The 1973–74 season was Manchester United‘s 71st season in the Football League, and their 29th consecutive season in the top division of English football.
It was the first full season in charge for managerTommy Docherty, who had been appointed the previous December following the dismissal of Frank O’Farrell.
Denis Law left on a free transfer during the close season to sign for Manchester City, which sparked some protests among fans. George Best came out of retirement once more to sign with the team for the 1973–74 season.
United were again caught in a relegation battle and entered the penultimate game of the season needing to win two games and for Birmingham City to lose in order to stay in the First Division. Birmingham won their game and Denis Law, playing for City against United, sealed United’s fate with the only goal of the game, although Birmingham’s victory meant that United would have been relegated regardless of their own result. Manchester United were relegated to the Second Division after 36 years away.
By the time the season was over, George Best had finally walked out of United for good, playing his last game on New Year’s Day 1974, although he did not actually leave the club until the following season when he was finally given a free transfer and signed for Stockport County.
While the club’s start to the season had already been unimpressive, their ultimate downfall proved to be a dreadful run where the club won just twice in five months. Despite this they managed an impressive late season run which left the Old Trafford faithful believing that a miracle survival act could be pulled off. Unfortunately though, United stumbled as the season drew to an end, losing their last three games (all three of which would have needed to be won in order to attain survival) with the death blow being struck by bitter rivals Manchester City in the penultimate match of the season.
At the end of the season, United finished in the 21st place in the league and were relegated to the Second Division. In spite of their relegation, the club’s directors decided not to sack Docherty, placing their confidence in him to restore their First Division status at the first attempt.
Bright spots from the season were the emergence of Brian Greenhoff and also Martin Buchan developing into a fine centre half.
|Date||Opponents||H / A||Result
F – A
|25 August 1973||Arsenal||A||0 – 3||51,501|
|29 August 1973||Stoke City||H||1 – 0||James||43,614|
|1 September 1973||Queens Park Rangers||H||2 – 1||Holton, McIlroy||44,156|
|5 September 1973||Leicester City||A||0 – 1||29,152|
|8 September 1973||Ipswich Town||A||1 – 2||Anderson||22,023|
|12 September 1973||Leicester City||H||1 – 2||Stepney||40,793|
|15 September 1973||West Ham United||H||3 – 1||Kidd (2), Storey-Moore||44,757|
|22 September 1973||Leeds United||A||0 – 0||47,058|
|29 September 1973||Liverpool||H||0 – 0||53,882|
|6 October 1973||Wolverhampton Wanderers||A||1 – 2||McIlroy||32,962|
|13 October 1973||Derby County||H||0 – 1||43,724|
|20 October 1973||Birmingham City||H||1 – 0||Stepney||48,937|
|27 October 1973||Burnley||A||0 – 0||31,976|
|3 November 1973||Chelsea||H||2 – 2||Greenhoff, Young||48,036|
|10 November 1973||Tottenham Hotspur||A||1 – 2||Best||42,756|
|17 November 1973||Newcastle United||A||2 – 3||Graham, Macari||41,768|
|24 November 1973||Norwich City||H||0 – 0||36,338|
|8 December 1973||Southampton||H||0 – 0||31,648|
|15 December 1973||Coventry City||H||2 – 3||Best, Morgan||28,589|
|22 December 1973||Liverpool||A||0 – 2||40,420|
|26 December 1973||Sheffield United||H||1 – 2||Macari||38,653|
|29 December 1973||Ipswich Town||H||2 – 0||Macari, McIlroy||36,365|
|1 January 1974||Queens Park Rangers||A||0 – 3||32,339|
|12 January 1974||West Ham United||A||1 – 2||McIlroy||34,147|
|19 January 1974||Arsenal||H||1 – 1||James||38,589|
|2 February 1974||Coventry City||A||0 – 1||25,313|
|9 February 1974||Leeds United||H||0 – 2||60,025|
|16 February 1974||Derby County||A||2 – 2||Greenhoff, Houston||29,987|
|23 February 1974||Wolverhampton Wanderers||H||0 – 0||39,260|
|2 March 1974||Sheffield United||A||1 – 0||Macari||29,203|
|13 March 1974||Manchester City||A||0 – 0||51,331|
|16 March 1974||Birmingham City||A||0 – 1||37,768|
|23 March 1974||Tottenham Hotspur||H||0 – 1||36,278|
|30 March 1974||Chelsea||A||3 – 1||Daly, McIlroy, Morgan||29,602|
|3 April 1974||Burnley||H||3 – 3||Forsyth, Holton, McIlroy||33,336|
|6 April 1974||Norwich City||A||2 – 0||Greenhoff, Macari||28,223|
|13 April 1974||Newcastle United||H||1 – 0||McCalliog||44,751|
|15 April 1974||Everton||H||3 – 0||McCalliog (2), Houston||48,424|
|20 April 1974||Southampton||A||1 – 1||McCalliog||30,789|
|23 April 1974||Everton||A||0 – 1||46,093|
|27 April 1974||Manchester City||H||0 – 1||56,996|
|29 April 1974||Stoke City||A||0 – 1||27,392|
Pld = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; GAvg = Goal average; Pts= Points
|Date||Round||Opponents||H / A||Result
F – A
|5 January 1974||Round 3||Plymouth Argyle||H||1 – 0||Macari||31,810|
|26 January 1974||Round 4||Ipswich Town||H||0 – 1||37,177|
|Date||Round||Opponents||H / A||Result
F – A
|8 October 1973||Round 2||Middlesbrough||H||0 – 1||23,906|