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Broken Sporting Curses - Manchester United

Updated on March 20, 2017

Red Devils climb out of Hell

Broken Sporting Curses - Manchester United

Growing up as a Manchester United fan in Warrington in the 1980s and early 90s, wasn’t too much fun. At school fans of Liverpool and Everton would mock us about how long it has been since United had won the league. Even City fans would pipe up, because they had won it in 1968, one year after United’s most recent triumph. For my first few years of watching football I never even considered United winning the league being a possibility, a successful season would be winning the FA Cup and beating Liverpool at least once at some point during the season. Then in the 1991-2 season it all started to change. They’d got off to good starts before, but they hadn’t lasted long enough to make us believe that they could actually win it. Now though it was Easter time and in sight of and nearly touching distance from the finishing line and they were still in front. Just when they needed a few more wins to clinch their first title in twenty five years, they started losing, three defeats in a row handing the title to a grateful Leeds United. The last of those defeats being at Anfield against Liverpool meant that the tortuous pain was as bad as it possibly could be.

The following Easter United were once again in a great position to win the league, once again they looked on the verge of another spectacular collapse, everything seemed to be going wrong in an all too familiar way. Losing 1-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday as the ninety minutes were up and only stoppage time to play, turns out there was about 7minutes of stoppage time (or a week if you listen to fans of other teams tell this story). It turned out to be a classic case of it always being darkest before the dawn as Steve Bruce created what is still one of the most dramatic moments in Premier league history twenty four years on from that crazy day. He scored two heading goals during that stopping time, sparking memorable scenes of celebration on and off the pitch. Maybe that was the day that the true belied they could win the title was born, it also signified the beginning of the football phenomenon that would soon become known as 'Fergie time', as United became famous for late, late goals.

Around the time of United’s collapse the previous year, the lead singer of Queen had passed away. The day after that defeat at Anfield I was in school and a lad told me the following joke: ‘What have Freddie Mercury and Man United got in common? Both will never sing We Are the Champions again.’ I didn’t rise to the bait, just stored the joke away in my memory bank. The following year when United, aided by Bruce's heroics, by complete contrast won their last seven games to finally end the wait for the title, I found that same lad as soon as I could in school on the Monday, reminded him of his joke and told him that they are singing it now.

If ever the phrase ‘final piece in the jigsaw’ is to be used in sport, it would be difficult to find a much better example of it than United signing Eric Cantona from Leeds in 1992. His unique playing style and flair complemented the outstanding players around him, but maybe as much as anything it was his complete confidence that had the biggest impact on the team. That group of players, along with their legendary manager were responsible for waking the sleeping giant and turning the club into a trophy winning monster. The fact that Liverpool and Everton have now gone twenty-six and tweny-nine years respectively without a title is a source of much smugness to any United fan, particularly ones around my generation. Especially as those curses don’t show any sign of being broken any time soon.

Lesson to be learned from breaking this curse:

You have to put yourself in position to lose the big one, if you want to win it. Losing is part of the learning process.


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