Manchester United's Old Trafford Centenary: 10 games that define 'Theatre of Dreams'
February 19, 1910: Manchester United 3-4 Liverpool
A diving header by Sandy Turnbull, a 26-year-old Scot who was to die seven years later in the trenches, christened Old Trafford. United had moved from their crumbling Bank Road ground to their new home, one described in the Sporting Chronicle as "the most handsomest, the most spacious and the most remarkable arena. As a football ground it is unrivalled in the world, it is an honour to Manchester and the home of a team who can do wonders when they are so disposed." They were not so disposed that afternoon as a 3-0 lead was squandered against an already familiar foe.
February 19, 1959: Manchester United 3-0 Sheffield Wednesday
"United will go on" said the cover of the matchday programme. Less than two weeks earlier the Munich air disaster (pictured) had ended the lives of eight of the Busby Babes and elsewhere in the programme blank spaces were left where the names of the likes of Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor should have been. Two youth team players, Shay Brennan and Alex Dawson, scored the goals that earned United in the sixth round of the FA Cup. They were to go on to lose to Bolton in the final.
26 April, 1965: Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal
Busby's second great side claimed their first championship on a Monday night. Denis Law scored twice, George Best (pictured) the other and then the waiting began. Leeds, the only team who could halt United, were still playing against Birmingham. At Old Trafford the players waited on the pitch, the crowd waited too, then shortly after 9pm the result came through: 3-3. United were champions.
27 April, 1974: Manchester United 0-1 Manchester City
With an insouciance that marked many of his 171 goals for United, a flick of Denis Law's heel marked one of the lowest points in the history of Old Trafford. It may not, given results elsewhere, have actually relegated United but it provided the most dramatic and painful of full stops to a 36-year stint in the top flight. Law, his career in its declining finale, did not celebrate and was soon substituted.
21 March, 1984: Manchester United 3-0 Barcelona
A dreamy night in a decade of scant success. It holds its place among any of the great European nights at Old Trafford, especially since this was not a vintage United side. Two down from the first leg against a Barcelona side who included Maradona, Bryan Robson produced possibly his best performance in a red shirt. He scored twice and Frank Stapleton the other and those that were there swear the Theatre of Dreams has never been more tumultuous. At the end Robson was chaired from the field by ecstatic supporters.
10 April, 1993: Manchester United 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday
Not since 1967 had United won the league. The year before this game they had chucked the title away to Leeds of all teams. But now they were in a different league ? new beginnings, the first ever Premier League campaign. This was the game where time first stood still at Old Trafford on Alex Ferguson's instruction. With four minutes remaining they trailed then Steve Bruce scored, and then with the clock on 96 minutes Bruce scored again ? United went top and went on to win the league. Fergie hasn't looked back, and hasn't stopped looking at his watch either.
23 April, 2003: Manchester United 4-3 Real Madrid
As a one-off this can lay claim to being the single greatest United match Old Trafford has witnessed. That United went out of the Champions League having lost the first leg 3-1 should not detract from the glory of the occasion. Ronaldo, at his absolute peak, scored a thrilling hat-trick and received a gracious standing ovation as he was taken off. David Beckham came off the bench to deliver a pointed message to Ferguson by scoring twice, but it was seeing his manager's furious face when he later watched the game back ? after his free-kick had whistled wide - that convinced Beckham his time at Old Trafford was done.
28 September, 2004: Manchester United 6-2 Fenerbahce
A bullocking teenager took his bow at Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney had missed the first 10 games of the season having been injured during Euro 2004 and appeared desperate to make up for lost time. A right-foot shot, one with the left and then a delightful chipped free-kick ensured the instant birth of a new Old Trafford hero. David Bellion scored too and Eric Djemba-Djemba started to complete the surreal feel to proceedings.
29 April, 2008: Manchester United 1-0 Barcelona
Questions were being asked - were United, under Ferguson, truly a real European force? 1999, Barcelona and all that had become part of folklore and there had been many stumbles in the knock-out stages since. Up stepped Paul Scholes, who had missed out in 99, to strike the only goal to dispatch a Barca side strewn with their usual glittering array of attacking talent. It sent United off to Moscow and soon Europe had turned red again.
20 September, 2009: Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City
This was supposed to be the season that Manchester turned blue. But an ex-Liverpool red ensured the status quo remained. Up popped Michael Owen; that Old Trafford clock once again frozen, the 90 minutes gone and six more as well. Owen pounced on Ryan Giggs's ball in the electric manner of old to snatch back a game Rio Ferdinand's howling error had seemed set to hand to City. Craig Bellamy scored twice to cancel out Darren Fletcher's double after Rooney and Gareth Barry had exchanged early strikes.
Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, has been open for 100 years.
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The ground's place in the folklore of British sport is firmly established, and to celebrate, here we remember ten games that define the 'Theatre of Dreams'.
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