The last time the Clarets defeated Manchester United back in September 1968, I was just 14.
I would have been at that game (one of 32,935) but my memory is not good enough to recall much about it although we won 1-0 that day and the Bedlington terrier, Brian O`Neill got the goal with just two minutes of the match remaining. Looking up the team in my trusty Clarets Chronicles we lined up as follows:
H.Thomson, Angus, J.Thomson, O`Neill, Waldron, Merrington, Coates, Lochhead, Casper, Bellamy, Thomas Sub: Blant
Manchester United had a number of star names in their team including Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and of course, George Best but back in those days we played on a much more level playing field and by the end of the season, Manchester United had finished in a modest 12th place with the Clarets just two places behind them in 14th. Leeds were champions of Division One that season with Liverpool second.
Little did I realise that this match played on the 14th September 1968 would be the last time I would see the Clarets defeat the Red Devils for another 40 years but that`s what happened on Wednesday night in front of a Turf Moor cauldron and remarkably by the same score, 1-0 thanks to a superbly struck goal by Robbie Blake. On a marvellous night, a superb Brian Jensen also saved a penalty and denied United umpteen opportunities to draw level as the impossible happened!
The circumstances though this time were all so different to 1968. Burnley, just promoted back to the top flight for the first in 33 years faced the Mighty Manchester United in their first home game of the 2009/10 season and virtually nobody gave us a chance against the Premier League Champions for the past three seasons running. All the statistics were against us, Manchester United had not been beaten by a newly promoted side since Norwich beat them in 2005. They had since played 17 games and won all 17 of them! Last season, Manchester United only lost four games in total and two of those were against Liverpool with one against Arsenal (the other for the record was against Fulham)
The atmosphere at Turf Moor was electric with Clarets fans packed to the rafters and in loud voice. Fortress Turf Moor had arrived and the ground had been spruced up to perfection with the pitch in superb condition. The setting was perfect on this hot, balmy summer`s evening as the Clarets marched out onto the pitch with the likes of Rooney, Owen and Giggs. Sir Alex then took his place in the modest Turf Moor away dugout and we had truly arrived-Burnley Were Back and it made me so proud!
The shouting from the Clarets fans and the din brought back so many memories of yesteryear. Of course back then we were allowed to stand with both sets of fans mingling in the Longside (they never did take it though those pesky United fans!). It also brought back memories of 1976 when a Lou Macari goal broke Clarets hearts condemning Burnley to relegation and although we did not realise it at the time, 33 years of obscurity. Could we possibly now get our first three points of the season in the Premier League? How fitting that would be against United after 1976. In truth we all dared to dream but we were also all praying for a miracle.
Owen Coyle made just one change to the side that had been beaten 2-0 by Stoke at the Britannia Stadium in our Premier league debut on Saturday. Andre Bikey, who had only signed the day before from Reading, went straight into the centre of the back four partnering Carlisle. Steven Caldwell was still out with a thigh strain and Michael Duff was also still sidelined with an ankle injury. David Edgar was however now available after completing a one-match suspension for a misdemeanour with Newcastle at the end of last season involving two yellows and a sending off. Coyle though perhaps surprisingly did not include him in the eighteen.
Christian Kalvenes was the unfortunate player dropped from the starting eleven to make way for Bikey, his place at left back being taken by Stephen Jordan. Coyle also resisted the temptation to start former Manchester United players, Chris Eagles who was named on the bench and defender, Richard Eckersley who was not even in the eighteen.
The full Clarets line-up (4-1-4-1) was therefore as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan, Alexander, Elliott, McCann, Blake, Paterson, Fletcher
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson, Eagles, McDonald, Guerrero, Thompson.
Great play was made by the media in midweek about the defensive crisis in the Manchester United team with Rio Ferdinand (thigh) and Nemanja Vidic (calf)) sidelined joining Edwin van der Sar (broken hand)and Rafael da Silva (shoulder). However such is the depth of squad at United they still managed to include a back four of impressive quality with Wes Brown joining O`Shea, Evra and young Jonny Evans who had been thought doubtful himself after limping off with a groin strain in the United opener against Brum at the weekend. They were even bolstered by the return of Gary Neville on the bench who was clearly now fit after recovering from a groin injury.
Sir Alex made six changes to the side that made a fairly unimpressive start to the 2009/10 season against Birmingham at Old Trafford on Sunday despite winning 1-0.
A strong United side therefore lined-up as follows:
Foster, O’Shea, Brown, Evans, Evra, Park, Anderson, Carrick, Giggs, Rooney, Owen
Subs: Neville, Scholes, Gibson, Kuszczak, De Laet, Berbatov, Valencia
So the scene was now set as Staffordshire referee, Alan Wiley got the match underway with all eyes on Burnley including some rather important eyes in the shape of England manager, Fabio Capello (well OK his eyes were more probably on Micheal Owen!), Sir Bobby Charlton (Aye OK, eyes on United) and Everton gaffer, David Moyes (presumably eyes on the Clarets since we play Everton at Turf Moor this Sunday!). The whole world though let`s face it would soon become aware of an ‘ickle Lancashire side that would face and beat the most famous football club in the World it was just none of us knew it or believed it possible as the match got underway.
It was the Red Devils too that started the brightest with Michael Owen soon having the ball in the net. Thankfully though he was correctly adjudged to be offside by the linesman
Burnley now began to play some flowing football and even began to dominate possession in the first ten minutes of the game. Fletcher on 10 minutes could not connect with the ball from a volley but should have done better at the second attempt after managing to hit the ball as it bounced up. It was however off target and the ball flew well over the bar without testing Ben Foster.
Micheal Carrick then tested the Burnley defence with Jordan snuffing out his run although panic set in as the ball headed towards goal only to go behind for a corner.
Chris McCann came close to sensationally giving the Clarets the lead after 15 minutes following a cross by Jordan deep into the United defence. He was just inches wide though in making a connection. Three minutes later though and the unthinkable happened. The Clarets did indeed find themselves 1-0 up and what a stunning goal it was too in front of the cameras and the World!
It was Jordan again, having an impressive game after the disappointment of his own goal against Stoke, who got in yet another deep cross that this time was only half cleared with the ball falling to Robbie Blake.
Blake let rip with a perfectly struck volley that sailed effortlessly into the top corner giving Foster no chance. Turf Moor erupted as Clarets fans went wild.
One minute later and an embarrassed United nearly reduced the redness in their faces as Rooney unleashed a shot that thankfully he put wide of the post. The Clarets fans instantly burst into song cheekily suggesting in fact that Rooney was not Robbie Blake!
A free-kick by Blake on 23 minutes came towards Fletcher, who acrobatically attempting a bicycle kick just couldn`t keep the ball down but now it was time for the Clarets to survive sustained pressure as United turned up the heat with Clarets fans already sweating in the balmy hot conditions and emotions of the night.
Michael Owen, trying and failing really to impress Capello, should have done better with a header on 36 minutes but to the relief of the nervous Clarets fans, he put it wide without testing the Beast.
The impressive-looking Rooney then got in behind the Burnley defence with just four minutes of the half remaining but Bikey was equal to his cross clearing the danger for a corner.
Our hero Robbie Blake just before half-time then nearly threw our advantage away after bringing down Evra in the box. No Ronaldo of course these days to take penalties for United, so up-stepped Michael Carrick with Clarets fans now fearing the worst. We need not have feared. Jensen pulled off a wonderful save and that was it, the Clarets were remarkably leading the Mighty United 1-0 at half-time!
Owen Coyle as you might expect did not make any changes for the start of the second half but it was United who now began to turn the screw and put the Clarets once more under considerable pressure but somehow we stood firm and held our nerve.
Despite the encouraging start for United it was the Clarets who in fact had the first real chance to score in the second half. Burnley were awarded a free-kick in Robbie Blake territory on 52 minutes and the hero of the night curled his shot just wide of the post.
Rooney, another United player trying to impress England manager Fabio Capello, could only blast well over from distance after 57 minutes of play with once more the Clarets fans taunting the clearly frustrated striker.
United made a substitution on 63minutes bringing on Dimitar Berbatov for the lacklustre, Michael Owen after earlier bringing on Valencia to replace Anderson. Three minutes later and Berbatov nearly levelled the score shooting just over the bar with Clarets fans still praying for the impossible dream to come true. One minute later and the prayers were still continuing after Jensen pulled off a superb save to deny Ji-Sung Park before Jordan got in an excellent block to prevent Valencia.
Burnley were still holding their own and for the neutral it was now end to end stuff. Fletcher on 68 minutes did well to control the ball firing just over before Elliott let rip with a stunning shot that must have stung Fosters fingers.
Clarets fans were by now thinking they were stuck in time with the clock painfully ticking down in what seemed like an eternity. I thought at one point the clock went backwards and this really was Back to the Future but then I realised I am getting older and my eyesight aint what it used to be!
Five minutes to go and Mears took the brunt of a poor challenge by Rooney with shouts around the ground to send the England star off by the Clarets faithful l who had by now each sweated away about a stone in weight. Anything to reduce this awful tension, get them down to ten men! Wiley would have nothing to do with it though and it got worse for Clarets fans as the fourth official announced four minutes of added time.
More time to sweat and pray but it paid off as the final whistle went. 1-0 Clarets and the whole world now knew it! This was for me, one of the most enjoyable and emotional matches I have ever been too taking a very close second fiddle only to the Wembley victory last May. Yes, 40 years I had waited for this moment and against the odds all eyes were now on our ‘ickle club, Burnley. Are we proud or what? What a night, what an atmosphere and what a result!
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan, Blake, Elliott, Alexander (Gudjonsson 73), McCann, Paterson (Eagles 73), Fletcher (Thompson 81)
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, McDonald, Guerrero.
Goal: Blake (18)
Booked: Paterson (19, foul), Blake (36, foul)
Manchester United: Foster, O’Shea, Brown (Neville 71), Evans, Evra, Park, Anderson (Valencia 59), Carrick, Giggs, Rooney, Owen (Berbatov 63).
Subs: Scholes, Gibson, Kuszczak, De Laet.
Booked: Rooney (85, foul)
Referee: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)
Vintage Clarets Top Reds
The last time the Clarets defeated Manchester United back in September 1968, I was just 14.