This season brought United’s lowest league finish since their relegation from the First Division 15 years earlier, as they finished 13th in the league, and by Christmas there were continued calls from fans for Alex Ferguson to be sacked as manager. However, the season ended on a high as United won the FA Cup by beating Crystal Palace 1–0 in a replay after drawing the first game 3–3. It was their first major trophy for five years, and their first since the appointment of Alex Ferguson as manager.

It also saw them enter European competition as England’s representatives in the 1990–91 European Cup Winners’ Cup following the end of the ban on English clubs in European competition arising from the Heysel Stadium disaster of 1985.

1989–90 saw Mark Hughes top the club’s goalscoring charts for the second year running, while the club welcomed four new major signings in the early part of the season – Danny Wallace, Neil Webb, Paul Ince and Gary Pallister.

Young striker Mark Robins enjoyed regular appearances in the first team this season, often as a substitute, and scored 10 goals – including the winning goal against Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup. Lee Martin, who scored the winning goal in the FA Cup final replay, became the club’s regular left-back this season.

This season also saw the attempted purchase of the club by businessman Michael Knighton after chairman Martin Edwards considered selling the club for a reported £10 million. The sale fell through after Knighton was found to not have the money required to maintain the club. This period is best remembered for Knighton – wearing a United kit and tracksuit top – performing a keepie uppie routine before the opening game of the season at home to Arsenal. According to Alex Ferguson in his autobiography; Managing My Life (published nearly a decade later), this display of showboating annoyed Ferguson as he felt it was detrimental to his teams’ preparation for the forthcoming match – although United did go on to win the game 4-1 against the defending champions.

Ferguson also revealed in the autobiography that in spite of Manchester United’s dismal form during the first half of the season, he was assured by the club’s directors that his position as manager was never at risk; although naturally disappointed with the club’s lack of progress in the league, they understood the reason for this – namely that a number of key players, including Neil Webb, were unavailable for long spells due to injury. However, Ferguson also admitted in his autobiography that had he not achieved success with United that season, he feared that fan and media pressure on the club’s board to sack him could eventually have become irresistible. There had been numerous calls from fans during the season for Ferguson to be sacked, and media reports had suggested that the former Everton manager Howard Kendall would be appointed as his successor; Kendall was appointed by United’s local rivals Manchester City during the season.

 

Pre-season and friendlies

Date Opponents H / A Result
F – A
Scorers Attendance
30 July 1989 Thailand National XI A 1 – 1
(4 – 2p)
Robson 12,000
2 August 1989 Everton N 1 – 3 Webb 8,000
7 August 1989 Japan National XI A 1 – 0 Robins 40,000
11 August 1989 Bristol City A 3 – 2 McClair, Webb, Beardsmore 9,799
13 August 1989 Manchester City H 0 – 2 19,958
12 September 1989 Torquay United A 1 – 0 Duxbury 4,108
26 September 1989 Hearts A 4 – 2 Wallace, Blackmore (2), McClair 9,001
17 October 1989 St Johnstone A 1 – 0 McClair 9,788

First Division

Date Opponents H / A Result
F – A
Scorers Attendance League
position
19 August 1989 Arsenal H 4 – 1 Bruce 2′, Hughes 63′, Webb 79′, McClair 83′ 47,245 1st
22 August 1989 Crystal Palace A 1 – 1 Robson 19′ 22,423 1st
26 August 1989 Derby County A 0 – 2 22,175 9th
30 August 1989 Norwich City H 0 – 2 41,610 14th
9 September 1989 Everton A 2 – 3 McClair 57′, Beardsmore 66′ 37,916 16th
16 September 1989 Millwall H 5 – 1 Hughes (3) 13′, 75′, 85′, Robson 43′, Sharpe 60′ 42,746 11th
23 September 1989 Manchester City A 1 – 5 Hughes 50′ 43,246 14th
14 October 1989 Sheffield Wednesday H 0 – 0 41,492 17th
21 October 1989 Coventry City A 4 – 1 Bruce 5′, Hughes (2) 29′, 69′, Phelan 65′ 19,625 14th
28 October 1989 Southampton H 2 – 1 McClair (2) 16′, 61′ 37,122 11th
4 November 1989 Charlton Athletic A 0 – 2 16,065 13th
12 November 1989 Nottingham Forest H 1 – 0 Pallister 44′ 34,182 11th
18 November 1989 Luton Town A 3 – 1 Wallace 5′, Blackmore 28′, Hughes 76′ 11,141 9th
25 November 1989 Chelsea H 0 – 0 46,975 10th
3 December 1989 Arsenal A 0 – 1 34,484 12th
9 December 1989 Crystal Palace H 1 – 2 Beardsmore 9′ 33,514 12th
16 December 1989 Tottenham Hotspur H 0 – 1 36,230 13th
23 December 1989 Liverpool A 0 – 0 37,426 12th
26 December 1989 Aston Villa A 0 – 3 41,247 15th
30 December 1989 Wimbledon A 2 – 2 Hughes 74′, Robins 75′ 9,622 15th
1 January 1990 Queens Park Rangers H 0 – 0 34,824 15th
13 January 1990 Derby County H 1 – 2 Pallister 48′ 38,985 15th
21 January 1990 Norwich City A 0 – 2 17,370 17th
3 February 1990 Manchester City H 1 – 1 Blackmore 70′ 40,274 17th
10 February 1990 Millwall A 2 – 1 Wallace 65′, Hughes 84′ 15,491 15th
24 February 1990 Chelsea A 0 – 1 29,979 16th
4 March 1990 Luton Town H 4 – 1 McClair 25′, Hughes 33′, Wallace 44′, Robins 66′ 35,327 16th
14 March 1990 Everton H 0 – 0 37,398 16th
18 March 1990 Liverpool H 1 – 2 Whelan 80′ (o.g.) 46,629 16th
21 March 1990 Sheffield Wednesday A 0 – 1 33,260 16th
24 March 1990 Southampton A 2 – 0 Gibson 66′, Robins 88′ 20,510 16th
31 March 1990 Coventry City H 3 – 0 Hughes (2) 27′, 36′, Robins 87′ 39,172 16th
14 April 1990 Queens Park Rangers A 2 – 1 Robins 68′, Webb 74′ 18,997 14th
17 April 1990 Aston Villa H 2 – 0 Robins (2) 24′, 45′ 44,080 13th
21 April 1990 Tottenham Hotspur A 1 – 2 Bruce 68′ (pen.) 33,317 14th
30 April 1990 Wimbledon H 0 – 0 29,281 15th
2 May 1990 Nottingham Forest A 0 – 4 21,186 16th
5 May 1990 Charlton Athletic H 1 – 0 Pallister 36′ 35,389 13th
Pos Club Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
12 Coventry City 38 14 7 17 39 59 −20 49
13 Manchester United 38 13 9 16 46 47 −1 48
14 Manchester City 38 12 12 14 43 52 −9 48

Pld = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points

FA Cup

Date Round Opponents H / A Result
F – A
Scorers Attendance
7 January 1990 Round 3 Nottingham Forest A 1 – 0 Robins 56′ 23,072
28 January 1990 Round 4 Hereford United A 1 – 0 Blackmore 86′ 13,777
18 February 1990 Round 5 Newcastle United A 3 – 2 Robins 19′, Wallace 60′, McClair 77′ 31,748
11 March 1990 Round 6 Sheffield United A 1 – 0 McClair 29′ 34,344
8 April 1990 Semi-final Oldham Athletic N 3 – 3
(a.e.t.)
Robson 29′, Webb 72′, Wallace 92′ 44,026
11 April 1990 Semi-final
Replay
Oldham Athletic N 2 – 1
(a.e.t.)
McClair 50′, Robins 114′ 35,005
12 May 1990 Final Crystal Palace N 3 – 3
(a.e.t.)
Robson 35′, Hughes (2) 62′, 113′ 80,000
17 May 1990 Final
Replay
Crystal Palace N 1 – 0 Martin 59′ 80,000

League Cup

Date Round Opponents H / A Result
F – A
Scorers Attendance
20 September 1989 Round 2
First leg
Portsmouth A 3 – 2 Ince (2) 19′, 41′, Wallace 44′ 18,072
3 October 1989 Round 2
Second leg
Portsmouth H 0 – 0 26,698
25 October 1989 Round 3 Tottenham Hotspur H 0 – 3 45,759

 

Squad statistics[edit]

Pos. Name League FA Cup League Cup Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
GK Australia Mark Bosnich 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
GK Scotland Jim Leighton 35 0 7 0 3 0 45 0
GK England Les Sealey 2 0 1 0 0 0 3 0
DF England Viv Anderson 14(2) 0 4 0 1 0 19(2) 0
DF Wales Clayton Blackmore 19(9) 2 2(1) 1 0 0 21(10) 3
DF England Steve Bruce 34 3 7 0 2 0 43 3
DF Northern Ireland Mal Donaghy 13(1) 0 1 0 3 0 17(1) 0
DF England Mike Duxbury 12(7) 0 2(2) 0 1(1) 0 15(10) 0
DF England Colin Gibson 5(1) 1 1(1) 0 0 0 6(2) 1
DF England Lee Martin 28(4) 0 8 1 1 0 37(4) 1
DF England Gary Pallister 35 3 8 0 3 0 46 3
DF Republic of Ireland Derek Brazil 0(1) 0 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0
MF England Russell Beardsmore 8(13) 2 1(2) 0 1 0 10(15) 2
MF Wales Deiniol Graham 0(1) 0 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0
MF England Paul Ince 25(1) 0 6(1) 0 3 2 34(2) 2
MF Scotland Ralph Milne 0(1) 0 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0
MF England Mike Phelan 38 1 7 0 3 0 48 1
MF England Bryan Robson 20 2 4 2 3 0 27 4
MF England Lee Sharpe 13(5) 1 0 0 1(1) 0 14(6) 1
MF England Neil Webb 10(1) 2 4 1 0 0 14(1) 3
FW Wales Mark Hughes 36(1) 13 8 2 3 0 47(1) 15
FW England Jules Maiorana 0(1) 0 0 0 0(1) 0 0(2) 0
FW Scotland Brian McClair 37 5 8 3 3 0 48 8
FW England Mark Robins 10(7) 7 3(3) 3 0 0 13(10) 10
FW England Danny Wallace 23(3) 3 6(1) 2 2 1 31(4) 6