There was a foretaste of history when teams were drawn out of the hat to play the Fifth Round of the 1991-2 Football League Cup.
For picking the balls from the famous cloth bag was none other than future US president Donald Trump!
The event took place at Trump Tower in New York City as TV pundits Jimmy Greaves and Ian St John (Saint and Greavsie) were in the USA to cover the 1994 FIFA World Cup draw.
Greavsie joked that he hadn’t been anywhere so posh since he’d been inside Doug Ellis’s boardroom at Aston Villa!
Trump didn’t do the Red Devils any favours as he drew them away against arch-rivals Leeds United. Saint told him: ‘You don’t know what you’ve done!’
The Red Devils were vying with Leeds for the First Division title, so the League Cup tie had real bite to it.
As it turned out, Alex Ferguson’s team made short work of their Yorkshire opposition, beating them 3-1 with goals from Clayton Blackmore, Andrei Kanchelskis and Ryan Giggs.
Giggs had only broken into the side the previous season when he made two appearances for the Red Devils. He was now emerging as one of the most exciting wingers in the country and it was no surprise when he won PFA Young Player of the Year Award.
Other newcomers included Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and England right back Paul Parker. Soviet international winger Kanchelskis had joined from Shakhtar Donetsk in 1991.
The League Cup itself, first played in the 1960-61 season, was starting to gain recognition in its own right after being viewed as something of a poor relation to the league championship and FA Cup.
It was launched by the Football League as a response to the popularity of European soccer and to give the league some clout and bargaining power against the Football Association.
In addition, floodlights were being installed at a growing number of clubs enabling more mid-week evening ties to be played.
Up to 1992, United had never won the League Cup; in fact, like other major clubs, they didn’t even participate until the late 1960s. So the 1991-2 season would be breaking new ground.
To reach the Fifth Round, United had disposed of Cambridge United, Portsmouth and neighbours Oldham Athletic 2-0 in the Fourth Round. The scorers were Kanchelskis and Brian McClair.
After Leeds, Middlesbrough awaited in the two-leg semi-final, with the first match taking place at Ayresome Park on March 4th. The result was a 0-0 draw.
United were 2-1 victors in the return leg at Old Trafford on March 11th with goals from Giggs and Lee Sharpe.
The Red Devils were heading for Wembley for their third final and the chance to win the trophy for the first time.
Standing in their way were Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest who were contesting their sixth final in 15 years. They’d beaten Tottenham 3-2 on aggregate in their semi-final.
The final on April 12th, watched by a crowd of 76,810, proved to be a closely-fought encounter settled by a single goal from McClair in the 14th minute.
It resulted from a run by Giggs who drew defenders away before slipping the ball to McClair. He dribbled into the penalty area before shooting left-footed past Forest goalkeeper Andy Marriott.
Forest put up a dogged fight, not least from their combative young midfielder Roy Keane – later to become one of United’s greatest ever players.
The Red Devils never looked back after securing their first League Cup. They’ve gone on to win the trophy another four times since then, most recently in 2017.
The current holders, of course, are Manchester City who’ve lifted the cup on no fewer than seven occasions – one less than eight-time winners Liverpool.
Bolton Wanderers have made the final twice – in 1995 and 2004. The first time round they lost 2-1 to Liverpool and were defeated by the same score by Middlesbrough at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in 2004.
Oldham Athletic battled through to the League Cup Final in 1990, losing 1-0 to Nottingham Forest. Joe Royle and his team received a heroes’ welcome when they returned to Oldham.
Finally, Rochdale reached the League Cup Final in 1962, playing Norwich City over two legs. They were beaten 3-0 in the first leg at Spotland, but fared better in the second only going down 1-0.
*More footballing legends from the North West are recalled in Clive Hardy’s three Around Manchester books covering the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Each book is packed with around 300 past images of Manchester along with fascinating insights and commentary from the author.
Just go to our online shop to place your order or telephone the order hotline on 01928 503777.