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Flashback Friday: Steve Bruce’s Finest Manchester United Moment

This is going up a little later today than I’d intended, but here’s a little Christmas present from me to all those who love a little Manchester United history.

With Steve Bruce and Sunderland set for a visit this weekend, I thought it’d be fitting to take a look back at one of the finest, if not the finest, moment at Old Trafford for Bruce during his long and successful career at United. Bruce joined from Norwich City in December 1987, and by the time he’d left the club following the 1995/96 season, he’d netted an impressive 51 goals in eight and a half seasons, including 19 in all competitions in the 1990/91 season.

Of those 51 goals, four came during United’s Cup Winners’ Cup run in the 1990/91 season, but even those might not match the importance of his dramatic, momentum-shifting double against Sheffield Wednesday in April 1993.

The previous season, a poor stretch run had crushed United’s hopes of claiming their first top flight title since 1967. And heading down the stretch of the 1992/93 season, history was threatening to repeat itself. An ill-timed four-match winless run in March saw United drop to third, a point behind Aston Villa and two points behind leaders Norwich City with seven matches left.

On April 5, United dented Norwich City’s title hopes with an emphatic 3-1 win at Carrow Road. That win moved United into second on 66 points from 36 matches, a point behind Villa and a point ahead of Norwich, with both United and Villa having a game in hand on Norwich.

Four days later, Norwich’s hopes took an even bigger hit with a 5-1 defeat at Tottenham, and with United and Villa (v. Coventry City) playing at home the next day, the door was open for those two to open some valuable distance.

The referee, or referees, in this case, would play a vital role. Match referee Mike Peck would limp off with an Achilles injury, replacement John Hilditch awarded Wednesday a penalty almost midway through the second half after Paul Ince had upended Chris Waddle in the area. John Sheridan slotted the penalty home to put Wednesday up and United on the ropes.

But with time ticking down, Bruce broke free off of a corner, and his glancing header eluded Wednesday keeper Chris Woods and looped under the post and into the back of the net to make it 1-1. There was still more to be done and plenty of time to do it, as the referee change helped result in seven minutes of injury time. In the extended injury time, Gary Pallister’s cross was deflected by a Wednesday man directly into the path of Bruce, who sent another header past the diving Woods and inside the right post to send Old Trafford into raptures.

With Villa and Coventry playing out a stalemate, United surged to the top by a point, and they wouldn’t relinquish that lead. Villa and Norwich both fell by the wayside as United wound up winning their final seven matches of the season, and Villa’s shock home defeat to strugglers Oldham Athletic on May 2 meant that United’s long wait for a title was over. In the end, United won the title by 10 points over Villa and 12 over Norwich, but without Bruce’s late heroics against Wednesday, the race could have been much closer – and may well have had a different ending.