STEPHEN ORD (@smord84) recalls a memorable win over Sunday’s opponents, early on in the Sir Bobby era. Looking for positives? This was a February fixture, too…
NEWCASTLE UNITED 3 (Ferguson 26′ Shearer 76′ 86′) – MANCHESTER UNITED 0
St James’ Park, Attendance: 36,470
Newcastle United: Harper; Hughes, Helder, Dabizas, Barton; Lee, Speed, Dyer, Gallacher; Shearer, Ferguson
Manchester United: Bosnich; Neville, Stam, Silvestre, Irwin; Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs; Sheringham, Cole (RED CARD: KEANE)
When approaching this task, of writing something uplifting before playing Manchester United, there are a few options that spring to mind. In October 1996 we gave them a sign of how potent we could be, but they still won the league. Not that I’m bitter, but in the same year we should have beaten them by the same scoreline and but for a Danish wonder keeper would have done – Les Ferdinand was unplayable, but we lost that game and a probable league title.
This game was as Sir Bobby enjoyed his first season as manager at St James’ Park. Newcastle were battling their way back from a start to the season that had been catastrophic and the monsoon derby that cost Ruud his job. The demolition of Sheffield Wednesday was good but the side was still languishing around lower middle table. A home game against the previous seasons treble winners, freshly back from Brazil, was about as exciting as it would get this season. (Though a semi final at the Old Wembley was still ahead).
This game was simply remarkable for one moment. If you’ve not seen it then watch it below. If you have you’ll remember it, and if you were there you’re probably thinking about how high his leg was even twenty-three years later.
It’s a nothing ball lifted forward by Rob Lee, a flick from Shearer perfectly towards Big Dunc. He is being nominally marked by Jaap Stam, at the time one of the best defenders in the world. Stam, with songs about his looks ringing in his ears, allows him the space as he thinks there is no danger. He’s proved emphatically wrong by the spin, volley and shot that arrowed beyond the first incarnation of a Schmeichel replacement that Man United had. It’s a barely believable finish.
There was a lot of huff and puff to the response, both Cole and Sheringham going close. One chance in particular had Harper, given a rare start in the league due to the birth of one of Given’s children I believe, somehow scooping one Cole chance from off the line. But that was about as good as it got for them.
Roy Keane had been booked for a coming together in midfield and unlike his sending off a couple of years later, this time it was a tackle that saw him sent from the field. Robert Lee, wearing number 37, had played the ball about twenty seconds before Keane clipped him. Second booking, off you go! No fight with Shearer this time, but our number nine took full advantage of the numerical boost that gave us.
The Lion of Gosforth was allowed to take the ball a good ten yards unchallenged in midfield before letting fly and across Bosnich into the Gallowgate net. It’s got a hint of Andy Carroll (2011 version) versus Liverpool about it actually. This was before the Aussie’s Chelsea dandruff stage as well so he wasn’t impacted in his performance.
He had another chance turned around the post and then slid in to the path of a Didier Domi (on as sub) through ball to clinch it. The away side had only lost twice all season domestically before visiting on this day and would go on to win the league with ease. This though was a nice moment for us to remind them we hadn’t gone away – we’d be back.
Two years later we went toe to toe with them and won by the odd goal in seven. We were seen as being a threat then and everyone knew it. On Sunday we have an opportunity in a one-off game to show how much of a threat we can be. Like most others reading this I wouldn’t care if we finished eighth but won at the weekend. We want to show we belong back up there: what a moment this could be to do it.
Bring your black and white tops and scarves, and turn that little pocket of North London into St. James’ Park. Enjoy your weekend on the pop, or off it. Hope that, this time, it’s our turn. Who can be our Ferguson or Shearer this time?
Keep on, keepin’ on – come on Eddie’s Mags!