United 95/96

The 1995–96 season was Manchester United’s fourth season in the Premier League, and their 21st consecutive season in the top division of English football. United finished the season by becoming the first English team to win the Double (league title and FA Cup) twice. Their triumph was made all the more remarkable by the fact that Alex Ferguson had sold experienced players Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis before the start of the season, and not made any major signings. Instead, he had drafted in young players like Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil.
Eric Cantona returned from his eight-month suspension at the beginning of October, and finished the season as the club’s top scorer with 19 goals in all competitions, the last one being the winner against Liverpool in the FA Cup Final. He also picked up a Premier League winner’s medal and the FWA Player of the Year award. The title had been sealed on the final day of the season with a 3–0 win at Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough.
Having started the season without a major summer signing, the critics were ready to pounce on United, and made no apologies for writing United’s chances of success off as they lost their first game of the season 3–1 at Aston Villa, a side who by contrast had spent heavily on players in recent months after a difficult period of transition. United hit back by winning their next five league games and were soon second to Newcastle United, spearheaded by multimillion-pound new signings Les Ferdinand and David Ginola. They actually went top of the league after a goalless draw at Sheffield Wednesday towards the end of September, only for the Tynesiders to return to the top of the table soon after. Then came Cantona’s comeback on 1 October, when he scored a penalty to equalise and hold Liverpool to a 2-2 draw Old Trafford.
The autumn saw United suffer first-hurdle exits to York City in the League Cup and Rotor Volgograd in the UEFA Cup, although United did preserve their 39-year unbeaten record in European competitions thanks to a late equaliser by goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel in the second leg of the European tie. On the domestic scene, the 3–0 defeat they suffered at home to the Division Two strugglers in the first leg of the League Cup second round would be their only home defeat of the season. A 3–1 win in the return leg at Bootham Crescent was not enough and United suffered a humiliating exit, although at least these disappointments meant that United only had the league to concentrate on until after Christmas, unlike some of their fellow title contenders.
United remained unbeaten throughout October and November, although they remained second behind Newcastle in the league. Then came a five match winless run which saw them 10 points behind Newcastle by Christmas. On 27 December, they hosted Newcastle at Old Trafford and won 2–0, with one of the goals coming from Andy Cole, the former Newcastle goal machine who had arrived at Old Trafford the previous winter, and the gap was down to seven points. Then came a 2-1 win over QPR, which briefly cut the gap to four. Making his debut in that game was French defender William Prunier signed on a trial contract following an injury to Gary Pallister. Prunier also appeared in the United team at Tottenham on New Year’s Day, but United crashed 4–1 at White Hart Lane and Prunier was soon gone. United’s title hopes appeared to be fading, and when they went 2-1 down at Old Trafford in the FA Cup third round to Division One promotion challengers Sunderland, it looked as though 1995-96 could prove to be another trophyless season for United. But then came an Eric Cantona equaliser with 10 minutes remaining, forcing a replay at Roker Park, where Sunderland once again took the lead before United finally won 2–1. But there was more frustration in the league as United’s second league game of 1996 saw them draw 0-0 at home to Aston Villa. The last league game of the month was won 1–0 at West Ham, and then came an easy 3–0 win over Reading in the FA Cup fourth round at Elm Park.
United narrowed the gap between themselves and leaders Newcastle once again in February, winning all four of their league games that month. A 4-2 away win over Wimbledon was followed by a home clash with Blackburn, who were now mid table in a disappointing defence of their league title. Lee Sharpe was on the scoresheet as United won 1–0, and their next game was a 2–0 home win over Everton. The month was completed with a 6–0 away win over Bolton, which pushed their hosts closer to eventual relegation but also gave United’s goal difference a major boost as well as putting United just four points behind Newcastle. United had also defeated Manchester City 2–1 in the FA Cup fifth round at Old Trafford, and so a unique second double was suddenly looking like a very serious possibility.
March began with a visit to Tyneside, for what was billed by many as the title decider. United kept their hosts, who had yet to drop points at home, at bay in the first half of the game, thanks largely to the goalkeeping heroics of Schmeichel. The deadlock was finally broken in the second half with a Cantona goal, and the gap was now down to a single point. United briefly went top the following weekend with a 1–1 draw at struggling QPR, and after another Cantona goal gave them a 1–0 home win over Arsenal on 20 March, United went top of the table and stayed there for the rest of the season.
The title race went down to the wire, but United went into the last game of the season knowing that a draw at Middlesbrough would give them the title, and Newcastle needed to beat Tottenham to have any chance of depriving them of title glory. A 3–0 victory gave United the title, and the following Saturday they triumphed 1–0 over Liverpool in the FA Cup final, with a late goal from Cantona (already voted FWA Player of the Year) making them the first team to win the double twice.
Veteran defenders Steve Bruce and Paul Parker moved on at the end of the season, as did goalkeeper Tony Coton, who had only joined the club in January and never played a first team game. As the season drew to a close, speculation mounted that United would sign a world-class striker – possibly Alan Shearer – to partner Eric Cantona in the bid to bring the European Cup to Old Trafford.
The season also produced one of the most infamous moments in football shirt history, when United changed their kits at half-time during their away defeat to Southampton, with Alex Ferguson stating that it was because he felt the kit left players unable to spot each other on the pitch, as well as the fact that United had not won a single of their five games played wearing the kit.
The book ‘You Can’t Win Anything With Kids’ commemorating this season was written by Wayne Barton and was released in 2016.
 

Pre-season and friendlies

DateOpponentsH / AResult
F–A
ScorersAttendance
31 July 1995SelangorA4–1Bruce, Butt, Pallister, Sharpe50,000
2 August 1995SelangorA2–0Bruce, Scholes20,000
7 August 1995Birmingham CityA0–113,330
9 August 1995Bradford CityA1–0Keane13,457
11 August 1995ShelbourneA2–2Butt, Beckham12,500
13 August 1995East FifeA4–0Beckham (2), McClair, Sharpe5,385
15 August 1995Oldham AthleticA2–0Sharpe, Jobson (o.g.)8,766
5 December 1995International SelectN1–2Scholes22,000
12 December 1995CelticA1–3Scholes37,306

FA Premier League

 

DateOpponentsH / AResult
F–A
ScorersAttendanceLeague
position
19 August 1995Aston VillaA1–3Beckham 84′34,65519th
23 August 1995West Ham UnitedH2–1Scholes 50′, Keane 68′31,9665th
26 August 1995WimbledonH3–1Keane (2) 28′, 80′, Cole 60′32,2264th
28 August 1995Blackburn RoversA2–1Sharpe 46′, Beckham 67′29,8432nd
9 September 1995EvertonA3–2Sharpe (2) 3′, 49′, Giggs 74′39,4962nd
16 September 1995Bolton WanderersH3–0Scholes (2) 18′, 86′, Giggs 34′32,8121st
23 September 1995Sheffield WednesdayA0–034,1013rd
1 October 1995LiverpoolH2–2Butt 2′, Cantona 71′ (pen.)34,9343rd
14 October 1995Manchester CityH1–0Scholes 5′35,7072nd
21 October 1995ChelseaA4–1Scholes (2) 4′, 10′, Giggs 78′, McClair 85′31,0192nd
28 October 1995MiddlesbroughH2–0Pallister 44′, Cole 88′36,5802nd
4 November 1995ArsenalA0–138,3172nd
18 November 1995SouthamptonH4–1Giggs (2) 1′, 4′, Scholes 9′, Cole 69′39,3012nd
22 November 1995Coventry CityA4–0Irwin 28′, McClair (2) 48′, 76′, Beckham 58′23,4002nd
27 November 1995Nottingham ForestA1–1Cantona 67′ (pen.)29,2632nd
2 December 1995ChelseaH1–1Beckham 61′42,0192nd
9 December 1995Sheffield WednesdayH2–2Cantona (2) 18′, 84′41,8492nd
17 December 1995LiverpoolA0–240,5462nd
24 December 1995Leeds UnitedA1–3Cole 30′39,8012nd
27 December 1995Newcastle UnitedH2–0Cole 6′, Keane 53′42,0242nd
30 December 1995Queens Park RangersH2–1Cole 45′, Giggs 52′41,8902nd
1 January 1996Tottenham HotspurA1–4Cole 36′32,8522nd
13 January 1996Aston VillaH0–042,6673rd
22 January 1996West Ham UnitedA1–0Cantona 9′24,1972nd
3 February 1996WimbledonA4–2Cole 41′, Perry 45′ (o.g.), Cantona (2) 71′, 81′ (pen.)25,3802nd
10 February 1996Blackburn RoversH1–0Sharpe 15′42,6812nd
21 February 1996EvertonH2–0Keane 30′, Giggs 82′42,4592nd
25 February 1996Bolton WanderersA6–0Beckham 5′, Bruce 15′, Cole 70′, Scholes (2) 76′, 79′, Butt 90′21,3812nd
4 March 1996Newcastle UnitedA1–0Cantona 52′36,5842nd
16 March 1996Queens Park RangersA1–1Cantona 90′18,8172nd
20 March 1996ArsenalH1–0Cantona 65′50,0281st
24 March 1996Tottenham HotspurH1–0Cantona 51′50,1571st
6 April 1996Manchester CityA3–2Cantona 7′ (pen.), Cole 42′, Giggs 78′29,6681st
8 April 1996Coventry CityH1–0Cantona 47′50,3321st
13 April 1996SouthamptonA1–3Giggs 89′15,2621st
17 April 1996Leeds UnitedH1–0Keane 72′48,3821st
28 April 1996Nottingham ForestH5–0Scholes 42′, Beckham (2) 45′, 55′, Giggs 70′, Cantona 90′53,9261st
5 May 1996MiddlesbroughA3–0May 14′, Cole 54′, Giggs 81′29,9211st
PosClubPldWDLGFGAGDPts
1Manchester United3825767335+3882
2Newcastle United3824686637+2978
3Liverpool38201177034+3671

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
ScorersAttendance
6 January 1996Round 3SunderlandH2–2Butt 13′, Cantona 80′41,563
16 January 1996Round 3
Replay
SunderlandA2–1Scholes 70′, Cole 90′21,378
27 January 1996Round 4ReadingA3–0Giggs 37′, Parker 57′, Cantona 90′14,780
18 February 1996Round 5Manchester CityH2–1Cantona 39′ (pen.), Sharpe 78′42,692
11 March 1996Round 6SouthamptonH2–0Cantona 49′, Sharpe 90′45,446
31 March 1996Semi-finalChelseaN2–1Cole 55′, Beckham 59′38,421
11 May 1996FinalLiverpoolN1–0Cantona 86′79,007

League Cup

DateRoundOpponentsH / AResult
F–A
ScorersAttendance
20 September 1995Round 2
First leg
York CityH0–329,049
3 October 1995Round 2
Second leg
York CityA3–1Scholes (2) 7′, 80′, Cooke 14′9,386

UEFA Cup

DateRoundOpponentsH / AResult
F–A
ScorersAttendance
12 September 1995Round 2
First leg
Rotor VolgogradA0–033,000
26 September 1995Round 2
Second leg
Rotor VolgogradH2–2Scholes 60′, Schmeichel 89′29,724

Squad statistics

No.Pos.NameLeagueFA CupLeague CupEuropeTotal
AppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoals
1GK Peter Schmeichel360601021451
2DF Paul Parker5(1)01(1)1100(1)07(3)1
3DF Denis Irwin311601010391
4DF Steve Bruce (c)301501(1)02038(1)1
5MF Lee Sharpe21(10)44(2)2202029(12)6
6DF Gary Pallister211302020281
7FW Eric Cantona30147510003819
9MF Brian McClair12(10)300100013(10)3
11MF Ryan Giggs30(3)1171202041(3)12
12DF David May11(5)120000013(5)1
13GK Tony Coton0000000000
15FW Graeme Tomlinson0000000000
16MF Roy Keane296700(1)02038(1)6
17FW Andy Cole32(2)1172101042(2)13
18MF Simon Davies1(5)000100(1)02(6)0
19MF Nicky Butt31(1)271002040(1)3
20DF Gary Neville30(1)05(1)0101037(2)0
21DF Pat McGibbon0000100010
22MF Paul Scholes16(10)100(2)1121(1)118(13)14
23DF Phil Neville21(3)06(1)01(1)01029(5)0
24MF David Beckham26(7)731202033(7)8
25GK Kevin Pilkington2(1)01010004(1)0
26DF Chris Casper0000000000
27MF Terry Cooke1(3)0001(1)10(1)02(5)1
29MF Ben Thornley0(1)00000000(1)0
30DF John O’Kane0(1)00000101(1)0
31DF William Prunier2000000020