By Roy Cavanagh
The cries of ‘Wemberlee, Wemberlee, we’re the famous Man United and we’re going to Wemberlee!’ and ‘She wore a yellow ribbon’ echoed all around wherever Manchester United played in 1976. Tommy Docherty’s very bright young side recalled glory days of 20 years before to many supporters as they made their way to Wembley Stadium on a glorious cup run. Docherty had even survived the unthinkable realisation of relegation to come back stronger, with a vibrant youthful side full of new heroes.
I was now married, had couple of lads and was a season ticket holder in K Stand. What more could a bloke want? I was still able to be at all the home matches and away matches whenever I could because this was a very exciting side to watch.
We had two wingers in Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill, a goal scoring centre forward in Stuart Pearson, quick midfielders in Lou Macari and Sammy McIlroy who could play, and score, a decent defence led by the brilliant captain Martin Buchan and a fine goalkeeper in Alex Stepney. Indeed, there was a real chance of United going the whole way and doing the double just as the Busby Babes had done twenty years before. The league went away very late in the season as we had no real squad rotation then so were playing virtually the same side every week but the FA Cup was there for the taking surely against Second Division Southampton?
Early comfortable home victories against lower league sides in Oxford United and Peterborough United, both at Old Trafford, were followed by a difficult away tie at Leicester City. I really fancied United to win the cup and put my money where my mouth was, down went a fiver at 8/1 to win the cup. Leicester had decent players including Frank Worthington and it was a great match. United were 2-0 up and looking comfortable, then a massive comeback from Leicester made virtually all the second half one way traffic towards United’s goal. They only scored once however and it seemed nothing could stop the red wave and we were all going barmy in the away end.
Wolverhampton Wanderers at home seemed a perfect tie but in the end United struggled to get the winner and had to go to Molineux for a replay. That turned out to be one of the great United comebacks, 2-0 down to win 3-2. I could not make the mid week game, so I listened to it on the radio (no Sky Sports in those days, kids). The draw had already been made and the winners were to play high flying Derby County at Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday.
If I thought Reds had gone mad at Leicester, this semi was unbelievable. One of the great cup ties, with United fans all over the stadium it seemed to see Hill scoring two brilliant goals. The drive home was memorable and the knowledge we would be playing Southampton at Wembley seemed to have settled the destiny of the cup to Old Trafford for all Reds.
Driving down with a couple of mates, there was no way United could lose. I was so confident with my 8/1 bet seemingly in the pocket that I didn’t even lay it off, despite Southampton being 6/1 on the day.
Sadly, United just did not turn up. Tommy Doc’s bright, buzzing young side just froze. Whilst the only goal scored late on by Southampton was offside or not is still discussed but in truth, United didn’t do enough to win.
Tommy Doc made all the right noises to the fans by saying we would be back the next year but that seemed a long way off as we trudged home miserable that Saturday night. Little did we know what was coming next year.
Next up in our FA Cup final series in 1976/7. Manchester United vs Liverpool. Let the battle commence.