United’s Cup Half Empty

This piece appears in full on FANFEUD.

With tomorrow’s FA Cup Final in mind, I take a look back into some of Manchester United’s history in the competition and how, on many occasions, victory hinted at good times ahead – even if it didn’t always work that way…


United’s Cup Half Empty

In the nine years between 1976 and 1985, Manchester United played in FIVE FA Cup Finals, lifting the famous old trophy three times in the process. The first of that run of appearances was in 1976 – a surprising 1-0 defeat at the hands of Second Division Southampton. United themselves had only recently overcome the shock of relegation in 1974.


The chastening experience of relegation is looked back upon as an enjoyable adventure into the unknown; an experience which allowed the club to perform something of a reboot. The Red Devils of the mid-70s—managed by the charismatic Tommy Docherty—built themselves a reputation as something of a cup specialist side. Docherty was outspoken and opinionated. His sides were a flamboyant on-pitch representation of his own personality and many United supporters talk with great fondness of his time at the club.

On their day, that United side were capable of beating anyone—as their treble-denying triumph over an all-conquering Liverpool side in the 1977 final testified. However, they were also perfectly capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory: a trait which ensured that they would never bridge the gap to the champions of the era – Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and, of course, the aforementioned Liverpool.

The fallout from a well-publicised extra-marital affair eventually put paid to Docherty’s time at Manchester United. As his successor, the board turned to a man whose image was the polar opposite. The highlight of the quiet and reserved Dave Sexton’s tenure at the club would also be provided by the FA Cup. Defeat to Arsenal in the enthralling 1979 FA Cup Final was followed a season later by United missing out on the league title by just two points to Liverpool on the final day of the season.



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