Manchester United 1971-72

The 1971–72 season was Manchester United’s 70th season in the Football League, and their 27th consecutive season in the top division of English football. In a pre-season competition United participated in the Watney Cup, which was contested by the teams that had scored the most goals in each of the four divisions of the Football League the previous season who had not been promoted or admitted to one of the European competitions.
Before the beginning of the season, on 8 June 1971, Frank O’Farrell was appointed as United manager, more than five months after Wilf McGuinness had been sacked. Sir Matt Busby had returned to the role of manager until the end of the season before returning to his role of director.
Due to Manchester United being banned from playing their first two home matches in Old Trafford, after hooligans had thrown knives into the away section at a match at the end of the previous season, their opening “home” games were played at Anfield and the Victoria Ground.
O’Farrell’s first season as United managed started well, and they were top of the league by Christmas. However, a run of seven successive league defeats after the turn of 1972 dragged them down the table. In January and February 1972, United conceded 16 goals, including 5 at Elland Road. O’Farrell attempted to shore up the leaky defence with the signing of Martin Buchan from Aberdeen for a (then) club record fee of £125,000. United never recovered their early season form and they could only manage an eighth-place finish.

Watney Cup

DateRoundOpponentsH / AResult
F – A
ScorersAttendance
31 July 1971Round 1Halifax TownA1 – 2Best19,765

First Division

DateOpponentsH / AResult
F – A
ScorersAttendance
14 August 1971Derby CountyA2 – 2Gowling, Law35,386
18 August 1971ChelseaA3 – 2Charlton, Kidd, Morgan54,663
20 August 1971ArsenalH3 – 1Charlton, Gowling, Kidd27,649
23 August 1971West Bromwich AlbionH3 – 1Best (2), Gowling23,146
28 August 1971Wolverhampton WanderersA1 – 1Best46,479
31 August 1971EvertonA0 – 152,151
4 September 1971Ipswich TownH1 – 0Best45,656
11 September 1971Crystal PalaceA3 – 1Law (2), Kidd43,720
18 September 1971West Ham UnitedH4 – 2Best (3), Charlton53,339
25 September 1971LiverpoolA2 – 2Charlton, Law55,642
2 October 1971Sheffield UnitedH2 – 0Best, Gowling51,758
9 October 1971Huddersfield TownA3 – 0Best, Charlton, Law33,458
16 October 1971Derby CountyH1 – 0Best53,247
23 October 1971Newcastle UnitedA1 – 0Best55,603
30 October 1971Leeds UnitedH0 – 153,884
6 November 1971Manchester CityA3 – 3Gowling, Kidd, McIlroy63,326
13 November 1971Tottenham HotspurH3 – 1Law (2), McIlroy54,058
20 November 1971Leicester CityH3 – 2Law (2), Kidd48,764
27 November 1971SouthamptonA5 – 2Best (3), Kidd, McIlroy30,323
4 December 1971Nottingham ForestH3 – 2Kidd (2), Law45,411
11 December 1971Stoke CityA1 – 1Law33,875
18 December 1971Ipswich TownA0 – 029,213
27 December 1971Coventry CityH2 – 2James, Law52,035
1 January 1972West Ham UnitedA0 – 341,990
8 January 1972Wolverhampton WanderersH1 – 3McIlroy47,626
22 January 1972ChelseaH0 – 155,927
29 January 1972West Bromwich AlbionA1 – 2Kidd46,992
12 February 1972Newcastle UnitedH0 – 244,983
19 February 1972Leeds UnitedA1 – 5Burns45,399
4 March 1972Tottenham HotspurA0 – 254,814
8 March 1972EvertonH0 – 038,415
11 March 1972Huddersfield TownH2 – 0Best, Storey-Moore53,581
25 March 1972Crystal PalaceH4 – 0Charlton, Gowling, Law, Storey-Moore41,550
1 April 1972Coventry CityA3 – 2Best, Charlton, Storey-Moore37,870
3 April 1972LiverpoolH0 – 354,000
4 April 1972Sheffield UnitedA1 – 1Sadler45,045
8 April 1972Leicester CityA0 – 235,649
12 April 1972Manchester CityH1 – 3Buchan56,362
15 April 1972SouthamptonH3 – 2Best, Kidd, Storey-Moore38,437
22 April 1972Nottingham ForestA0 – 035,063
25 April 1972ArsenalA0 – 349,125
29 April 1972Stoke CityH3 – 0Best, Charlton, Storey-Moore34,959
PosClubPldWDLGFGAGAvgPts
7Chelsea4218121258491.18448
8Manchester United4219101369611.13148
9Wolverhampton Wanderers4218111365571.14047

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

FA Cup

DateRoundOpponentsH / AResult
F – A
ScorersAttendance
15 January 1972Round 3SouthamptonA1 – 1Charlton30,190
19 January 1972Round 3
Replay
SouthamptonH4 – 1Best (2), Sadler, Aston50,966
5 February 1972Round 4Preston North EndA2 – 0Gowling (2)27,025
26 February 1972Round 5MiddlesbroughH0 – 053,850
29 February 1972Round 5
Replay
MiddlesbroughA3 – 0Morgan, Best, Charlton39,683
18 March 1972Round 6Stoke CityH1 – 1Best54,226
22 March 1972Round 6
Replay
Stoke CityA1 – 2Best49,192

League Cup

DateRoundOpponentsH / AResult
F – A
ScorersAttendance
7 September 1971Round 2Ipswich TownA3 – 1Morgan, Best (2)28,143
6 October 1971Round 3BurnleyH1 – 1Charlton44,600
18 October 1971Round 3
Replay
BurnleyA1 – 0Charlton27,511
27 October 1971Round 4Stoke CityH1 – 1Gowling47,062
8 November 1971Round 4
Replay
Stoke CityA0 – 040,805
15 November 1971Round 4
Second Replay
Stoke CityA1 – 2Best42,249

Squad statistics

Pos.NameLeagueFA CupLeague CupTotal
AppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoals
GK John Connaughton30000030
GK Alex Stepney3907060520
DF Martin Buchan1312000151
DF Francis Burns15(2)1503023(2)1
DF Tony Dunne3404030410
DF Paul Edwards40200060
DF Steve James3715060481
DF Tommy O’Neil3707060500
DF David Sadler3716160492
DF Tony Young5(2)000005(2)0
MF John Aston, Jr.2(7)00(1)12(2)04(10)1
MF George Best401875635326
MF Bobby Charlton40872625312
MF John Fitzpatrick10000010
MF Sammy McIlroy8(8)41(2)02011(10)4
MF Willie Morgan3517161483
MF Carlo Sartori0(2)000101(2)0
FW Alan Gowling35(2)66(1)26147(3)9
FW Brian Kidd341040504310
FW Denis Law32(1)13702041(1)13
FW Ian Storey-Moore1150000115
Own goals0000