For the beginning of the 84 – 85 season. Adidas supplied United with a sharp, (pun not intended!), new kit. A well thought out neat design. The red home shirt consisted of the club badge in the centre with the name of the shirt sponsor, Sharp, just underneath the badge. The Adidas logo would be on both sleeves, facing out. Around the shoulders a white band, adding to the interesting design. There was the odd subtle change to the kit here and there.
Throughout the season United would experiment with different coloured shorts and socks for home games, sometimes white shorts would accompany the red shirt, sometimes black shorts, the socks sometimes white sometimes black. It may seem strange these days, but back in the 1980’s a lot of teams tinkered with their kit. United had qualified for the UEFA Cup of the 84 – 85 season, United’s stay in the tournament that year was disappointingly brief. It started well with a 3 – 0 win against Hungary’s Raba Vasas Gyor, a 3 – 0 home win and a 2 – 2 draw out in Hungary.
In the second round the Red Devils met PSV Eindhoven. Not an easy tie, United needed a last chance saloon penalty from Gordon Strachan at Old Trafford to see United through to the next round.
In the third round United could count themselves a tad lucky to have gotten past Dundee United.
The first leg was at Old Trafford, the Tannadice club earning themselves a creditable 2 – 2 draw. United had to roll up their sleeves to achieve a 3 – 2 victory, but a wins a win, United were through to the quarter finals. Ron Atkinson’s team once again drew a Hungarian club, this time they would met Videoton who played their home games in the city of Székesfehérvár. And no, I can’t pronounce it properly either! By that March, United could at least smell another European final, however it wasn’t to be, United would go out to Videoton. A 1 – 0 home win in the first leg wasn’t really enough for United, Videoton paid back the compliment by defeating United 1 – 0, the tie would eventually go to penalties, Videoton emerged victorious with a 5 – 4 win, Arthur Albiston and Frank Stapleton missing for United.
Videoton would go on to reach the final, unfortunately for them they lost 3 – 1 to Real Madrid. As mentioned before, the design would change. Adidas’s European shirt would see the Adidas logo move to the traditional chest area on the right, above the club badge the words UEFA Cup 1984 – 85 would appear on the shirt. The rest of the European kit consisted of white shorts with black socks with a white band at the top. As a kit it looked fantastic.
As far as the First Division was concerned this season would be the tenth anniversary of Tommy Docherty’s Division 2 title win. United fans would see an interesting signing by Atkinson when he brought in Danish international Jesper Olsen from Ajax in the July of 1984. Olsen played down the left wing most of time, he was a speedy player with great dribbling skills and he was at United for about five years and proved very popular with the Old Trafford faithful.
United’s first choice away kit would consist of the traditional white shirt which depending on the match would be worn with white or black shorts, the socks would see change too. On the white shirt, the shoulder bands would be black, the colour of the shirt sponsors name would be red. The third choice blue shirt would be worn with both blue shorts and socks.
The 1984 – 85 season wasn’t a bad one for United fans, no title but Ron’s team would still supply the good times. The start of season United couldn’t get out of first gear, they drew their first four games against Watford, Southampton, Ipswich and Chelsea, Olsen getting his first goal for United in that Chelsea game at Old Trafford. Their first win of the season came against Newcastle at home, the Geordies were taken to the cleaners as United ran out 5 – 0 winners. Goals coming from Hughes, Moses another one Olsen and a goal and a penalty from Gordon Strachan.
In the run up to Christmas United would record good wins against West Ham, Nottingham Forest, QPR and Chelsea to name a few, United were playing well and looked as though a genuine title challenge was on the cards. They would fall quite early on in the League Cup, going out in the third round to Everton, and as already mentioned United would also see disappointment in Europe. It was to be in the FA Cup of that season that Ron Atkinson’s United team would shine. It was a memorable side that United mid 80’s team. Bryan Robson led the team, a world class midfielder and England captain. In goal was Gary Bailey, now a fixture at United. In defence were players like Gordon McQueen and John Gidman. Joining Robson in midfield United had Arnold Muhren, a player was a magnet for silverware. Remi Moses and Gordon Strachan were in there too. Up front United had a plethora of talent. Mark Hughes, Frank Stapleton and Norman Whiteside, nuff said really.
It was cup winning team, they would also finish in fourth place in the First Division, praiseworthy in those days.
Everyone knows Ron was charged with the winning the title, ultimately he failed in that but he came close more than once. He put together a memorable United team with great players that lifted silverware. United found themselves in the semifinal of the FA Cup that season facing Liverpool after defeating Bournemouth, Coventry City, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham. So United had another high stakes game with hated rivals Liverpool managed then by Joe Fagan. They first met at Everton’s Goodison Park, over 50,000 making a cacophonous din, turning the stadium into a cauldron. Difficult to believe I know but back then Liverpool had quite a decent side, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Ian Rush and Ronnie Whelan were in the Liverpool ranks. It was the same Liverpool team that would go on to play in the European Cup final of that year.
United had a good hold on Liverpool during the 1980’s, the Anfield club only recorded two wins against the Red Devils, United had won eighteen. The United side lifted themselves for that first game, Bryan Robson getting stuck in and leading the side from midfield, it was a great Robbo performance, the Barcelona game at Old Trafford gets mentioned a lot when talking about great Bryan Robson performances, his games against Brighton in the cup final of 1983 also noteworthy. However, Robbo’s 1985 semifinal tussles with Liverpool are right up there with his best. At half time the game was still goalless, the crowd would have to wait until the 69th minute for the first goal, not surprisingly it was Bryan Robson who scored first for United, quite fitting really.
With very little of the game left, United looked as though they were in the final, however Ronnie Whelan would score for Liverpool three minutes from time, it ended 1 – 1. The replay was played a few days later at Manchester City’s Maine Road stadium, a good old fashioned English football stadium known for its noise and atmosphere, nothing like the rather plain and unexciting stadium where they play their trade these days. The replay echoed the first game, it was hard fought close game and it wasn’t going to be a high scoring fixture. With the game goalless, with about 5 minutes left of the first half United hearts were in United mouths. United defender Paul McGrath scored an unfortunate own goal following a goal mouth melee after Liverpool had crossed the ball into the United area, it was a scrappy goal there wasn’t a lot McGrath could do about it. At half time Liverpool were ahead 1 – 0. Robson would pull his side level early in the second half when a break away from midfielder gave Bryan Robson the chance to rocket one in from about 24 yards out, United were level. About ten minutes later Welsh international Mark Hughes put United head when after a superb pass from Gordon Strachan, Hughes slotted in another twenty yard or so effort right into the Liverpool net.
The United fans went berserk, the replay was a great United performance, once again defeating Liverpool in an extremely important game. So the final beckoned, facing them at Wembley Stadium would be Howard Kendall’s Everton, the best side in the country.
The final took place on the 18th of May, it wasn’t your traditional sunny FA Cup final, infact I remember it to be a bit over cast with a spell of light rain. It was similar game to United’s semifinal clash with Liverpool, hard fought, I’ve said it before, it was like a chess game. United lined up that with Gary Bailey in goal, a defence consisting of Arthur Albiston, John Gidman, Paul McGrath and Kevin Moran. In front of them Norman Whiteside and Bryan Robson with Strachan and Olsen out wide, up front was Frank Stapleton and Mark Hughes, on the bench was United stalwart Mike Duxbury. Everton had won the FA Cup the year before, so they were defending champions, they had also won the Division One title and also the European Cup Winners Cup, like I said they were the best side in the country. It was a final for the record books, Kevin Moran became the first player to have the red brandished before them. The referee had sent Moran off for a foul on Everton’s Peter Reid, it wasn’t a foul, Moran had gone for the ball not the player, even Reid remonstrated to the Ref on Moran’s behalf, but the Ref was adamant, Moran was off and United were down to ten men. However United’s players though visibly tiring, held firm. It finished 0 – 0 in normal time, extra time would be played. Step forward Norman Whiteside. The Shankill Skinhead won the cup for United after a superb curling effort, using an Everton defender to shield the ball Neville Southall in the Everton goal. It was one of the most subtle curlers you will ever see.
United’s ten men had beaten the best side in the land to lift the FA Cup. They had also stopped Everton becoming the first English club to win the treble, a feat and accolade the Red devils would earn for themselves fourteen years later.
So a fourth place finish and the FA Cup for Ron Atkinson’s United at the end of the ‘84 – ’85 season. Unfortunately for United, and Everton too, they were unable to participate in European Competition for the next season due the ban English clubs had to undergo following the Heysel tragedy. A happy ending to the season for United but it was tinged with sadness as United said farewell to one of its favourite sons, Lou Macari. Lou was given a testimonial that May at Old Trafford nor surprisingly against Glasgow Celtic, it was first ever testimonial for a United player. Around 15,000 Celtic fans made their way down to Manchester, back in those days fans of both United and Celtic had always got well, in fact Manchester Police went on record as praising the behaviour of the travelling Celtic fans.
The game finished 1 – 1, everyone was happy, Lou played one half for United, the other for Celtic. Lou Macari was a magnificent servant of Manchester United. For the 1985 – 86 the United kit would stay the same. Again United would finish in fourth place in the league, they lost their hold on the FA Cup with defeat to West Ham in the 5th round replay. The United board would replace Big Ron with Alex Ferguson not long after, Ferguson would see in a golden age, though he had to wait a while before lifting his first trophy, the FA Cup in 1990, the rest as they say is history.
Richard Fenton. May 2015Follow @ricky_red_manc