By Daniel Burdett
Putting aside Cup finals, especially the Champions League ones – there is one match that will stand out forevermore as a truly amazing night. The match is Blackburn Rovers at home in May 1993 – the night our fans celebrated our 1st Premier League Title and also our first league title win since 1967. It had been a long wait and that night was a truly magical one for celebrations after so many years of frustration.
I’d been going to United matches since 1986 so had seen some tough seasons – especially the way we lost the league to Leeds United in 1992, with a loss at Anfield confirming Leeds as English Champions – my lowest moment as a Man United fan.
Season 1992-93 marked the real turn around for Manchester United into true greatness again, with Alex Ferguson at the helm. It was a truly great season. We didn’t start the season well, with defeats at Sheffield United and at home to Everton, but a pivotal moment happened in November 1992 which shaped not only the whole season, but many others after that. We pulled off one of the most dramatic transfer deals in the club’s history when we signed Eric Cantona from Leeds United for a bargain price of only £1.2 million. Eric’s impact right from the start was truly dramatic and provided the genius that we needed to make us truly great again. From his signing onwards, United’s form improved dramatically and some fantastic performances were put in that season. The home win against Spurs in January 1993 especially stands out as a truly magnificent team performance. There were a few blips along the way – I remember being at Boundary Park- home of Oldham Athletic- for a night game that we lost, for example, but we were still seen as favourites for the title. However, by far the most dramatic match that we would witness that season would be the 2-1 comeback win over Sheffield Wednesday in April 1993 – we all literally went crazy celebrating that day. That was followed by great away wins at Coventry City and Crystal Palace and a home win over Chelsea, which left us 4 points ahead of our only title rivals Aston Villa, managed by our former boss Ron Atkinson, with 2 games to go.
Due to Sky’s TV scheduling, over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, Villa would play on the Sunday against Oldham Athletic and we would play on the Monday night against Blackburn Rovers. Although Alex Ferguson refused to watch the Villa match on television, preferring to play golf rather than go through the stress, most of the United players and fans chose to watch the match. This turned out to be a brilliant decision – Oldham pulled off a shock victory at Villa Park and it meant United were crowned Champions. I still remember it so well, running round our house cheering and celebrating – I couldn’t believe we’d done it. It was celebration time for all fans the following day at Old Trafford.
As it was a Bank Holiday Monday, fans were able to arrive early at the stadium before the match and celebrate with fellow Reds hours before the match had even started. Arriving at the stadium and walking up to the old forecourt – that feeling will stay with me forever – truly one of incredible celebration and emotion for everyone there. Inside the stadium too, the celebrations and atmosphere were absolutely incredible. The Stretford End had been knocked down and this had clearly affected the atmosphere in the ground at the start of the 1992-93 season, but not for this Blackburn game though. They were the happiest and most jubilant celebrations I’d seen inside the stadium in my time watching United (since then, there have been another 2 matches that rival that night. In 1999 when we beat Spurs to clinch the 1st part of the Treble and in 2008, our victory over Barcelona, as we all celebrated reaching the Champions League Final in Moscow, but they’re articles for another time). All our fans were singing at the top of their voices non-stop. Before the match I also remember a very young Paul Scholes winning a Young Player of the Year Award . The future was looking great as our Youth team had reached a 2nd successive FA Youth Cup Final, with Scholes definitely one of the players who was standing out.
The actual Man Utd vs Blackburn match itself lived up to the occasion too – a great match. We didn’t start well, going 1 down to a Kevin Gallacher goal. United recovered though with Ryan Giggs scoring a great equaliser from a free kick. The atmosphere was rocking in the stadium – non-stop singing. I particularly loved the renditions of ‘Who’s the champions now, scum? Who’s the champions now?’ directed at Leeds United. Half time came and we were level at 1-1. Half time was spent singing loads more songs and more celebrating. The 2nd half started with Bryan Robson coming on as a sub to huge cheers – Captain Marvel had finally got the League Title medal that he completely deserved. During the 2nd half United played some great football and truly deserved to go 2-1 up with a Paul Ince goal. It was a pleasure to watch this – great football and for the first time in a while, no stress. Towards the end of the game, Gary Pallister scored a terrific goal, his 1st of the season, to round off the perfect night.
Once the match finished, it was time for our players to receive the inaugural Premier League trophy. At the time Steve Bruce was the Team Captain, whilst Bryan Robson was Club Captain, so it was a great decision for Bruce and Robson to lift the trophy together. As they lifted that trophy, the cheers from the crowd were literally deafening and 26 years of frustration with no league title had come to an end. The players that night got a unique reward too – instead of League Title medals, they were given miniature Premier League trophies instead, making it even more special. From there, the players returned to the pitch for the group photo with the trophy and then the lap of honour. Credit to our fans for not invading the pitch that night, with only a few exceptions, which meant we could all enjoy the lap of honour. It truly was one of those nights that you never wanted to end. Amazing and the memories of it are still very strong in my mind even today.
Although they have been criticised for the changes they’ve made to the sport, Sky Sports deserved a lot of credit for their coverage of the whole evening. Before going to the match, I had set it to record and the following night, I watched it all back. Their coverage was excellent – they captured what it meant to Manchester United that night. The Sky Studio was in a temporary location in the middle of the almost finished new Stretford End. The guests with Richard Keys in there that night were perfect. Bill Foulkes – a survivor of the 1958 Munich Air Crash, who stayed with the Club to win the 1968 European Cup. With him was a true legend – the original King of the Stretford End Denis Law. The final guest was George Best. What a line up. They all gave a brilliant insight into what it meant to Manchester United that night. I also remember that they all had glasses of champagne to toast United’s success, live on TV – something I’ve never seen happen since. Also captured on TV that night, sat in the crowd was Sir Matt Busby who looked so incredibly proud to be seeing his team back on top again. I’m so grateful that Sir Matt was there to witness that night. He’d done so much for our club and deserved to be a part of the celebrations. I’ve kept that match recording from the night off Sky to this day.
In addition – what turned out to be a brilliant decision was Granada TV commissioning a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary on United’s title run-in. It was called ‘The Captain’s Log’ and was largely filmed by Steve Bruce and friends on his camcorder. It was the perfect time to make this, as it captured loads of great behind the scenes footage including in the dressing room before, at half time and at full time at several matches, including Fergie’s team talks. It also showed the players in training, travelling to away games and with Ryan Giggs and Lee Sharpe showing what they did on their days off. One of the highlights of this is the footage of the entire United squad getting drunk at Steve Bruce’s house, the night before the Blackburn match, as they celebrated the title win. I’ve kept my video recording of that too – great to look back on.
In the following seasons, United would go on to have incredible success, but for me, season 1992-93 was the real turning point for the club under Alex Ferguson. In 1991-92 the club had gone close but fell at the last hurdle, but in 1992-93 they achieved their goal of winning the League again, which paved the way for what was to follow.
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