By Roy Cavanagh
Having been only ten months old in 1948, and not able to go to the 1957 and 1958 finals (although I saw them live on television) the 1963 FA Cup Final gave me my first real opportunity of going to Wembley Stadium to watch Manchester United live in an FA Cup final. I had actually gone to every home match that 1962/3 season and lots of away games during a winter which went down, and still is, the worst of all winters.
Snow and ice and biting cold covered England from around Boxing Day until March. So much so, the FA Cup Third Round tie with Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford, due to be played on 1 January, was actually played on Monday March 4th under floodlights. Indeed by 30 March, Manchester United had played the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth round ties. Three of those games were at Old Trafford; Huddersfield were beaten 5-0 thanks to a Denis Law hat-trick, Aston Villa 1-0 the following Monday night and then Chelsea 2-1 the following Saturday. Tommy Docherty was the Chelsea manager that day and he will figure in these FA Cup Final stories a bit later from his time as United manager.
For the Sixth round, United were drawn away to lower league Coventry City who were managed by Jimmy Hill and went about staging the game big style. Unfortunately for them it absolutely threw it down as a packed crowd were entertained before the match by Ken Dodd, most of them though forgot the rain as Coventry went 1-0 up.
United were having a really strange season, struggling in the league but playing well in the cup. This was the first season for Denis Law and he had been joined by fellow Scotsman Pat Crerand in February, whilst such fine players as Harry Gregg, Noel Cantwell, Billy Foulkes, Bobby Charlton, David Herd and Albert Quixall were also in the team. It was Quixall and Charlton who turned this tie around as United went on to win 3-1 and earn a second consecutive semi-final spot, having lost to Tottenham the year before.
The semi final was to be against Second Division Southampton at Villa Park with a full house of 70,000. Using all my tokens I got myself a standing ticket in the open Holte End and saw a single goal from Law win the match. I remember going by a Fieldsend coach from Salford and being passed by the team on the way back.
I was going to be off to Wembley for a final!
My tokens ensured I got a ticket and I went with the local newsagent on a special train to Wembley. The stadium had been given a new look with covering all round it for the first time on what was a very hot day stood under this new roof.
Leicester City were the opponents and were probably having their best ever season, in with a real chance of the double. By the time the final arrived they had lost the league to Everton but were favourites to win the cup over a United side who, in the end, narrowly avoided relegation.
Indeed, when the sides met over the Easter holidays I remember going to Leicester and getting locked out as United lost 4-3 which put them close to the drop and Leicester close to the title.
On the day of the final though, United played fantastic football with Law and Crerand in particularly outstanding form as they eased out 3-1 winners. Watching the side running round the ground with the cup was a very special day for many, remembering that it was only five years since the Munich disaster had nearly wiped out the whole club.
Happy times were back, and Manchester United would be, again, playing European football the following season.
Next up in our FA Cup final series in 1975/6 where Manchester United came up against Southampton in our first final in 13 years.