1989–90 Manchester United F.C. season

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Manchester United
1989–90 season
Chairman Martin Edwards
Manager Alex Ferguson
First Division 13th
FA Cup Winners
League Cup Third Round
Top goalscorer League:
Mark Hughes (13)
All:
Mark Hughes (15)
Highest home attendance 47,245 vs Arsenal (19 August 1989)
Lowest home attendance 26,698 vs Portsmouth (3 October 1989)
Average home league attendance 38,806
Home colours
Away colours
Third colours

The 1989–90 season was Manchester United's 87th season in the Football League, and their 15th consecutive season in the top division of English football.[1]

The season brought their lowest league finish since their relegation from the First Division 15 years earlier, as they finished 13th in the league, and by Christmas there were continued calls from fans for Alex Ferguson to be sacked as manager. However, the season ended on a high as United won the FA Cup by beating Crystal Palace 1–0 in a replay after drawing the first game 3–3. It was their first major trophy for five years, and their first since the appointment of Alex Ferguson as manager.

It also saw them enter European competition as England's representatives in the 1990–91 European Cup Winners' Cup following the end of the ban on English clubs in European competition arising from the Heysel Stadium disaster of 1985.

1989–90 saw Mark Hughes top the club's goalscoring charts for the second year running, while the club welcomed four new major signings in the early part of the season – Danny Wallace, Neil Webb, Paul Ince and Gary Pallister.

This season also saw the attempted purchase of the club by businessman Michael Knighton after chairman Martin Edwards considered selling the club for a reported £10 million. The sale fell through after Knighton was found to not have the money required to maintain the club. This period is best remembered for Knighton – wearing a United kit and tracksuit top – performing a keepie uppie routine before a United game with Arsenal. According to Alex Ferguson in his autobiography; Managing My Life (published nearly a decade later), this display of showboating annoyed Ferguson as he felt it was detrimental to his teams' preparation for the forthcoming match – although United did go on to win the game. He also revealed in the autobiography that in spite of the club's dismal form during the first half of the season, he was assured by the club's directors that his position as manager was never at risk; although naturally disappointed with the club's lack of progress in the league, they understood the reason for this - namely that a number of key players, including Neil Webb, were unavailable for long spells due to injury. However, Ferguson also admitted in his autobiography that had he not achieved success with United that season, he feared that the pressure on the club's board to sack him could soon have become irresistible. There had been numerous calls from fans during the season for Ferguson to be sacked, and media reports had suggested that the former Everton manager Howard Kendall would be appointed as his successor. Ironically, Kendall was appointed by United's local rivals Manchester City during the season.

Pre-season and friendlies[edit]

Date Opponents H / A Result
F – A
Scorers Attendance
30 July 1989 Thailand National XI A 1 – 1
(4 – 2p)
Robson 12,000
2 August 1989 Everton N 1 – 3 Webb 8,000
7 August 1989 Japan National XI A 1 – 0 Robins 40,000
11 August 1989 Bristol City A 3 – 2 McClair, Webb, Beardsmore 9,799
13 August 1989 Manchester City H 0 – 2 19,958
12 September 1989 Torquay United A 1 – 0 Duxbury 4,108
26 September 1989 Hearts A 4 – 2 Wallace, Blackmore (2), McClair 9,001
17 October 1989 St. Johnstone A 1 – 0 McClair 9,788

First Division[edit]

Date Opponents H / A Result
F – A
Scorers Attendance League
position
19 August 1989 Arsenal H 4 – 1 Bruce 2', Hughes 63', Webb 79', McClair 83' 47,245 1st
22 August 1989 Crystal Palace A 1 – 1 Robson 19' 22,423 1st
26 August 1989 Derby County A 0 – 2 22,175 9th
30 August 1989 Norwich City H 0 – 2 41,610 14th
9 September 1989 Everton A 2 – 3 McClair 57', Beardsmore 66' 37,916 16th
16 September 1989 Millwall H 5 – 1 Hughes (3) 13', 75', 85', Robson 43', Sharpe 60' 42,746 11th
23 September 1989 Manchester City A 1 – 5 Hughes 50' 43,246 14th
14 October 1989 Sheffield Wednesday H 0 – 0 41,492 17th
21 October 1989 Coventry City A 4 – 1 Bruce 5', Hughes (2) 29', 69', Phelan 65' 19,625 14th
28 October 1989 Southampton H 2 – 1 McClair (2) 16', 61' 37,122 11th
4 November 1989 Charlton Athletic A 0 – 2 16,065 13th
12 November 1989 Nottingham Forest H 1 – 0 Pallister 44' 34,182 11th
18 November 1989 Luton Town A 3 – 1 Wallace 5', Blackmore 28', Hughes 76' 11,141 9th
25 November 1989 Chelsea H 0 – 0 46,975 10th
3 December 1989 Arsenal A 0 – 1 34,484 12th
9 December 1989 Crystal Palace H 1 – 2 Beardsmore 9' 33,514 12th
16 December 1989 Tottenham Hotspur H 0 – 1 36,230 13th
23 December 1989 Liverpool A 0 – 0 37,426 12th
26 December 1989 Aston Villa A 0 – 3 41,247 15th
30 December 1989 Wimbledon A 2 – 2 Hughes 74', Robins 75' 9,622 15th
1 January 1990 Queens Park Rangers H 0 – 0 34,824 15th
13 January 1990 Derby County H 1 – 2 Pallister 48' 38,985 15th
21 January 1990 Norwich City A 0 – 2 17,370 17th
3 February 1990 Manchester City H 1 – 1 Blackmore 70' 40,274 17th
10 February 1990 Millwall A 2 – 1 Wallace 65', Hughes 84' 15,491 15th
24 February 1990 Chelsea A 0 – 1 29,979 16th
4 March 1990 Luton Town H 4 – 1 McClair 25', Hughes 33', Wallace 44', Robins 66' 35,327 16th
14 March 1990 Everton H 0 – 0 37,398 16th
18 March 1990 Liverpool H 1 – 2 Whelan 80' (o.g.) 46,629 16th
21 March 1990 Sheffield Wednesday A 0 – 1 33,260 16th
24 March 1990 Southampton A 2 – 0 Gibson 66', Robins 88' 20,510 16th
31 March 1990 Coventry City H 3 – 0 Hughes (2) 27', 36', Robins 87' 39,172 16th
14 April 1990 Queens Park Rangers A 2 – 1 Robins 68', Webb 74' 18,997 14th
17 April 1990 Aston Villa H 2 – 0 Robins (2) 24', 45' 44,080 13th
21 April 1990 Tottenham Hotspur A 1 – 2 Bruce 68' (pen.) 33,317 14th
30 April 1990 Wimbledon H 0 – 0 29,281 15th
2 May 1990 Nottingham Forest A 0 – 4 21,186 16th
5 May 1990 Charlton Athletic H 1 – 0 Pallister 36' 35,389 13th
Pos Club Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
12 Coventry City 38 14 7 17 39 59 −20 49
13 Manchester United 38 13 9 16 46 47 −1 48
14 Manchester City 38 12 12 14 43 52 −9 48

Pld = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points

FA Cup[edit]

Date Round Opponents H / A Result
F – A
Scorers Attendance
7 January 1990 Round 3 Nottingham Forest A 1 – 0 Robins 56' 23,072
28 January 1990 Round 4 Hereford United A 1 – 0 Blackmore 86' 13,777
18 February 1990 Round 5 Newcastle United A 3 – 2 Robins 19', Wallace 60', McClair 77' 31,748
11 March 1990 Round 6 Sheffield United A 1 – 0 McClair 29' 34,344
8 April 1990 Semi-final Oldham Athletic N 3 – 3
(a.e.t.)
Robson 29', Webb 72', Wallace 92' 44,026
11 April 1990 Semi-final
Replay
Oldham Athletic N 2 – 1
(a.e.t.)
McClair 50', Robins 114' 35,005
12 May 1990 Final Crystal Palace N 3 – 3
(a.e.t.)
Robson 35', Hughes (2) 62', 113' 80,000
17 May 1990 Final
Replay
Crystal Palace N 1 – 0 Martin 59' 80,000

League Cup[edit]

Date Round Opponents H / A Result
F – A
Scorers Attendance
20 September 1989 Round 2
First leg
Portsmouth A 3 – 2 Ince (2) 19', 41', Wallace 44' 18,072
3 October 1989 Round 2
Second leg
Portsmouth H 0 – 0 26,698
25 October 1989 Round 3 Tottenham Hotspur H 0 – 3 45,759

Events of the season[edit]

Alex Ferguson began his fourth season as Manchester United manager desperate to bring a major trophy – and ultimately the league title – to Old Trafford for the first time in his reign. During the close season, he brought in Mike Phelan signs from Norwich City for £750,000 and Neil Webb from Nottingham Forest for £1.5 million, rebuilding his midfield following the sale of Gordon Strachan to Leeds United for £300,000 and midfielder Norman Whiteside to Everton for £750,000. Paul McGrath was sold to Aston Villa for £400,000, with Ferguson making an approach for Swedish defender Glenn Hysen, but lost out to Liverpool. By the end of the first month of the season, he had brought in Middlesbrough defender Gary Pallister for a club record fee of £2.3 million – also a national record for a defender and the second highest fee to be paid by an English club. Ferguson then signed Paul Ince, the 21-year-old West Ham United midfielder, for £1.7 million after a long wait that resulted from a failed medical.

Just 48 hours before the First Division campaign kicked off, Martin Edwards was reportedly on the verge of selling control of Manchester United for a deal in the region of £20 million, nine years after he inherited control of the club from his late father Louis. The next day, Michael Knighton, a 37-year-old property developer, agreed a takeover deal for the club.

The First Division season began with an excellent 4–1 home win over defending champions Arsenal. The goals come from Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes, Brian McClair and the debutant Neil Webb, raising hopes that 1989–90 could finally be the season where the league title returned to United.

However, by 9 September, United had lost three league games in a row and unrest was growing among the fans, prompting rumours that Ferguson could be on the verge of dismissal. Some reports even suggested that the former Everton manager Howard Kendall was about to be appointed as manager of Manchester United, but the board denied that Ferguson's position was at risk. By Christmas, Kendall was indeed in Manchester, but as manager of City rather than United.

On 16 September, Danny Wallace moved to Manchester United for £1.2 million, giving United a much needed boost on the left wing following the dismal form of Ralph Milne, who was signed last year, and a more experienced alternative to the 18-year-old Lee Sharpe.

Five days after Wallace's arrival, Martin Edwards agreed to sell his controlling interest in Manchester United to Michael Knighton for £20 million.

23 September saw the first Manchester derby for three seasons, and it was a catastrophic one for United as they were defeated 5–1 at Maine Road by City. leaving them 14th in the First Division with seven points from their first seven games.[2]

Despite Manchester United's erratic start to the season, the board offered Alex Ferguson a new contract with the club to take him up to the end of the 1992–93 season, and he accepted it.

By mid October, Michael Knighton had pulled out of his takeover bid, and accepted a non-executive role on the board of directors.

Later that month, Manchester United's hopes of winning the Football League Cup for the first time were ended with a 3–0 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in the third round.

On 30 December 1989, Manchester United played their final game of the 1980s, a 2–2 draw at Wimbledon,[3] meaning that they had gone without a win since 18 November and were 15th in the First Division, just two points above the relegation zone. What had been anticipated as a title challenge appeared to have dissolved into a relegation battle, but the board continued to stand by Alex Ferguson and insisted that he will not be sacked; though naturally disappointed by the lack of success in the league, they understood the reasons; not least the injury crisis which had plagued the club constantly since the previous autumn.[4]

On 7 January 1990, a goal by 20-year-old striker Mark Robins gave Manchester United a 1–0 win at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round. When the FA Cup third round draw was made a month earlier, many journalists anticipated the tie as the game that would end in defeat for United and drive Ferguson out of his job.

Later that month, a 2–0 defeat at Norwich City pushed Manchester United just one place and one point short of the relegation zone, but they continued to progress in the FA Cup as Clayton Blackmore scored the only goal of the game for a United side who eliminated Hereford United from the FA Cup in the fourth round tie at Edgar Street.

A month later, they progressed to the FA Cup sixth round for the second year running by defeating Newcastle United 3–2 at St James' Park, and three weeks after that they booked their place in the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time since they won the trophy in 1985, thanks to a 1–0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

The FA Cup semi-final at Maine Road on 8 April ended in a 3–3 draw with Oldham Athletic. They got through to the final with a 2–1 win in the replay, where they would be paired with a Crystal Palace side managed by former United player Steve Coppell.

United's league season ended with a 13th place finish and only beating relegation by five points – their lowest since relegation 16 years earlier.

On 12 May, Manchester United took to the field at Wembley against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium. 18 minutes into the game, Palace (who had never played in the final before) took the lead through Gary O'Reilly, only for Bryan Robson to equalise in the 35th minute. Mark Hughes put United ahead in the 62nd minute, but Palace equalised in the 72nd minute through Ian Wright. The scores were still level at full-time, and the match went into extra time. Just two minutes into extra time, Wright put Palace ahead and it looked as though the FA Cup would be heading to Selhurst Park for the first time ever. Then, with seven minutes of extra time remaining, Mark Hughes equalised to force a replay.

Goalkeeper Jim Leighton had been performing erratically for much of the 1989–90 season, and his form in the FA Cup final was no different. Alex Ferguson then decided to drop Leighton for the replay and draft in Les Sealey, who had joined on loan from Luton Town the previous December and only played for the club twice before.

The replay was played at Wembley on 17 May, and Sealey pulled off a series of spectacular saves in the first half to prevent Palace from taking the lead. In the 59th minute, Lee Martin fired in a pass from Neil Webb to score only the second goal of his career and give the trophy to United.

Three weeks after the final, Manchester United signed Republic of Ireland defender Denis Irwin, 24, from Oldham Athletic for £625,000, with Alex Ferguson intending to use him as a right-back with Mike Phelan being switched to midfield.

Squad statistics[edit]

Pos. Name League FA Cup League Cup Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
GK Australia Mark Bosnich 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
GK Scotland Jim Leighton 35 0 7 0 3 0 45 0
GK England Les Sealey 2 0 1 0 0 0 3 0
DF England Viv Anderson 14(2) 0 4 0 1 0 19(2) 0
DF Wales Clayton Blackmore 19(9) 2 2(1) 1 0 0 21(10) 3
DF England Steve Bruce 34 3 7 0 2 0 43 3
DF Northern Ireland Mal Donaghy 13(1) 0 1 0 3 0 17(1) 0
DF England Mike Duxbury 12(7) 0 2(2) 0 1(1) 0 15(10) 0
DF England Colin Gibson 5(1) 1 1(1) 0 0 0 6(2) 1
DF England Lee Martin 28(4) 0 8 1 1 0 37(4) 1
DF England Gary Pallister 35 3 8 0 3 0 46 3
DF Republic of Ireland Derek Brazil 0(1) 0 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0
MF England Russell Beardsmore 8(13) 2 1(2) 0 1 0 10(15) 2
MF Wales Deiniol Graham 0(1) 0 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0
MF England Paul Ince 25(1) 0 6(1) 0 3 2 34(2) 2
MF Scotland Ralph Milne 0(1) 0 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0
MF England Mike Phelan 38 1 7 0 3 0 48 1
MF England Bryan Robson 20 2 4 2 3 0 27 4
MF England Lee Sharpe 13(5) 1 0 0 1(1) 0 14(6) 1
MF England Neil Webb 10(1) 2 4 1 0 0 14(1) 3
FW Wales Mark Hughes 36(1) 13 8 2 3 0 47(1) 15
FW England Giuliano Maiorana 0(1) 0 0 0 0(1) 0 0(2) 0
FW Scotland Brian McClair 37 5 8 3 3 0 48 8
FW England Mark Robins 10(7) 7 3(3) 3 0 0 13(10) 10
FW England Danny Wallace 23(3) 3 6(1) 2 2 1 31(4) 6

Transfers[edit]

In[edit]

Date Pos. Name From Fee
1 July 1989 MF England Mike Phelan England Norwich City £750k
1 July 1989 MF England Neil Webb England Nottingham Forest £1.5m
24 August 1989 DF Republic of Ireland Brian Carey Republic of Ireland Cork City £100k
28 August 1989 DF England Gary Pallister England Middlesbrough £2.3m
13 September 1989 MF England Paul Ince England West Ham United £2.4m
18 September 1989 FW England Danny Wallace England Southampton £1.2m
21 September 1989 FW England Andy Rammell England Atherstone United £40k
6 June 1990 GK England Les Sealey England Luton Town Free
8 June 1990 DF Republic of Ireland Denis Irwin England Oldham Athletic £625k
8 June 1990 DF England Neil Whitworth England Wigan Athletic £45k

Out[edit]

Date Pos. Name To Fee
July 1989 DF England Wayne Heseltine England Oldham Athletic £40k
12 July 1989 DF England Nicky Spooner England Bolton Wanderers Undisclosed
3 August 1989 DF Republic of Ireland Paul McGrath England Aston Villa £450k
August 1989 FW Northern Ireland Norman Whiteside England Everton £750k
25 October 1989 FW Bermuda Shaun Goater England Rotherham United £40k

Loan in[edit]

Date From Date To Position Name From
December 1989 December 1989 GK England Les Sealey England Luton Town
January 1990 February 1990 GK England Mark Crossley England Nottingham Forest
March 1990 April 1990 GK England Les Sealey England Luton Town
May 1990 June 1990 DF Scotland Rob McKinnon England Hartlepool United
May 1990 June 1990 DF Republic of Ireland Chris Short England Scarborough

Loan out[edit]

Date From Date To Position Name To
December 1989 January 1990 DF Northern Ireland Mal Donaghy England Luton Town
January 1990 February 1990 MF Scotland Ralph Milne England West Ham United

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Manchester United Season 1989/90". StretfordEnd.co.uk. Retrieved 23 May 2008. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ [3]