Down Memory Lane: Whiteside wonder goal capped Manchester United’s epic Cup comeback
Manchester United and Arsenal clash today in the FA Cup, recalling many memories for old-timers of epic battles between these giants of British football.
The late Seventies saw United reach three finals in four years, losing to Southampton in 1976, beating Liverpool in 1977 and then being beaten by Arsenal in 1979. After being |2-0 down, they came back to score twice in five minutes, but Arsenal snatched victory with virtually the last kick of the ball.
A thriller, yes, but perhaps the United-Arsenal semi-final at Villa Park in 1983 surpassed them all. The rivalry was intense. Against the run of play, Arsenal took the lead with goalkeeper Gary Bailey spilling Tony Woodcock’s shot.
Although United took command, Arsenal’s lead remained intact until half-time.
Northern Ireland striker Norman Whiteside, an integral member of the United side, then managed by Ron Atkinson, takes up the story in his autobiography ‘Determined’.
“Our equaliser after 50 minutes was a perfect example of Bryan Robson’s leadership. He had that uncanny way of stamping his mark on a game when the team most needed it.
“He had no right to score that afternoon but he strained everything to force his body past Brian Talbot and win what to most eyes was a 20-80 challenge. Chesting the ball down, he somehow hooked it into the far corner, the ball bouncing into the goal Dambuster fashion.”
It was Whiteside who, as happened on so many occasions during his career at Old Trafford, hit the winner 15 minutes later.
“It was, I think, a result of the fact I was so awkward, all arms and elbows, and David O’Leary, like Liverpool’s Alan Hansen, was lean, elegant and not at all the traditional stopper with bruiser tendencies.
“Whenever I played against either of them, I let them know I was there and, although both were excellent players, I never got the impression they were up for a scruffy physical battle.”
One of United’s set pieces broke down and the ball dropped for Ashley Grimes on the touchline who floated a pass for Whiteside to score with a half volley.
A cameraman captured the drama and the beauty of the goal as Whiteside stood in the left corner of the penalty area and Arsenal keeper George Wood, leaping backwards with his left arm stretched to the full extent as the ball hit the netting. It won the Sports Photographer of the Year award.
Whiteside also reveals in his autobiography that in the dressing-room they threw assistant manager Mick Brown into the bath and struck the already stitched-up Kevin Moran on the head as he flew through the air. The luckless Moran required further treatment!
United defeated Brighton and Hove Albion 4-0 in the final after a 2-2 draw at Wembley. Two years later United triumphed 1-0 over Everton at the Twin Towers, Moran becoming the first player to be ordered off in an FA Cup final. Wembley way: Norman Whiteside (back row, far right) and Manchester United celebrate their FA Cup Final victory in 1983.
FA Cup semi-final, April 16, 1983
Manchester United 2 Arsenal 1 (at Villa Park, Birmingham)
Manchester United: Bailey, Duxbury, Albiston, Moses, Moran (McGrath), McQueen, B Robson, Wilkins, Stapleton, Whiteside, Grimes.
Arsenal: Woods, S Robson (Chapman), Sansom, Whyte, O’Leary, Hollins, Talbot, Davis, Petrovic, Woodcock, Rix.
Referee: Kenneth Hackett.
Scorers: United: Robson, Whiteside. Arsenal: Woodcock.
l Determined: Norman Whiteside, The Autobiography, Headline Publishing, £12.99