In 1983, Manchester United headed to Wembley to face Brighton as heavy favourites as it was Brighton’s first ever FA Cup final in a season they were relegated from the First Division and we finished third.
With the likes of Norman Whiteside and Bryan Robson in the squad, we certainly had the quality to win as well and secure our third FA Cup since 1956/7 when we began this series.
The final ended in a 2-2 draw which forced a replay at Wembley that happened only five days later and United ran riot in that game with a convincing 4-0 win. Happy days.
We spoke to a few reds who were at the game including Barney Chilton, editor of United fanzine Red News, who gave us a wider recollection of his FA Cup memories leading up to the 1982/3 game against Brighton.
He said: “I think Reds of a certain vintage have a high regard for the FA Cup and rightly so.
“We know it wasn’t United who de-valued it with the farce of the 2000 pull-out, having the semi-finals at Wembley and daft kick-off times. Its importance in the world of a top four place eyed with more financial scrutiny has been skewed just a few decades on from when the cup final was the prized finale of the season; cameras on team buses, all day coverage (all good until Jimmy Tarbuck turned up) and the happy jigs with the top of the cup for the winning team.
“In darker times for this team of ours we clung to the victories of 1977, 1983 and 1985, hoping for better, dreaming of better after 1990 and that we got. And then some.
“Whilst we demand better again now we shouldn’t cloud our enjoyment of an all too rare appearance for a trophy that did matter, should matter, and hopefully will be the kick-start for this young squad, whatever the managerial question marks, to go on and eye bigger trophies.
“As we know, United is much more than the 90 minutes and yet it’s history runs parallel with your lives. You remember events and occasions around match-days and seasons and the FA Cup provides an entertaining reflection on my life so far.
“I was lucky enough to get to United games when I was 5 in 1976, in the struggle for final tickets that mirrors today. I saw my Mum and brother head off for the finals of 1976, 1977 and 1979 and jealously dreamt when it could be my turn.
“Watching events unfold on the TV I lapped up every single moment; daft suits and huge collars as the United players arrived, gave the pitch the once over and then were caught out by an offside decision against Southampton, fulfilling Tommy Doc’s pledge on the balcony of Albert Square to 1000s of Reds still celebrating the achievement as he promised to win it the next year. That we did, sending those lucky enough to be there to a great place as we stopped Liverpool’s treble.
“In 1979 it was heartache. Such a strange, compelling game all bottled up in its finale. So near yet so far. I had a United flag draped over me all day, and cried. This was hell. Summer ruined. Well, a good few days of sulking followed.
“And then 1983. Finally there, finally at Wembley. As we queued for replay tickets on the Sunday after the first game, the pull of United was obvious as the Brighton end queue was nothing in comparison to Reds around the ground buying tickets on general sale. They were then canny enough to join the smaller queue and get tickets for their mates.
“That was a great night. We could enjoy this one, we sang songs for Sir Matt watching on, ‘Stevie Foster, what a difference you have made’ got a rendition and Robbo was at his brilliant best. Don’t forget Arnie Muhren too – so classy – and Gary Bailey had saved the day and had little to do on this night.”
As well as Barney, we spoke to some other reds who were at the games to hear about their memories from both trips to Wembley.
@United_Webby: “I always remember the first game. Ray Wilkins scored for Manchester United and Gordon Smith missed at the other end at one point but it ended 2-2. The replay brought the return of Steve Foster and we absolutely battered them.
“Young Alan Davies set up Bryan Robson and then big Norman Whiteside made it 2-0 before Robbo bagged a third. 3-0 at half-time, game over. United’s end were singing to Foster “what a difference ou have made” and the singing got to the players.
“Robson then had a chance to finish his hat-trick but he let Arnold Muhren take the penalty. 4-0, game over. Great night, easy win.”
@Olliespaniel: “I remember the Thursday night replay well. I had to go into work on Thursday morning and chatted to my colleagues about the final that. We didn’t have tickets at that time but sat there and thought ‘should we go’? Too right.
“We bought three tickets from a tout at Piccadilly for £27. The game itself was great. There was a conga at half-time as we were 3-0 up and it was the first ever football match for this girl who came with me from work. “Stevie foster what a difference you made!”
Next up in our FA Cup final series in 1984/5. Norman Whiteside. Enough said.