Cleat Geeks

Manchester United History: The Start Of A Season: 1985-1986 Takes A Lot Of Beating

The start of the season, any season, can be very misleading; Manchester United fans only have to remember beating Swansea City 4-1 away at the start of season 2013/2014 to recognise that truism. Many a false dawn is heralded, many a champion proclaimed, before autumn arrives, and with it the cold light of day.

In May 1985 at the old Wembley Stadium, Manchester United beat Everton,1-0 with the Norman Whiteside wonder goal and United fans enjoyed that summer as FA Cup winners. With Everton having won the first division that year the joy was enhanced for United supporters because they stopped Everton winning the domestic double.normWhitesideGoal

In August 1985 Everton gained some revenge by beating United 2-0 in the Charity Shield, at Wembley Stadium. The Charity Shield was notable that day for two reasons, it was Gary Lineker’s first competitive match for Everton, and Alan Brazil of Talksport fame was a Manchester United substitute.

The start of the 1985-1986 season began in earnest on Saturday the 17th of August with United beating Aston Villa 4-0 at Old Trafford. Jesper Olsen Norman Whiteside and 2 goals from Mark Hughes got the season off to the best possible start.

By the time August was out United had also beaten Ipswich, Arsenal, West Ham and Nottingham Forest. Five wins from five matches, home and away, the team were top of the league and setting records, Manchester United were taking the first division by storm.

The start of September 1985 saw more of the same as United, with goals from Hughes and Frank Stapleton (2) earned a comfortable victory over Newcastle at Old Trafford. United had now won their first six matches and a growing belief that it was Manchester United’s year for the title was difficult to dismiss for team and fans alike.

Oxford United (h) Manchester City (a) and West Brom (a) came up next and were all beaten in some style,with United scoring 11 goals and only conceding 1 in reply to West Bromwich Albion.

So, as incredible as it now sounds, Manchester United had played nine and won nine before they took a slight break to play Crystal Palace in the League Cup. The match was decided over two legs, a Peter Barnes goal at Palace and a Whiteside goal at Old Trafford saw United through to the next round 2-0 on aggregate.mark hughes

The next league match (after the first leg of the League Cup), was at Old Trafford, on Saturday 28th September 1985 with United beating Southampton 1-0 with a goal from Mark Hughes. On the 5th October 1985 United were on the verge of history and faced an away match at Luton Town. However a 1-1 draw left them one match short of equaling Tottenham’s record of 11 straight league wins, and while there was some disappointment around the club there was also a belief that it was still going to be Manchester United’s year.

The final league game of the season was on Saturday 3rd May 1986 and it saw United draw 1-1 at Watford. Another Mark Hughes goal rounded off United’s total of 70 goals for the season, collecting 76 points for the campaign. However after such an auspicious beginning finishing in 4th place in the first division left a feeling of flatness for players and fans alike.

In hindsight it was an amazing, incredible start to the season, a season to live through and one that has never been replicated, at least by Manchester United. The moral here might be not to get too carried away with what at first looks like a footballing miracle or a footballing disaster. Good starts and bad starts are only ‘starts’, for all football supporters and United fans it’s where their team finishes in May that really counts.

jim@1211plussubs

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