So as the final games of the season finally reached their climax, with Newcastle comfortably winning and Hull already knowing their fate it dawned on me how much of a non-entity United had been on this normally tense, nerve jangling or celebratory day for the club. With nothing to play for other than a highly unlikely seven goal swing, which was quickly extinguished with an early goal from Arsenal’s Theo Walcott for the automatic champions league spot.
The game itself, from United’s point of view was typical of their season, plenty of the ball and a distinct lack of cutting edge. There was obviously more focus on Hull and their plight from the top tier but what felt strange was the lack of interest in United, on the final day, from the media, from the pundits, commentators and fans. United’s season was already over.
United have always been at the epicentre of final day madness, good and bad. Here we remember the good… and the bad.
1995, a dark day in the memory of all United fans. The rules were simple beat West Ham at Upton Park and hope our arch rivals Liverpool could take points off Blackburn Rovers. United went behind and Blackburn took the lead. The situation was bleak until Brian McClair grabbed an equaliser early in the second half, Liverpool had also drawn level. United missed chance after chance and just could not find a breakthrough. Liverpool scored deep into injury time, almost against the will of their fans, to no avail. It was over at West Ham, a dominant United had wasted a glut of chances and handed the title over to Blackburn Rovers.
1999, the year that will never be forgotten. United had 3 games in 10 days to win a treble… or perhaps, nothing at all. Standing in their way of lifting the premiership trophy was arch rivals Arsenal. The final day came and United led by 1 point. Both had home games, Arsenal had to beat Aston Villa and in a twist of irony had to hope their fiercest rivals Tottenham could do them a favour. Arsenal won their game 1-0 and typical of United of this season went behind and had to do it the hard way. Chances came and went, the normally reliable Scholes missing a string of gilt edged chances.. David Beckham whipped an unbelievable shot into the roof of the net and the place erupted. A second half lob from Andy Cole sealed a 2-1 victory and the title on a nervy and spectacular final day.
2012, the darkest final day. United and City head into battle neck a neck with goal difference the only thing that could part them. We had the trickier game it seemed on paper, away to Sunderland. City a straightforward home game against QPR. In what can be described as the greatest climax to a season ever, albeit for the wrong reasons from a United perspective, the highs and lows of football all too evident. United had done the job, a 1-0 win thanks to a Wayne Rooney effort. City were losing 2-1 and we were well into the 90 minutes. Call it destiny or call it fate, CIty went on to win 3-2 and do to us what we had done to Bayern Munich over 10 years earlier. We literally had two hands on the title for it to be cruelly snatched away in the most heartbreaking fashion.
2013, the following season and the end of an era. Fergie was leaving. The title was already sewn up weeks earlier but in the penultimate weekend of the season, the final home game in Fergie’s..and Paul Scholes career, in typical fashion United had beaten Swansea with a very late Rio Ferdinand strike. The celebrations will be remembered not only for another title, but for the farewell and send off to the great Sir Alex and Paul Scholes. The final game was madness. 5-5. Sheer madness but why not? Fergie’s reign ending in typical Fergie fashion.
Be it lifting the trophy or coming a close second United have brought the magic, excitement and the wonder to the final day Premier League ‘showdown Sundays’ for the last 25 years. The last couple of seasons have not brought us the drama we would have hoped and expected but with the Champions League football returning and the club on an upward spiral once again let’s get prepared for United being involved in the chaos of the final day in the coming seasons and beyond once again.