Retrospective

Because I've seen the future and it's rubbish.

RETROSPECTIVE is a nostalgic series set up to celebrate Manchester United’s great past; discussing the smaller – and sometimes bigger – things that cumulatively add (or negate) to the club’s illustrious history. The aim is to look at a particular thing – in article and/or anecdote form – (for example, a significant or overlooked event, a cherished player, a tactical innovation etc) in more detail than you’d find elsewhere …

#1: Alan Smith and his struggles as a Keane replacement (2004-07) by ManUtd24

“For those whose potential is never fulfilled, the riches never compensate for the lingering disappointment …”

#2: The beautiful goal with an ugly beginning (1998) by ManUtd24

“It’s often forgotten that this most beautiful of goals originated from the most ugliest of tackles …”

#3: The making of Darren Fletcher (2005) by Abir Ahmed

“Few realised at the time the sheer significance of Fletcher’s goal on his career …”

#4: Manchester United’s tactics in 1967 (1967) by Tony Park

“The description of George Best ‘fetching and carrying, covering in defence’ was in complete contradiction to the George Best legend …”

#5: Cantona’s moment of ‘sheer madness’ (1995) by Patrick Campbell

“It was a chaotic, tumultuous and dramatic scene, but one which was so quintessentially Cantona – the perfect representation of a bloody minded, brooding and temperamental man who refused to do things by halves …”

#6: Juan Sebastian Verón – The would-be hero (2001-03) by Kevin Levingston

“Unfortunately, it was circumstance, not a lack of quality that ultimately decided Veron’s fate …”

#7: Race for the title – Leeds United and Manchester United 1991/92 (1991-92) by Mike Brunt

“Refreshingly for the neutral, neither team had the so-called nous and experience to call upon from previous title challenges, and it thus culminated into a fascinating story of bravery, belief and even a calamitous own goal …”

#8: The Forgotten Men of ‘99 (1998-99) by Tom Pattison

“The defence may have lacked the illustrious names of the midfield quartet but there should be no underestimation of the fundamental role played by the eight unglamorous names who made the unthinkable a reality …”

#9: The moment that birthed the modern Manchester United (1999) by Vishwanath Kaushik

“A genuine sense of destiny seemed to have been instilled into the Old Trafford faithful and the players that day. That anything was possible .. Look where we are now …”

#10: The week that destroyed a season (2010) by David Yaffe-Bellany

“Defeat reminds us of what it means to lose. It helps us cherish the moments that we enjoy now, inculcating an appreciation that some have lost. To be perennial winners is a fleeting privilege. We must enjoy it while it lasts …”

#11: The joy of Ruud van Nistelrooy (2001-06) by Mohamed Moallim

“It was the majesty and the way he carried himself, the fine strikes, the elegant finishing and sheer ruthlessness. He was: ‘Ruthless Ruud’ after all …”

#12: The joy of David Beckham (1993-2003) by ManUtd24

“However, there is no doubt that for a celebrity, he was pretty darn good at football …”

#13: Alex Ferguson in 1986 – his vision for the club (1986) by ManUtd24

“Indeed, once they had found that direction, Manchester United under Alex Ferguson have never looked back …”

#14: Was the ’93/94 team Fergie’s best ever? (1993-94) by Anthony Seeman

“All of Sir Alex’s sides following this one have been built with the same anatomy in mind. He may have difficulties naming his best 11 over the past 25 years, but deep down in his heart of hearts, he’ll know that this was his best side …”

#15: The Ultimate Rivalry: Manchester United and Arsenal 1997-2005 (1997-2005) by Alistair Walker

“In order to be classified as a great sporting rivalry the protagonists must move beyond the feudalistic; the edge and the aggro, and be ultimately characterised by supreme competition and a bountiful supply of dramatic and heart-stopping moments …”

#16: The wonderful Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke duopoly (1998-2001) by Jude Ellery

“They worked for each other, they played for each other, they summed up the Old Trafford ethos of teamwork and co-operation …”

#17: Roy Keane’s departure – ‘I’m sorry, son. He’s gone’ (2005) by Tom Pattison

“[Flicking through an Afrikaans newspaper ...] came two pictures of familiar faces that grabbed my attention. The only words I could discern from the headline was KEANE FERGUSON MANCHESTER. My heart started to race; what the bloody hell could it all mean?”

#18: Edwin van der Sar becomes ‘King of the Nil’ (2008-09) by David Yaffe-Bellany

“The Geordies behind the goal began chanting “dodgy keeper, dodgy keeper.” The humor, however, failed to ruffle van der Sar …”

#19: Tommy Docherty – the man who defied Busby (1972-77) by Vishwanath Kaushik

“It felt as though Busby wanted every appointed manager to understand that they owed a duty to United – to keep the club reputable first, successful second. And that’s exactly what Docherty didn’t understand and it cost him …”

#20: Peter Schmeichel scores in vain in United’s last UEFA Cup game (1995) by ManUtd24

“Nothing about this tie against Russian outfit Rotor Volgograd screamed ‘Manchester United’ — obdurate one minute, careless the next and just utterly random throughout …”

#21: Roy Keane takes on Juventus (1999) by Surge B

“Keane was a winner, a force of nature, a rabid, iron-clad wolverine … a man who, if he had lived in ancient Sparta, would have been the subject of a best-selling graphic novel and blockbuster movie called ’1′ …”

#22: The day Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gained hero status (1996-98) by Shaun Birch

“He made Manchester United’s faltering title bid his only priority, allowing them to escape with a point. For me, it was the day the legend was born.”

#23: The joy of Gary Neville (1992-2011) by ManUtd24

“The joy of Neville might have been born from something else away from the football; perhaps his antics that make him the lovable little scrote we know him for. And, goodness, here was a man that could make football fans – particularly Liverpool and Manchester City supporters – united in joyous hate. Fantastic.”

#24: Fergie’s Fledglings take flight against Galatasaray (1994) by ManUtd24

“With the power of hindsight, the club and its fans could point to a particular European night as the starting point for the new success that would continue through the ’90s and beyond.”

#25: The joy of Denis Irwin (1990-2002) by Greg Johnson

“Purchased from Oldham in 1990, the Irishman stayed at United for twelve years – an exceptional return for the outlay, especially considering the size and consistency of the club’s trophy haul during his years of service. No wonder Sir Alex believes the full-back was his greatest ever signing.”

Coming soon…

  • Heh!

1. This is a collective project: reader submissions are required. Click here to find out more. 2. We’ll no longer be accepting pieces set around 2004 onwards.

Editor’s note: What you would find, as if it’s any surprise, is a lot of focus on 90s Manchester United. Of course; this was not only the glory decade but one which many grew up supporting the club — the writers, too, at an age not old enough (pardon the generalisation, and in no way is it intended to be offensive to the older audience) where they can share it on the internet — and perhaps, most importantly, the years many felt as attached to the club as they ever have and would be. There are, with it, plenty set in the 00s — again, the reasons why are obvious. The series also features the odd 60s, 70s, 80s stuff; there’ll be more soon, we promise, but it has to be something the writer knows about — and that’s not as easy to find; as it is, all of the above pieces are of a high quality and well-researched, featuring talented writers from the net — and we’ll strive to maintain that. The kind people over at A Football Report have included the Retrospective series in their list of ‘The Best of Football Writing in 2011‘.

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