The 1974–75 season was Manchester United’s 72nd season in the Football League, and their first as a Second Division team since 1937–38, following relegation from the First Division at the end of the previous season.
Relegation had been a traumatic affair, with the mass pitch invasion that accompanied the decisive 1–0 home defeat by neighbours City prompting the FA to insist that United erect perimeter fencing around Old Trafford, effectively ‘caging in’ the supporters. There was some uncertainty as to how Docherty’s young team would fare, even at a lower level. In the event they coped admirably, going top after three matches and remaining there for the rest of the season, clinching their return to the top flight with a month of the season still to play. The manager stuck by many of the players who had dropped out of the First Division in ignominious fashion just a few months earlier, with the only new recruit being striker Stuart Pearson, signed from Hull for £200,000. Pearson was an immediate success and ended the season as leading scorer with 17 League goals.
United began with a 2–0 win at Orient, who had narrowly missed out on promotion the previous season, and followed it up with a 4–0 home win over Millwall, with midfielder Gerry Daly completing a hat-trick by converting two penalties in the last five minutes. Daly also scored from the spot in the next two matches, firstly to set United on the way to a 2–1 win over Portsmouth, and then to decide the match at Cardiff inside the first minute.
Two draws followed but United got back on track with three successive wins before losing their unbeaten start at Norwich, United reject Ted MacDougall scoring both goals in the Canaries’ 2–0 win. United then embarked on an unbeaten sequence of five wins and a draw, conceding only one goal in the process. Following a 4–0 thrashing of Oxford (featuring a first half Pearson hat-trick), goalkeeper Alex Stepney had kept 12 clean sheets in 18 matches – a record that represented a marked improvement on recent seasons when United’s biggest weakness was widely perceived to be their defensive brittleness.
Perversely, United conceded 10 goals in their next five matches, including defeats at Bristol City and Hull, and a top-of-the-table clash with Sunderland at Old Trafford in front of a season’s best crowd of 60,585. Pearson gave United an 11th minute lead only for Billy Hughes to respond immediately for the visitors with two goals. Willie Morgan equalised early in the second half and moments later Sammy McIlroy side-footed home to give United a memorable 3–2 victory. The following week, United drew a remarkable match 4–4 at Sheffield Wednesday and lost central defender Jim Holton for the remainder of the season with a broken leg.
As 1974 turned to 1975, United’s results wavered. They were surprisingly knocked out of the FA Cup by Third Division Walsall and then suffered an aggregate defeat to Norwich in the semi-final of the League Cup. League form also dipped as United suffered four defeats in seven matches and lost their unbeaten home record in the process. Docherty responded by splashing out £60,000 on an unknown winger from Tranmere called Steve Coppell. The youngster made his debut as a second-half substitute against Cardiff; shortly after his arrival in the match, Stewart Houston put United in front and they went on to win 4–0.
Thereafter, United regained their poise and remained undefeated in the final 11 matches of the season, clinching promotion with a 1–0 win at Southampton and the Championship with a 2–2 draw at Notts County.
The season has been chronicled in a forthcoming book from United author Wayne Barton, featuring some of the biggest names from that season.
Different variations of the 1974/75 match programmes and the official club newsletter.
|Date||Opponents||H / A||ResultF–A||Scorers||Attendance|
|17 August 1974||Orient||A||2–0||Morgan, Houston||17,772|
|24 August 1974||Millwall||H||4–0||Daly (3; 2 pens), Pearson||44,756|
|28 August 1974||Portsmouth||H||2–1||Daly (pen), McIlroy||42,547|
|31 August 1974||Cardiff City||A||1–0||Daly (pen)||22,344|
|7 September 1974||Nottingham Forest||H||2–2||Greenhoff, McIlroy||40,671|
|14 September 1974||West Bromwich Albion||A||1–1||Pearson||28,666|
|16 September 1974||Millwall||A||1–0||Daly (pen)||16,988|
|21 September 1974||Bristol Rovers||H||2–0||Greenhoff, Prince (o.g.)||42,948|
|25 September 1974||Bolton Wanderers||H||3–0||Macari, Houston, McAllister (o.g.)||47,084|
|28 September 1974||Norwich City||A||0–2||24,586|
|5 October 1974||Fulham||A||2–1||Pearson (2)||25,513|
|12 October 1974||Notts County||H||1–0||McIlroy||46,565|
|15 October 1974||Portsmouth||A||0–0||25,608|
|19 October 1974||Blackpool||A||3–0||Forsyth, Macari, McCalliog||25,370|
|26 October 1974||Southampton||H||1–0||Pearson||48,724|
|2 November 1974||Oxford United||H||4–0||Pearson (3), Macari||41,909|
|9 November 1974||Bristol City||A||0–1||28,104|
|16 November 1974||Aston Villa||H||2–1||Daly (2; 1 pen)||55,615|
|23 November 1974||Hull City||A||0–2||23,287|
|30 November 1974||Sunderland||H||3–2||Pearson, Morgan, McIlroy||60,585|
|7 December 1974||Sheffield Wednesday||A||4–4||Houston, Macari (2), Pearson||35,230|
|14 December 1974||Orient||H||0–0||41,200|
|21 December 1974||York City||A||1–0||Pearson||15,314|
|26 December 1974||West Bromwich Albion||H||2–1||McIlroy, Daly (pen)||51,104|
|28 December 1974||Oldham Athletic||A||0–1||26,356|
|11 January 1975||Sheffield Wednesday||H||2–0||McCalliog (2; 1 pen)||45,662|
|18 January 1975||Sunderland||A||0–0||45,976|
|1 February 1975||Bristol City||H||0–1||47,118|
|8 February 1975||Oxford United||A||0–1||15,959|
|15 February 1975||Hull City||H||2–0||Houston, Pearson||44,712|
|22 February 1975||Aston Villa||A||0–2||40,353|
|1 March 1975||Cardiff City||H||4–0||Houston, Pearson, McIlroy, Macari||43,601|
|8 March 1975||Bolton Wanderers||A||1–0||Pearson||38,152|
|15 March 1975||Norwich City||H||1–1||Pearson||56,202|
|22 March 1975||Nottingham Forest||A||1–0||Daly||21,893|
|28 March 1975||Bristol Rovers||A||1–1||Macari||19,337|
|29 March 1975||York City||H||2–1||Morgan, Macari||46,802|
|31 March 1975||Oldham Athletic||H||3–2||McIlroy, Macari, Coppell||56,618|
|5 April 1975||Southampton||A||1–0||Macari||21,866|
|12 April 1975||Fulham||H||1–0||Daly||52,971|
|19 April 1975||Notts County||A||2–2||Houston, Greenhoff||17,832|
|26 April 1975||Blackpool||H||4–0||Pearson (2), Macari, Greenhoff||58,769|
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||ResultF–A||Scorers||Attendance|
|4 January 1975||Round 3||Walsall||H||0–0||43,353|
|7 January 1975||Round 3Replay||Walsall||A||2–3 (aet)||Daly (pen), McIlroy||18,105|
|Date||Round||Opponents||H / A||ResultF–A||Scorers||Attendance|
|11 September 1974||Round 2||Charlton Athletic||H||5–1||Macari (2), McIlroy, Houston, Bowman (o.g.)||21,616|
|9 October 1974||Round 3||Manchester City||H||1–0||Daly (pen)||55,159|
|13 November 1974||Round 4||Burnley||H||3–2||Macari (2), Morgan||46,275|
|4 December 1974||Round 5||Middlesbrough||A||0–0||36,005|
|18 December 1974||Round 5Replay||Middlesbrough||H||3–0||Pearson, McIlroy, Macari||49,501|
|15 January 1975||Semi-FinalFirst leg||Norwich City||H||2–2||Macari (2)||58,010|
|22 January 1975||Semi-FinalSecond leg||Norwich City||A||0–1||31,621|