure before Mark Robins rescued Fergie with a goal in the second half, United running out 1-0 winners. If Ferguson believed this would kick start United's season he was sorely mistaken and two league defeats on the trot followed leaving United above the relegation zone by only one point.
Despite making heavy work out of beating Hereford United 1-0 in the fourth round, United marched on to beat Newcastle United and Sheffield United and set up a semi final against local rivals Oldham Athletic. They where overwhelming favourites to reach the final against Oldham but United were considered lucky to get a replay after a 3-3 draw. They did not fare much better in the replay, being outplayed again for much of the game but with key goals at key times they ran out winners and a final against Crystal Palace was their reward. In amongst their cup victories their league form had also picked up and they ended the season with an impressive 5 wins from their last 8 games and having been flirting with relegation in February they finally finished 11th.
All eyes were now on Wembley and the possibility of Alex Ferguson's first trophy. The final proved to be a thrilling game. End to end attacking football with both teams eager to score at every opportunity. The pressure to deliver the trophy for Ferguson seemed to paralyse United especially keeper Jim Leighton who gave his defence no confidence at all with a string of mistakes and it was no surprise to see Palace score first. Bryan Robson equalised for United before Mark Hughes put them into a 2-1 lead but they were unable to hold on and Palace scored again to take the game into extra time. Nerves were well and truly frayed now and Leighton did not start extra time well and hesitated when coming for a cross which enabled Palace to take the lead once again. United pressed and pressed but chance after chance went begging. With only seven minutes remaining it was looking bleak for the Fergie until top scorer Hughes popped up to to rescue Fergie and United with an equaliser.
Alex Ferguson showed his ruthless streak in the replay by dropping Jim Leighton, who had endured a torrid first game and replacing him with reserve keeper Les Sealey who had only played 2 games all season. The replay could not have been more different from the first game, a tight and nervy affair. Sealey made some impressive saves to keep United in it before the breakthrough. Unlikely scorer left back Lee Martin surged forward and blasted the ball past Palace keeper Nigel Martyn. There was still time for United to increase their lead but they failed to capitalise and the game ended 1-0. The cup was won. Fergie had his first managerial trophy at Old Trafford. The pressure was off. The reward for winning the FA Cup was a place in the following season's European Cup Winners Cup which United won, beating Barcelona in the final. Two seasons later, the first premiership title followed and the the rest they say is history.
United and Ferguson had come a long way since December 1989 and the 3 Years of Excuses And It's Still Crap.....ta-ra Fergie banner. How different would footballing history have been had Mark Robins not scored in the 3rd round cup victory over Nottingham Forest, had Mark Hughes not rescued United in the first Cup Final game. Interestingly enough the final banner to be unfurled at Old Trafford before Alex Ferguson announced his retirement came in the victory over Aston Villa which won his 13th and final league title. It said
The Impossible Dream - Sir Alex..25 Years - Made Possible
What a difference to 3 Years of Excuses And It's Still Crap.....ta-ra Fergie banner of 1989.
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