Sunday, December 17, 2006

United still haunted by Upton Park memories...

United are in action today at Upton Park when they face West Ham under the management of Alan Curbishley who was installed this week after the sacking of Alan Pardew. Down the years there's rarely been a good time to visit West Ham United from a red perspective because the Hammers have a fairly decent home record against Manchester United. It's bound to be an explosive occasion today, it usually is and the sacking of Pardew has angered many home fans and this will just add to the mix.

Many older United fans will have mixed memories of this fixture, especially where the race for the title is concerned. Most notable of all was 1966-67 season when on May 6th United needed an away win to seal the title. The reds romped home winning 6-1 with goals from Denis Law (2), Best, Charlton, Crerand and Foulkes, in doing so lifted the old first division title. Happy days.

More recently United's championship ambitions have faltered at Upton Park during the run-in. In 1992 United lost out to Leeds United who became Champions of the old first division with the reds finishing as runner-up. To this day pundits often point to United's failure to beat West Ham United that season as the main reason United lost out to rivals Leeds. To rub salt into United's wounds that day it was a former Man City player who scored the West Ham goal. The truth of the matter is that United had actually messed things up badly in their previous two fixtures, by firstly only managing to draw away at Luton Town and then on Easter Monday two days before the trip to Upton Park United losing at home to Nottingham Forest 1-2. United then lost away at Anfield and in the final league game of the season we beat Spurs as Leeds won the title by four points and with the aid of a fair bit of luck along the way. From a Manchester United perspective we had thrown it away.

On the last day of the season in 1995 United travelled to Upton Park needing to win to lift the Premiership title, but the reds only managed a 1-1 draw and so handed Blackburn Rovers the title - in truth United only had themselves to blame for missing a succession of chances, most guilty was Andy Cole along with Brian McClair who did actually manage to get onto the scoresheet that day. To make things worse, United then lost 1-0 in the FA cup final to Everton.

As for today and this season, it's the week before Christmas but the pressure is on for United as Chelsea wont drop that many points in the league this season. Ironically we face the Hammers on the final day of the season this time at Old Trafford, in the previous fixture we face our bitter rivals Man City. It is to be hoped United recapture some of the spirit of '67 for that trip to City, a similar result would do very nicely thank you. We reds would of course settle for any kind of win in the remaining games as long as we are still in the race for the title when those fixtures come around. Today we will be happy to exercise the ghost of '95.

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