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The Year That Was

The year that was…1994

After breaking a 26-year-long wait for a league title, United started the 1993-94 season as the bookies’ favourites, after the capture, for a then British record of £3.75 million, of Roy Keane from Nottingham Forest.

The 21-year-old Irishman had been closely followed by Arsenal and Blackburn but arrived at Old Trafford on July the 19th while a week later legendary Spanish rider Miguel Indurain would win the Tour de France.

Keane makes his debut for United against Arsenal in the Charity Shield (as it was known then), as United lift their first trophy of the season by beating the Gunners on penalties in the traditional season curtain-raiser on August the 7th.

Ten days later, the public is allowed into Buckingham Palace for the first time ever and the following day Roy Keane marks his Old Trafford debut by scoring twice against Sheffield United as United make it two wins from as many games, having defeated Norwich 2-0 away in the first game of the campaign.

Five days later, a Lee Sharpe double seals United 2-1 win away at Villa Park as United leapfrog Everton at the top of the table, a lead that they’ll never relinquish until the end of the season.

September the 13th sees PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shake hands in Washington D.C., after signing a peace accord in what is hailed as an historic moment for both countries. Almost 20 years later, the world can only shake its head looking back on that instant.

In more down-to-earth affairs, United mark an historic day of their own two days later, as they take part in the European Cup for the first time in 25 years by defeating Hungarian champions Kispest Honved 3-2 in Hungary, courtesy of two goals from Roy Keane and one from Eric Cantona.

On the 29th of September, less than 24 hours after two Steve Bruce’s goals have secured United a place in the second round of the European Cup, an earthquake centered in Killari, Maharashtra, India kills over 10,000.

October is only three days old by the time the US Army conducts Operation Gothic Serpent in Mogadishu killing over 1000 people. A decade later, the events that unfolded in the Somalian capital will inspire the movie Black Hawk Down.

A month that had started with a bloodshed terminates with another bloodshed as three members of the UDA, a loyalist paramilitary group, attack a bar in the Northern Irish town of Greysteel, killing eight civilians whose only fault was to be in an Irish nationalist and Catholic area.

On the same day, October the 30th, United dispose of QPR at home and lead Norwich by a whopping 11 points, having drawn once and lost only once in their first 13 games.

Europe was at the centre of attention at the beginning of November, as the Maastricht Treaty took effect, formally establishing the European Union on November the 1st, while two days later United were knocked out of the European Cup on away goals after drawing 0-0 in Istanbul, following a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford but they quickly bounced back winning 3-2 at Maine Road only four days later, after having seemingly been well beaten at 2-0 down.

Cantona scored twice, equalising with 12 minutes left, before Roy Keane continued his remarkable debut season in a red shirt by netting the winner with 87 minutes played.

By the time Meat Loaf’s I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) completes its seventh and last week at UK’s number one on November the 28th, United are 14 points ahead of Leeds and Arsenal after Eric Cantona scores the only goal in a 1-0 win at Coventry.

December saw United drawing against Norwich and Blackburn but United waved goodbye to 1993 in style by demolishing Oldham 5-2 away, before opening 1994 with a 0-0 draw against Leeds United before they turned their heads to domestic cups as they played twice in three days – winning 1-0 at Sheffield United in the 3rd round of the FA Cup and drawing 2-2 against Portsmouth in the 5th round of the League Cup with Cantona and Giggs on the scoresheet.

Eight days later, thousands of fans visit Old Trafford to offer their tribute to Sir Matt Busby, following United’s legendary manager’s death.

The team would remember the Great Man the way he would have wanted, with a 1-0 win against Everton 48 hours later as United continue their unstoppable march towards a second title in as many years.

Less than a month later, on February the 12th, the 1994 Winter Olympics begin in Lillehammer, Norway while Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” is stolen in Oslo (it will be recovered three months later) but there are only celebratory screams the following day as Ryan Giggs scores the only goal in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal against Sheffield Wednesday.

On March the 21st Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List wins seven Oscars at the 66th Academy Awards, while Lee Sharpe scores twice at Highbury a day later as United stumble to a second consecutive draw which sees their lead on Blackburn cut just six points with the Rovers having played a game less than United.

More importantly, Eric Cantona gets himself sent-off in both games earning himself a five-game ban which meant he would have to sit and watch as Alan Shearer scored twice to send Ewood Park berserk as Blackburn trailed United only by three points by April the 2nd, as Dalglish’s team rubs salt on United’s wounds following the Reds defeat in the League Cup final against Aston Villa a week earlier, which brought to an end their dreams of a domestic Treble.

Take That’s Everything Changes seems an apt soundtrack for United’s faltering campaign as Blackburn draw level on points on April the 9th – a day after Kurt Cobain is found dead in his Lake Washington home – albeit this time it’s Dalglish’s team to have played a game more than United due to the Reds’ involvement in the semifinal of the FA Cup which sees them deny Oldham one of the biggest upset in the history of the competition thanks to a Mark Hughes goal a minute from time.

Three days later the Reds obliterate their Lancastrian neighbours 4-1 in the replay but United’s tired legs slump to a 1-0 defeat at Wimbledon which Blackburn fail to capitalise on, having themselves fallen 3-1 at Southampton before King Eric gets United back to winning ways with a double against City while Blackburn can only draw 1-1 at home against QPR.

Two days later, on April the 26th, China Airlines Flight 140 crashes while landing at Nagoya, Japan, killing 264 people in one of the worst air disasters of the last twenty years.

The end of April and the beginning of May are filled with tears of pain for sport fans as Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna are killed in consecutive days in a tragic weekend at the F1 San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, which leaves the F1 circus and the whole world of sport in a state of shock and despair, which obviously overshadowed United’s 2-1 win at Ipswich thanks to goals from Cantona and Giggs which sealed the title for the Reds.

On May the 10th Nelson Mandela becomes South Africa’s first black president, four days before Fergie would have to take one of his hardest ever decisions as he omitted Bryan Robson by the squad for the FA Cup Final against Chelsea, meaning that Captain Marvel wouldn’t wear the Red shirt again before leaving Old Trafford for Middlesbrough at the end of the season.

United sealed their first ever Double by trouncing Chelsea 4-0 in the Wembley final with Cantona converting two penalties and Brian McClair and Mark Hughes adding getting one apiece to complete a memorable season.

1993-1994 Facts and Figures

Premier League: P42 W27 D11 L4 GF80 GA38 Pts92

Top Scorer: Eric Cantona (25)

Most Appearances: Denis Irwin – Steve Bruce (61)

Petrol: 48.9p per Litre

Pint: £1.41 (bitter) – £1.58 (lager)

Most weeks at UK’s number 1: Meat Loaf’s I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) (7)*

*Takes into account number one hits during a football season, rather than a calendar year.

Dan (@MUFC_dan87)