United 88-89

The 1988–89 season was Manchester United’s 87th season in the Football League, and their 14th consecutive season in the top division of English football. Despite finishing second in the 1987–88 season, Manchester United did not play in the UEFA Cup in 1988–89 due to the ban on English clubs in Europe since the Heysel stadium disaster.
Former Manchester United striker Mark Hughes returned to the club following spells at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, finishing the season as PFA Player of the Year and also as United’s joint top scorer alongside Brian McClair with 16 goals in all competitions.
United had tried to sign midfielder Paul Gascoigne from Newcastle United in the close season, but lost out to Tottenham Hotspur.
17-year-old winger Lee Sharpe was signed from Torquay United and became a semi-regular player, appearing either as a left-back or a left-winger. Full-back Lee Martin, who had made his debut at the end of the previous season, became a regular choice on either side of defence during the season. Striker Mark Robins made his debut early in the season and turned out 10 times for the first team, starting just once. Young midfielder Russell Beardsmore scored and set up two goals in United’s 3-1 win over Liverpool on New Year’s Day, in one of his first appearances for the senior side. Midfielders Deiniol Graham and Tony Gill also broke into the first team during the season, but made only occasional appearances, and Gill suffered a broken ankle which would eventually force him into retirement. 19-year-old winger Guiliano Maoirana was signed from non-league Histon and played six times for the first team, including a highly promising performance in a 1-1 home draw with Arsenal in the league.
Also new to the squad was goalkeeper Jim Leighton, who conceded just 35 goals in 38 league games and kept 15 clean sheets. Mid-season signings were defender Mal Donaghy from Luton Town and winger Ralph Milne from Bristol City. It was the final season at the club for Gordon Strachan, who left in March, and was followed at the end of the season by the departures of Norman Whitesideand Paul McGrath, while Remi Moses retired due to injury.
United had a slow start in the league, including a nine-match winless run incorporating eight draws and a defeat, from September to November, followed by a mid-season run of strong form which lifted them from mid table to the top three, before a run of disappointing results to the season dragged them down to 11th place in the final table. They suffered an early exit from the League Cup and lost their final chance of silverware in March when they were beaten by Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter final.
By the end of the season, it was clear the United squad needed further strengthening to push for honours in 1989–90. For several months, United had been strongly linked to the signature of English international midfielder Neil Webb, who had expressed his desire to leave Nottingham Forest after four successful seasons. A deal was soon agreed to sign the player, along with a deal to sign Norwich City midfielder Mike Phelan.
Manchester United talisman Mark Hughes returned to Old Trafford in 1988 after spells in Europe with Barcelona and Bayern Munich for a club record fee of £1.8 million. But Ferguson’s other high-profile target, Paul Gascoigne, turned down an opportunity to move to Manchester United despite a verbal agreement between Ferguson and the player and a Maltese holiday paid for by the United manager. Ferguson signed Jim Leighton from former club Aberdeen for £750,000 in order to fill the goalkeeping void left by the retiring Gary Bailey, the underperforming Chris Turner and the injury-prone Gary Walsh.
Manchester United’s inconsistency was highlighted early on, recording three consecutive wins; following the 2–0 victory over West Ham United towards the end of September, before failing to record another one until early December, ten games later. Manchester United also recorded six wins from seven games between Boxing Day 1988 and 11 February 1989 before their league season faltered, recording just three more victories in the season.
With the club failing to achieve in the league, many fans began to realise that the cups would be the only realistic opportunity for silverware. They needed three games to defeat Queens Park Rangers in the FA Cup Third Round, before hitting four past Oxford United in the next round. United’s three biggest attendances for the season came in the FA Cup, highlighting its importance to the fans, though the campaign eventually ended in defeat at the hands of Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest side in the quarter finals.
Manchester United were also unsuccessful in the season’s League Cup; after confidently defeating Rotherham United over two legs, they lost 2–1 to Wimbledon at Plough Lane and were knocked out of the competition.

Pre-season and friendlies

DateOpponentsH / AResult
6 August 1988LaxåA4–0McClair, Hughes, Olsen, Karlsson (o.g.)1,521
10 August 1988VålerengaA0–06,296
11 August 1988KarlstadA6–0McClair, O’Brien, Strachan, Davenport, Hughes, Dalton3,461
14 August 1988TrollhättanA8–1Davenport (3), O’Brien, Strachan, McClair, Hughes, Olsen3,018
16 August 1988HamburgH0–014,348
21 August 1988Manchester CityH5–2McClair (2; 1 pen), Olsen, Hughes, Martin25,432
3 October 1988HibernianA3–0Wilson, Hughes, Robins14,236
29 November 1988Birmingham CityA5–2Hughes, McClair (pen.), Robson, Blackmore, Robins8,993
1 March 1989Queen of the SouthA6–3McClair (2), Robins (2), Donaghy, Gill (pen.)3,776
20 May 1989HistonN3–1Toal, Blackmore, Hughes

First Division

DateOpponentsH / AResult
27 August 1988Queens Park RangersH0–046,37710th
3 September 1988LiverpoolA0–142,02614th
10 September 1988MiddlesbroughH1–0Robson 70′40,42210th
17 September 1988Luton TownA2–0Davenport 19′, Robson 84′11,0108th
24 September 1988West Ham UnitedH2–0Davenport 37′, Hughes 67′39,9415th
1 October 1988Tottenham HotspurA2–2Hughes 43′, McClair 72′29,3185th
22 October 1988WimbledonA1–1Hughes 23′12,1437th
26 October 1988Norwich CityH1–2Hughes 59′36,9988th
30 October 1988EvertonA1–1Hughes 69′27,00510th
5 November 1988Aston VillaH1–1Bruce 42′44,80411th
12 November 1988Derby CountyA2–2Hughes 42′, McClair 64′24,08011th
19 November 1988SouthamptonH2–2Robson 16′, Hughes 53′37,27711th
23 November 1988Sheffield WednesdayH1–1Hughes 83′30,8499th
27 November 1988Newcastle UnitedA0–020,35011th
3 December 1988Charlton AthleticH3–0Milne 22′, McClair 55′, Hughes 78′31,1739th
10 December 1988Coventry CityA0–119,93610th
17 December 1988ArsenalA1–2Hughes 81′37,42210th
26 December 1988Nottingham ForestH2–0Milne 23′, Hughes 53′39,5829th
1 January 1989LiverpoolH3–1McClair 71′, Hughes 75′, Beardsmore 77′44,7456th
2 January 1989MiddlesbroughA0–124,4119th
14 January 1989MillwallH3–0Blackmore 12′, Gill 23′, Hughes 73′40,9316th
21 January 1989West Ham UnitedA3–1Strachan 28′, Martin 55′, McClair 60′29,8226th
5 February 1989Tottenham HotspurH1–0McClair 57′41,4235th
11 February 1989Sheffield WednesdayA2–0McClair (2) 37′, 61′34,8203rd
25 February 1989Norwich CityA1–2McGrath 82′23,1555th
12 March 1989Aston VillaA0–028,3327th
25 March 1989Luton TownH2–0Milne 3′, Blackmore 25′36,3356th
27 March 1989Nottingham ForestA0–230,0927th
2 April 1989ArsenalH1–1Adams 85′ (o.g.)37,97710th
8 April 1989MillwallA0–017,52310th
15 April 1989Derby CountyH0–234,14510th
22 April 1989Charlton AthleticA0–112,05510th
29 April 1989Coventry CityH0–129,79911th
2 May 1989WimbledonH1–0McClair 89′23,36810th
6 May 1989SouthamptonA1–2Beardsmore 54′17,02110th
8 May 1989Queens Park RangersA2–3Bruce 15′, Blackmore 22′10,01711th
10 May 1989EvertonH1–2Hughes 32′26,72211th
13 May 1989Newcastle UnitedH2–0McClair 75′, Robson 82′30,37910th
11Manchester United381312134535+1051

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

DateRoundOpponentsH / AResult
7 January 1989Round 3Queens Park RangersH0–036,222
11 January 1989Round 3
Queens Park RangersA2–2
Gill 75′, Graham 104′22,236
23 January 1989Round 3
Second Replay
Queens Park RangersH3–0McClair (2) 55′ (pen.), 79′, Robson 72′46,257
28 January 1989Round 4Oxford UnitedH4–0Hughes 10′, Bruce 61′, J. Phillips 63′ (o.g.), Robson 82′47,445
18 February 1989Round 5BournemouthA1–1Hughes 53′12,708
22 February 1989Round 5
BournemouthH1–0McClair 19′52,422
18 March 1989Round 6Nottingham ForestH0–155,040

League Cup

DateRoundOpponentsH / AResult
28 September 1988Round 2
First leg
Rotherham UnitedA1–0Davenport 60′12,588
12 October 1988Round 2
Second leg
Rotherham UnitedH5–0McClair (3) 27′, 29′, 69′, Robson 35′, Bruce 48′20,597
2 November 1988Round 3WimbledonA1–2Robson 30′10,864

Football League Centenary Trophy

DateRoundOpponentsH / AResult
29 August 1988Round 1EvertonH1–0Strachan 66′16,439
21 September 1988Semi-finalNewcastle UnitedH2–0
Bruce 91′, McClair 101′14,968
9 October 1988FinalArsenalN1–2Blackmore 84′22,182

Squad statistics

Pos.NameLeagueFA CupLittlewoods CupTotal
GK Jim Leighton3807030480
DF Viv Anderson5(1)0000(1)06(2)0
DF Clayton Blackmore26(2)35(1)03034(3)3
DF Steve Bruce3827131484
DF Mal Donaghy3007000370
DF Mike Duxbury16(2)0003019(2)0
DF Billy Garton13(1)0002015(1)0
DF Colin Gibson1(1)000102(1)0
DF Lee Martin20(4)14(1)00024(5)1
DF Paul McGrath18(2)14(1)01023(3)1
MF Russell Beardsmore17(6))23(2)01(1)021(9)2
MF Tony Gill4(5)12(2)0006(7)2
MF Deiniol Graham000(1)1000(1)1
MF Ralph Milne19(3)3700026(3)3
MF Liam O’Brien1(2)000102(2)0
MF Jesper Olsen6(4)0001(1)07(5)0
MF Bryan Robson3446232438
MF Lee Sharpe19(3)05(1)02026(4)0
MF Gordon Strachan2115(0)02(1)028(1)1
MF Norman Whiteside60000060
MF David Wilson0(4)00(2)0000(6)0
FW Derek Brazil0(1)000000(1)0
FW Peter Davenport7(1)2001(1)18(2)3
FW Mark Hughes381472304816
FW Jules Maiorana2(4)000002(4)0
FW Brian McClair381073334816
FW Mark Robins1(9)0100(1)01(10)0