The 1996–97 season was Manchester United’s fifth season in the Premier League, and their 22nd consecutive season in the top division of English football. United clinched the Premier League title with 75 points – placing them seven points ahead of the three teams below them; Newcastle United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

They also reached the European Cup semi-finals, bowing out to eventual winners Borussia Dortmund of Germany, after losing both legs 1–0. Earlier in the competition, they had lost at home in Europe for the first time, with a 1–0 defeat to Fenerbahçe of Turkey in the group stage. Their defence of the FA Cup ended in the Fourth Round replay with a 1–0 defeat to Wimbledon, while their bid for success in the League Cup was short lived as they bowed out to eventual winners Leicester City in the Fourth Round.

New signing Ole Gunnar Solskjær was one of the biggest breakthrough stars in the 1996–97 Premier League season, with 19 goals in all competitions making him the club’s top goalscorer. 22-year-old midfielder David Beckham clinched the PFA Young Player of the Year award in the same season that he won his first England cap. Solskjær’s fellow Norwegian, Ronny Johnsen, proved himself as a fine successor to Steve Bruce in central defence, but £3.5 million Czech winger Karel Poborský failed to win a regular first team place and was one of the Premier League’s biggest disappointments that season. Jordi Cruyff, son of Dutch legend Johan, was similarly disappointing, failing to win a regular first team place despite being able to play in midfield, attack or on the left wing.

Just before the start of the season, winger Lee Sharpe left the club after eight years to sign for Leeds United in a £4.5million deal. Earlier in the summer, captain Steve Bruce had departed to Birmingham City on a free transfer after almost a decade at Old Trafford, while Paul Parker left on a free transfer after his final two seasons at the club had been plagued by injury and the loss of his place in the team to Gary Neville.

The season ended with a major shock as Eric Cantona announced his retirement from playing, prompting manager Alex Ferguson to search for a new striker. The search ended with the £3.5 million capture of Tottenham and England’s 31-year-old Teddy Sheringham.

Pre-season and friendlies

Date Opponents H/A Result
F–A
Scorers Attendance
27 July 1996 Portadown A 5–0 Scholes (3) 17′, 19′, 44′, Keane 29′, Beckham 34′ 6,100
28 July 1996 League of Ireland XI N 4–1 Sharpe 22′, Pallister 26′, Scholes 41′, Cantona 44′ 7,720
31 July 1996 Internazionale A 0–3 33,578
3 August 1996 Ajax N 1–2 McClair 81′ 27,427
4 August 1996 Nottingham Forest A 3–1 Beckham 80′, McClair 83′, P. Neville 88′ 21,760
13 August 1996 Internazionale H 0–1 30,266
15 April 1997 Celtic H 1–2 Keane 44′ 43,743
16 May 1997 Coventry City XI A 2–2 Cantona (2) 69′ (pen.), 86′ 23,325

FA Charity Shield

Date Opponents H/A Result
F–A
Scorers Attendance
11 August 1996 Newcastle United N 4–0 Cantona 25′, Butt 30′, Beckham 86′, Keane 88′ 73,214

FA Premier League

Date Opponents H/A Result
F–A
Scorers Attendance League
position
17 August 1996 Wimbledon A 3–0 Cantona 25′, Irwin 57′, Beckham 87′ 25,786 1st
21 August 1996 Everton H 2–2 Cruyff 70′, Unsworth 82′ (o.g.) 54,943 9th
25 August 1996 Blackburn Rovers H 2–2 Cruyff 38′, Solskjær 69′ 54,178 5th
4 September 1996 Derby County A 1–1 Beckham 38′ 18,026 4th
7 September 1996 Leeds United A 4–0 Martyn 3′ (o.g.), Butt 49′, Poborský 76′, Cantona 90′ 39,694 5th
14 September 1996 Nottingham Forest H 4–1 Solskjær 22′, Giggs 41′, Cantona (2) 82′, 90′ (pen.) 54,984 1st
21 September 1996 Aston Villa A 0–0 39,339 4th
29 September 1996 Tottenham Hotspur H 2–0 Solskjær (2) 38′, 57′ 54,943 3rd
12 October 1996 Liverpool H 1–0 Beckham 23′ 55,128 4th
20 October 1996 Newcastle United A 0–5 35,579 5th
26 October 1996 Southampton A 3–6 Beckham 42′, May 56′, Scholes 89′ 15,253 5th
2 November 1996 Chelsea H 1–2 May 81′ 55,198 6th
16 November 1996 Arsenal H 1–0 Winterburn 62′ (o.g.) 55,210 6th
23 November 1996 Middlesbrough A 2–2 Keane 17′, May 73′ 30,063 7th
30 November 1996 Leicester City H 3–1 Butt (2) 76′, 87′, Solskjær 85′ 55,196 5th
8 December 1996 West Ham United A 2–2 Solskjær 54′, Beckham 75′ 25,045 6th
18 December 1996 Sheffield Wednesday A 1–1 Scholes 61′ 37,671 5th
21 December 1996 Sunderland H 5–0 Solskjær (2) 36′, 48′, Cantona (2) 43′ (pen.), 79′, Butt 58′ 55,081 3rd
26 December 1996 Nottingham Forest A 4–0 Beckham 24′, Butt 44′, Solskjær 67′, Cole 76′ 29,032 3rd
28 December 1996 Leeds United H 1–0 Cantona 9′ (pen.) 55,256 2nd
1 January 1997 Aston Villa H 0–0 55,133 3rd
12 January 1997 Tottenham Hotspur A 2–1 Solskjær 23′, Beckham 76′ 33,026 3rd
18 January 1997 Coventry City A 2–0 Giggs 61′, Solskjær 80′ 23,085 2nd
29 January 1997 Wimbledon H 2–1 Giggs 75′, Cole 82′ 55,314 2nd
1 February 1997 Southampton H 2–1 Pallister 19′, Cantona 79′ 55,269 1st
19 February 1997 Arsenal A 2–1 Cole 18′, Solskjær 32′ 38,172 1st
22 February 1997 Chelsea A 1–1 Beckham 68′ 28,336 1st
1 March 1997 Coventry City H 3–1 Breen 4′ (o.g.), Jess 5′ (o.g.), Poborský 47′ 55,230 1st
8 March 1997 Sunderland A 1–2 Melville 77′ (o.g.) 22,225 1st
15 March 1997 Sheffield Wednesday H 2–0 Cole 19′, Poborský 60′ 55,267 1st
22 March 1997 Everton A 2–0 Solskjær 35′, Cantona 79′ 40,079 1st
5 April 1997 Derby County H 2–3 Cantona 47′, Solskjær 76′ 55,243 1st
12 April 1997 Blackburn Rovers A 3–2 Cole 32′, Scholes 42′, Cantona 79′ 30,476 1st
19 April 1997 Liverpool A 3–1 Pallister (2) 13′, 42′, Cole 63′ 40,892 1st
3 May 1997 Leicester City A 2–2 Solskjær (2) 45′, 52′ 21,068 1st
5 May 1997 Middlesbrough H 3–3 Keane 34′, G. Neville 42′, Solskjær 67′ 54,489 1st
8 May 1997 Newcastle United H 0–0 55,236 1st
11 May 1997 West Ham United H 2–0 Solskjær 12′, Cruyff 84′ 55,249 1st
Pos Club Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Manchester United 38 21 12 5 76 44 +32 75
2 Newcastle United 38 19 11 8 73 40 +33 68
3 Arsenal 38 19 11 8 62 32 +30 68

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
5 January 1997 Round 3 Tottenham Hotspur H 2–0 Scholes 51′, Beckham 82′ 52,445
25 January 1997 Round 4 Wimbledon H 1–1 Scholes 89′ 53,342
4 February 1997 Round 4
Replay
Wimbledon A 0–1 25,601

Coca-Cola Cup

Date Round Opponents H/A Result
F–A
Scorers Attendance
23 October 1996 Round 3 Swindon Town H 2–1 Poborský 20′, Scholes 72′ 49,305
27 November 1996 Round 4 Leicester City A 0–2 20,428

UEFA Champions League

Group stage

Date Opponents H/A Result
F–A
Scorers Attendance Group
position
11 September 1996 Juventus A 0–1 54,000 4th
25 September 1996 Rapid Wien H 2–0 Solskjær 20′, Beckham 27′ 51,831 2nd
16 October 1996 Fenerbahçe A 2–0 Beckham 55′, Cantona 60′ 26,200 2nd
30 October 1996 Fenerbahçe H 0–1 53,297 2nd
20 November 1996 Juventus H 0–1 53,529 3rd
4 December 1996 Rapid Wien A 2–0 Giggs 24′, Cantona 72′ 45,000 2nd
Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Italy Juventus 6 5 1 0 11 1 +10 16
England Manchester United 6 3 0 3 6 3 +3 9
Turkey Fenerbahçe 6 2 1 3 3 6 −3 7
Austria Rapid Wien 6 0 2 4 2 12 −10 2

Knockout phase

 

Date Round Opponents H/A Result
F–A
Scorers Attendance
5 March 1997 Quarter-final
First leg
Porto H 4–0 May 22′, Cantona 34′, Giggs 60′, Cole 80′ 53,425
19 March 1997 Quarter-final
Second leg
Porto A 0–0 40,000
9 April 1997 Semi-final
First leg
Borussia Dortmund A 0–1 48,500
23 April 1997 Semi-final
Second leg
Borussia Dortmund H 0–1 53,606

Squad statistics

No. CL no. Pos. Name League FA Cup Coca-Cola Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
1 1 GK Denmark Peter Schmeichel 36 0 3 0 0 0 9 0 1 0 49 0
2 2 DF England Gary Neville 30(1) 1 3 0 1 0 10 0 0(1) 0 44(2) 1
3 3 DF Republic of Ireland Denis Irwin 29(2) 1 3 0 0 0 8 0 1 0 41(2) 1
4 4 DF England David May 28(1) 3 1 0 2 0 7(1) 1 1 0 39(2) 4
6 6 DF England Gary Pallister 27 3 1 0 0 0 8 0 1 0 37 3
7 7 FW France Eric Cantona (c) 36 11 3 0 0 0 10 3 1 1 50 15
8 8 MF England Nicky Butt 24(2) 5 0 0 0 0 8(1) 0 1 1 33(3) 6
9 9 FW England Andy Cole 10(10) 6 2(1) 0 0 0 2(3) 1 0 0 14(14) 7
10 10 MF England David Beckham 33(3) 8 2 1 0 0 10 2 1 1 46(3) 12
11 11 MF Wales Ryan Giggs 25(1) 3 3 0 0 0 6(1) 2 1 0 35(2) 5
12 28 DF England Phil Neville 15(3) 0 0 0 1 0 2(2) 0 1 0 19(5) 0
13 13 MF Scotland Brian McClair 4(15) 0 1(2) 0 2 0 0(3) 0 0 0 7(20) 0
14 14 MF Netherlands Jordi Cruyff 11(5) 3 0 0 1 0 3(1) 0 0(1) 0 15(7) 3
15 15 MF Czech Republic Karel Poborský 15(7) 3 2 0 2 1 3(3) 0 0(1) 0 22(11) 4
16 16 MF Republic of Ireland Roy Keane 21 2 3 0 2 0 6 0 1 1 33 3
17 17 GK Netherlands Raimond van der Gouw 2 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 5 0
18 12 MF England Paul Scholes 16(8) 3 2 2 2 1 0(4) 0 1 0 21(12) 6
19 5 DF Norway Ronny Johnsen 26(5) 0 2 0 0 0 9 0 0 0 37(5) 0
20 20 FW Norway Ole Gunnar Solskjær 25(8) 18 0(3) 0 0 0 8(2) 1 0 0 33(13) 19
21 21 DF Northern Ireland Pat McGibbon 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
22 22 MF England Simon Davies 0 0 0 0 0(2) 0 0 0 0 0 0(2) 0
23 23 MF England Ben Thornley 1(1) 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 3(1) 0
24 24 DF England John O’Kane 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
25 25 GK England Kevin Pilkington 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
26 19 DF England Chris Casper 0(2) 0 1 0 2 0 0(1) 0 0 0 3(3) 0
27 MF England Terry Cooke 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0
28 MF Northern Ireland Philip Mulryne 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
29 18 MF England Michael Appleton 0 0 0 0 1(1) 0 0 0 0 0 1(1) 0
30 DF England Ronnie Wallwork 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
31 DF England John Curtis 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
32 DF England Michael Clegg 3(1) 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 5(1) 0
33 GK England Paul Gibson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0