This Sunday we welcome to Carrow Road, arguably the world’s biggest club – Manchester United. From the Busby Babes to Charlton, Best and Law, the class of 92 and Sir Alex Ferguson’s dynasty, it is more than a football club, United is a global sporting institution.
England’s first European Cup winners and the country’s most successful club domestically. They have a trophy haul, many can only dream of, including 20 League titles and 12 FA Cups. And with a reported fan-base exceeding 500 million, for a couple of hours this Sunday afternoon, the eyes of a world will be on Norwich.
When City gained promotion, games against the likes of Manchester United were the reward. A glamorous game that leaps from the fixture list such is the legacy of the Red Devils. Our first meeting can be traced back to over a century ago. Previously Newton Heath, Manchester United was born in 1902 and so shares a birthday with Norwich. Three years later both meet in the 1905/06 FA Cup.
On that occasion, we lost 3-0 but since there have been some unforgettable FA Cup encounters between the two.
Perhaps the most famous occurred in the third round of City’s legendary 1958/59 cup run to the semi-final. In the depths of a snowy winter, Norwich beat their illustrious opponents convincingly 3-0, the win coming just a year after the tragic events at Munich and the loss of many of the Manchester clubs staff that was felt so deeply across the football family.
A greater achievement, even compared to ’59, in my opinion, came in 1966/67 FA Cup. This time there was only a gap of one division (Norwich were now in Division 2) but this time City were away and facing football’s most famous trilogy – Charlton, Best and Law.
It was a trio that would lead United to the title at the conclusion of the season, and a year later, the big one, the European Cup. Nobody, therefore, gave City a hope at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ but goals from unlikely sources, Don Heath and Gordon Bolland, gave Norwich a shock 1-2 win. City’s win that day was all the more special when you consider that it was United’s only defeat in 22 games.
There was further third-round cup delight in 1990/91, 2-1 at Carrow Road; a result that maintained a better FA Cup head-to-head versus the Red Devils. Norwich currently leading that contest with three wins to United’s two.
Norwich also hold the upper hand in League Cup meetings. We are unbeaten against the Reds in that competition. Admittedly, we have only played them on three occasions but two of those clashes came in a semi-final, games that have since gone down in Canary folklore.
The year was 1975 and Norwich had progressed in the tournament beating Bolton, WBA, Sheffield United and, famously, Ipswich Town at Portman Road in the quarters. Drawing a team of Manchester United’s stature out of the hat is a special moment at any time let alone meeting them in a major cup semi-final.
It was a backs-to-the-wall effort in the first leg at Old Trafford, with the bonus of a last-minute Ted MacDougall equaliser to leave the door ajar at Carrow Road. It was an opportunity that City didn’t waste. In another memorable night under the Carrow Road lights, Colin Suggett scored the winner sending City on their way to Wembley.
This defeat of Man U was not as big a shock as some may imagine. United were in a period of transition and, only five years after being crowned Champions of Europe, they were relegated, alongside Norwich at the end of the 1973/74 season.
Both bounced back at the first time of asking with Manchester United winning the 1974/75 Division 2 title. Norwich went up in third having won and drawn against the champions in the league, making it, in addition to the two cup games, four unbeaten that season against the Mancunians.
Where the ’70s witnessed triumph and trouble (Manchester United hooligans ran riot, in the worst trouble ever witnessed at Carrow Road, in the league match of 1977), the 1980s represented a period of Norwich dominance over their distinguished rivals.
There was a thrilling 3-3 in October 1983 when City came back from 0-3 down, but topping that was the first-ever victory at Old Trafford. Kevin Drinkell’s winner on the 27th December 1986 marking an excellent end to the Christmas festivities. It had taken 16 attempts (and over 50 years) to leave Old Trafford with three points, yet in 1988/89 and 1989/90 Norwich were at it again winning 1-2 and then 0-2 to complete a famous away treble.
1986/87 was also the first season that Norwich finished above United (fifth v eleventh). This trend continued in three out of four seasons in the mid to late 80s, fact during those City ‘glory years’ United, under new boss, Alex Ferguson, would win just once in eight attempts against Norwich. The Yellows, between March 1988 and January 1990, won five consecutive Division One games against United.
Sir Alex Ferguson struggled for much of his early years, having to make do with mid-table finishes. It is often quoted that he was one game from the sack but earned a reprieve after a Mark Robins goal brought him victory in the 1990 FA Cup third-round tie at Nottingham Forest.
Robins, of course, would go on to become a Canaries favourite and faced his former boss in two epic encounters as both clubs challenged for the first-ever Premier League title in 1992/93.
When Norwich arrived at Old Trafford on the 12th December 1992 they were an incredible eight points clear at the top. They narrowly lost 1-0, on what was Eric Cantona’s full home debut. It makes you wonder how that would have defined our season had we left Manchester with an 11 point gap.
United roared back that year. The return at Carrow Road on 5th April 1993 proved to be the day Norwich’s dream died. United, in particular down the flanks, were unstoppable. Their 1-3 win that evening was the mark of champions that they eventually became, winning all six of their remaining fixtures to seal their first title in 26 years.
Norwich would taste one more victory over Sir Alex Ferguson. Another famous match in the clubs history; 9th April 2005.
Ferdinand, Neville and Scholes starting. After just 22 minutes, the one and only, Cristiano Ronaldo was thrown into the mix, followed later by Rooney and Van Nistelrooy. In context, rock bottom Norwich’s 2-0 victory was a score-line to rival this season’s wonderful experience versus United’s neighbours, Manchester City.
At last a result to mirror those that we regularly dined on back in the 1980s.
There have been other highlights, Pilkington’s header and Tetley’s toe-poke spring to mind. Such is the global brand that is Manchester United, that any win, any game, is extra special. Despite their indifferent start to the season, there is always an aura around the Red Devils.
So far Farke’s boys have achieved so much but Sunday is a fantastic chance for Pukki and co to write another chapter in our clubs recent history.