By Dermot Clarke
Two of the biggest names in FA Cup tradition will vie for the famous old trophy at Wembley on Saturday. Newcastle will have the chance to wipe away the memory of last year’s defeat by Arsenal. United will be hoping to clinch the second leg of the elusive treble, before they head to Barcelona to take on the mighty Bayern Munich. With Newcastle now back to somewhere like they were in the Keegan days, it could be one of those Cup finals to remember. But you never know, oft times the most attractive finals on paper turn out to be drab affairs. Case in point, Manchester United-Liverpool 1996.
Newcastle’s best Cup years were in the 50s, the Jackie Milburn era. "Wor" Jackie was a legend in Geordie land. His two goals in the ’51 final won the Cup against Stanley Matthew’s Blackpool. Stan Mortensen, the last man to score a hat trick in a Cup final, was also on that Blackpool team. Milburn was back the following year. He failed to score but his side still beat Arsenal 1-0. Three years later he was back on the scoresheet in a 3-1 victory over Manchester City. The uncle of the Charlton brothers, Milburn was a quiet man. When Newcastle came back to Wembley 19 years later, their main striker could hardly have been described as quiet. Malcolm McDonald had been telling all and sundry how his side were going to annihilate Liverpool. There was annihilation that day, Newcastle were mauled 3-0 in one of the most one-sided finals in memory.
United’s best Cup period would be more recent. Having lost twice in the late1950s, to Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers respectively, the second being a few short months after the Munich air disaster, United came back in ’63 to defeat Leicester 3-1. Denis Law and David Herd (2) the scorers that day. Three Irishmen in the side Tony Dunne, Noel Cantwell and Johnny Giles and another who would later become an Irishman of sorts Maurice Setters.
Amazing that all through the George Best years the team never got to an FA Cup final. The next appearance was in the ’76 final when they were upset 1-0 by Southampton. The following year the upsetees would provide the upset when United deprived Liverpool of the treble they, themselves, are in quest of at present.
Two years later and United lost what came to be known as "The 5-minute Final." A more fitting title might have been "The Brady Cup final," Liam Brady gave one of his more memorable displays in an Arsenal shirt that day. With Arsenal two up inside the final five minutes, some of the players were half up the steps when Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy leveled it. Then in the final minute a jaded Brady found Rix loose on the left, his high cross eluded Gary Bailey in the United goal and Alan Sunderland nipped in to score the winner, with most Arsenal fans still stunned at what had gone on before. Having routed Brighton 4-0 in an ’83 replay, United were back in ’85 to face Everton. Kevin Moran became the first player to be sent off in a Wembley Cup final, but United set another record when Norman Whiteside became the youngest player to score in the 1-0 victory. Crystal Palace brought United to a replay before losing the replay 1-0. United would appear in three in a row ’94 to ’96, routing Chelsea 4-0 before losing to Everton and then the Liverpool debacle when Eric Cantona gave them a 1-0 win.
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Now they’re back to face Newcastle in what could become the biggest season in the club’s illustrious history. Newcastle won’t want to lose two in a row. It could be a good one and thanks to our friends at Setanta sport we don’t have to travel too far to see it. The game can be seen at several bars throughout the five boroughs and should be well worth getting up for (see Setanta ad page 51 for details).