United 89-90

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

DateOpponentsH / AResult
F – A
30 July 1989Thailand National XIA1 – 1
(4 – 2p)
2 August 1989EvertonN1 – 3Webb8,000
7 August 1989Japan National XIA1 – 0Robins40,000
11 August 1989Bristol CityA3 – 2McClair, Webb, Beardsmore9,799
13 August 1989Manchester CityH0 – 219,958
12 September 1989Torquay UnitedA1 – 0Duxbury4,108
26 September 1989HeartsA4 – 2Wallace, Blackmore (2), McClair9,001
17 October 1989St JohnstoneA1 – 0McClair9,788

First Division

DateOpponentsH / AResult
F – A
19 August 1989ArsenalH4 – 1Bruce 2′, Hughes 63′, Webb 79′, McClair 83′47,2451st
22 August 1989Crystal PalaceA1 – 1Robson 19′22,4231st
26 August 1989Derby CountyA0 – 222,1759th
30 August 1989Norwich CityH0 – 241,61014th
9 September 1989EvertonA2 – 3McClair 57′, Beardsmore 66′37,91616th
16 September 1989MillwallH5 – 1Hughes (3) 13′, 75′, 85′, Robson 43′, Sharpe 60′42,74611th
23 September 1989Manchester CityA1 – 5Hughes 50′43,24614th
14 October 1989Sheffield WednesdayH0 – 041,49217th
21 October 1989Coventry CityA4 – 1Bruce 5′, Hughes (2) 29′, 69′, Phelan 65′19,62514th
28 October 1989SouthamptonH2 – 1McClair (2) 16′, 61′37,12211th
4 November 1989Charlton AthleticA0 – 216,06513th
12 November 1989Nottingham ForestH1 – 0Pallister 44′34,18211th
18 November 1989Luton TownA3 – 1Wallace 5′, Blackmore 28′, Hughes 76′11,1419th
25 November 1989ChelseaH0 – 046,97510th
3 December 1989ArsenalA0 – 134,48412th
9 December 1989Crystal PalaceH1 – 2Beardsmore 9′33,51412th
16 December 1989Tottenham HotspurH0 – 136,23013th
23 December 1989LiverpoolA0 – 037,42612th
26 December 1989Aston VillaA0 – 341,24715th
30 December 1989WimbledonA2 – 2Hughes 74′, Robins 75′9,62215th
1 January 1990Queens Park RangersH0 – 034,82415th
13 January 1990Derby CountyH1 – 2Pallister 48′38,98515th
21 January 1990Norwich CityA0 – 217,37017th
3 February 1990Manchester CityH1 – 1Blackmore 70′40,27417th
10 February 1990MillwallA2 – 1Wallace 65′, Hughes 84′15,49115th
24 February 1990ChelseaA0 – 129,97916th
4 March 1990Luton TownH4 – 1McClair 25′, Hughes 33′, Wallace 44′, Robins 66′35,32716th
14 March 1990EvertonH0 – 037,39816th
18 March 1990LiverpoolH1 – 2Whelan 80′ (o.g.)46,62916th
21 March 1990Sheffield WednesdayA0 – 133,26016th
24 March 1990SouthamptonA2 – 0Gibson 66′, Robins 88′20,51016th
31 March 1990Coventry CityH3 – 0Hughes (2) 27′, 36′, Robins 87′39,17216th
14 April 1990Queens Park RangersA2 – 1Robins 68′, Webb 74′18,99714th
17 April 1990Aston VillaH2 – 0Robins (2) 24′, 45′44,08013th
21 April 1990Tottenham HotspurA1 – 2Bruce 68′ (pen.)33,31714th
30 April 1990WimbledonH0 – 029,28115th
2 May 1990Nottingham ForestA0 – 421,18616th
5 May 1990Charlton AthleticH1 – 0Pallister 36′35,38913th
12Coventry City38147173959−2049
13Manchester United38139164647−148
14Manchester City381212144352−948

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
F – A
7 January 1990Round 3Nottingham ForestA1 – 0Robins 56′23,072
28 January 1990Round 4Hereford UnitedA1 – 0Blackmore 86′13,777
18 February 1990Round 5Newcastle UnitedA3 – 2Robins 19′, Wallace 60′, McClair 77′31,748
11 March 1990Round 6Sheffield UnitedA1 – 0McClair 29′34,344
8 April 1990Semi-finalOldham AthleticN3 – 3
Robson 29′, Webb 72′, Wallace 92′44,026
11 April 1990Semi-final
Oldham AthleticN2 – 1
McClair 50′, Robins 114′35,005
12 May 1990FinalCrystal PalaceN3 – 3
Robson 35′, Hughes (2) 62′, 113′80,000
17 May 1990Final
Crystal PalaceN1 – 0Martin 59′80,000

League Cup

DateRoundOpponentsH / AResult
F – A
20 September 1989Round 2
First leg
PortsmouthA3 – 2Ince (2) 19′, 41′, Wallace 44′18,072
3 October 1989Round 2
Second leg
PortsmouthH0 – 026,698
25 October 1989Round 3Tottenham HotspurH0 – 345,759


Squad statistics[edit]

Pos.NameLeagueFA CupLeague CupTotal
GK Mark Bosnich10000010
GK Jim Leighton3507030450
GK Les Sealey20100030
DF Viv Anderson14(2)0401019(2)0
DF Clayton Blackmore19(9)22(1)10021(10)3
DF Steve Bruce3437020433
DF Mal Donaghy13(1)0103017(1)0
DF Mike Duxbury12(7)02(2)01(1)015(10)0
DF Colin Gibson5(1)11(1)0006(2)1
DF Lee Martin28(4)0811037(4)1
DF Gary Pallister3538030463
DF Derek Brazil0(1)000000(1)0
MF Russell Beardsmore8(13)21(2)01010(15)2
MF Deiniol Graham0(1)000000(1)0
MF Paul Ince25(1)06(1)03234(2)2
MF Ralph Milne0(1)000000(1)0
MF Mike Phelan3817030481
MF Bryan Robson2024230274
MF Lee Sharpe13(5)1001(1)014(6)1
MF Neil Webb10(1)2410014(1)3
FW Mark Hughes36(1)13823047(1)15
FW Jules Maiorana0(1)0000(1)00(2)0
FW Brian McClair3758330488
FW Mark Robins10(7)73(3)30013(10)10
FW Danny Wallace23(3)36(1)22131(4)6