When the 1991/92 season started Manchester United had ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides for their juniors. The ‘A’ side started with a 5-0 defeat against Tranmere Rovers ‘A’ which gave no sign of what glories lay ahead. When they played Bolton Wanderers at The Cliff the week after, the first signs began to appear as a 4-1 victory was achieved with a side which included Nicky Butt and the slightly older Lee Sharpe with Robbie Savage coming on as a sub.
The ‘B’ side had a comfortable 5-0 victory with such as Chris Casper, David Beckham and Paul Scholes playing. A lad who had already soared the heights, Ryan Giggs, was coming off the bench for the first team as they drew 1-1 at Old Trafford against Leeds United. At the end of the season, the FA Youth Cup would be returning to Old Trafford…
By the end of September, Gary Neville, Keith Gillespie and Ben Thornley were all regulars in the ‘B’ team, whilst the ‘A’ team had got over their ropey start and scored 21 goals against conceded 4 over the next five matches, all won.
Having got a bye in the first round, the FA Youth Cup brought a tricky visit to the North East to play Sunderland at Roker Park. Gary Neville and Nicky Butt were in the starting eleven with David Beckham on the bench. Paul Scholes did not even make the bench as he continued to grow. The reports which came through after a 4-2 victory, leading 4-1 after half an hour, were glowing.”It is many a long year since a Manchester United youth team displayed such beautiful football” was just one of them. To show the difficulties with youngsters as they grow up, the next round against Walsall at Old Trafford turned out to be a tight 2-1 victory, with Coach Eric Harrison even having to send on Ryan Giggs, then a first team regular, to ensure victory.
In November 1991 the regulars who went to The Cliff had a mighty surprise as four first team regulars, Bryan Robson, Mal Donaghy, Mike Phelan and Lee Sharpe were all given a run after injury in the ‘A’ team against Oldham Athletic alongside Neville and Scholes, with Scholes and Robson getting on the score sheet in a 3-1 victory. The ‘B’ side were clear at the top of their league as news came through that a visit to Maine Road to play local rivals City was the outcome of the FA Cup draw.
That the match was eventually played on Thursday 6th February 1992, 34 years after the Munich air disaster, was a very emotional moment. The new Class of 92 playing on the same day, and date, that the passing of the Busby Babes occurred. A great display, similar to the one at Sunderland, saw United win 3-1 with two goals from Ben Thornley who really was a talent to behold on the left wing. Neville, Gillespie, Butt and Savage also all played with Beckham coming on as a sub. This victory brought a quick turnaround as Tranmere visited Old Trafford the week after in the next round, with Ryan Giggs drafted in at number 10 for the start. Remember, Tranmere had beat the ‘A’. team 5-0 on the opening day of the season. This proved an inspired move as he scored both the goals in a 2-0 victory.
A two legged semi final against Tottenham Hotspur followed, and I remember going to Old Trafford for the 2pm Saturday kick off, with Giggs absolutely tearing Sol Campbell apart (there is a song there somewhere!) United won 3-0 against a strong Spurs side who also included Nick Barmby. Such was the way United won this tie, Giggs was felt not needed for the second leg which Únited still won 2-1 with Neville, Gillespie, Butt, Beckham Thornley and Savage all in the side.
Crystal Palace provided the opposition for the first leg of the final at Selhurst Park with the following side representing United; KEVIN PILKINGTON, JOHN O’KANE, GEORGE SWITZER, CHRIS CASPER, GARY NEVILLE (capt), DAVID BECKHAM, NICKY BUTT, SIMON DAVIES, COLIN McKEE, ROBBIE SAVAGE and BEN THORNLEY in a 4-4-2 formation.
[su_box title=”Fergie’s Fledglings” style=”noise” box_color=”#cda33c” title_color=”#29322a”]Kevin Pilkington, Chris Casper and Ben Thornley feature in the book ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’, described as ‘essential’ by the Guardian, ‘a significant piece of writing’ Amazon[/su_box]
Nicky Butt (2) and Beckham got the goals in a comfortable 3-1 victory which set up the second leg at Old Trafford. Ryan Giggs came in for Savage who along with Keith Gillespie was on the substitute’s bench. Palace made a better fist of it but United won 3-2 on the night and 6-3 on aggregate with Giggs stepping up to receive the famous trophy.
Such was the excitement these players produced, I went to a lot of the ties this, and the following season as most of them Giggs excluded, were still available. Even twenty years or so later, I have to say that one player over the two seasons who always impressed me was left back George Switzer. Perhaps it was because he is a Salford lad like me, but he always stood out with his commitment, energy, and passion, everything you want to see in a player. Sadly, George was one who did not make it although he did play for Salford City FC, the club the Class of 92 has just bought!
The 1992/93 version of Manchester United’s youth side again got to the final, only this time they very surprisingly lost both legs to Leeds United. Neville, Gillespie, Butt, Beckham, Scholes and Savage were regulars, with Scholes in particular really starting to impress the Old Trafford faithful. Gary’s brother, Phil, appeared in the second leg of the final.
So, that was the Class of 92. By that year, the Premier League commenced and Manchester United finally won the title, going on with the help of such as Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville to win titles, cups and the magic treble in 1999. I still remember George Switzer as well…