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)




  1. Well what a fookin embarrassment this England team proved to be. Ashley Young and James Milner are the biggest load of tripe on the planet. For all you United fans who want to see Fergie sell Nani, just look at Nani in this tournament and compare him to Ashley – diver and useless Young, and remember this is what you have to look forward too next season without Nani. Fergie will have lost everything I have ever highly thought about him IF he keeps Young and lets Nani go, then I have to say where is that great Fergie judgement? It is Young who should be moved on and PRONTO. I think Italy gave our lot a football lesson in possession and passing tonight, but then what team have we played against in this tournament who haven’t been better than us? We are appallingly bad at football, and the United and City players were the worst of the English players IMHO. Moscow and OPTI hate to say it mi men, but you were right!

    • @Craig Mc: We should stay away from English players unless they are defenders. I can’t blame Hodgson for going with chicken shit tactics because that’s the best you can make of these players’ potential. To an extent, it’s the same with us but we have some world class attackers like Nani and Valencia.

      Nani is twice the player Young is and ever will be, but Ferguson plays his kick and rush old school wingers’ football, so the wide men have to hug the touchline and deliver crosses. This is why Valencia is our best player when he really shouldn’t be, because he specialises in pace and crossing. You can’t expect to simplify Nani to a crossing role, he is deadly cutting in and the only player in the team able to manipulate the ball in tight spaces. This is why we should play a 4-3-3 like Portugal, it prevents our midfield from getting overrun and allows us to give freedom to the few world class players that we possess.

      Rooney was hopeless in midfield today, having to drop deep to make up for the average midfield. Welbeck gave the ball away every time, he’s simply never going to be a world class striker. The only thing missing from that shower of shit out there was Phil Jones, the ultimate jack of all trades.

  2. Moscow – I couldn’t believe it mate. The English players couldn’t even do the basics, like control the ball, they kept letting it run away from them all the time. They couldn’t keep simple possession of the ball for two or more passes, and they sure as fook couldn’t receive the ball to their feet, and then beat an oncoming or marking opposition player. I felt truly embarrassed watching them become the dicks of Europe – no wonder all the other teams think the England team are utter tripe. Truly it upsets me that they have become such a joke. Makes me wonder if United are so much less than they used to be due to the sudden influx English players. We have Wazza, Jonesy, Smalling, Rio, Welbeck, Young – just a thought mate. English players have no basic technical skills, and no excellent technical coaches – these things seem to be missing from grass roots level of English youth football. We seem to be so far behind the other european countries when it come to the basic techniques. I think United are trying to do something at academy level etc, but looking at our british players – well really lacking in the basics technical skills even at OT. After watching them in Europe, I hope those fans who have had a go at us for speaking the truth about the lack of real technical ability among the british players at OT and elsewhere, will to quote that famous OT fan song – NOW YOUR GONNA BELIEVE US etc.

    • @Craig Mc: And i thought our midfield was pathetic 😯 England were just a bloody joke.
      Totally uncapable of keeping the ball for more than 2 passes, 90% of the time looking to pass backways and very little attacking intent.
      We need to ask ourselves, why is it a decent team like croatia can keep the ball, and yet we cant, when on paper anyway, our team is far superior in every area.
      I think we can all see this goes back to coaching, and this is from grass roots up. These players have been taught in the wrong way from the age of ten years old and upwards. Its all been about fitness, getting stuck in etc, very little about teaching technical ability and keeping the ball.
      Fortunately, it does seem that has changed slightly the last few years, as there does look to be a few good prospects coming through who can actually do what is demanded.
      Wilshere, kyle walker, smalling, cleverley (i have to agree with what ian said on the other thread, this kid is all about 1-2s, playing triangles, quick one touch passing football, just needs a run of games staying fit for him to show his class imo), oxlade chamberlain, rodwell (if he can get over his injury problems), barkley (potentially in a few years) etc.
      More needs to be done however. Its time to rid england of all the egos, and the players who year in year out flatter to deceive.
      And im looking at terry, steven “one of the best players in the world” gerrard and players who just arent ever going to be good enough in the likes of milner, carhole, lescott, glen johnson etc. Young too was absolutely anonymous all tournament, although thats a pattern that seems to be a bit too familiar these days, as hes had many a game like that for us and rooney too looks like a man who really isnt enjoying his football (with us too).
      Its also time for a massive shake up with the coaches and thats from grass roots up.
      The likes of spain, holland, portugal and italy were doing this 10+ years ago. Were only just twigging onto the idea now in 2012.
      I still cant work out whether thats down to arrogance, an over inflated opinion of ourselves, or lack of finance from the FA/the government to allow changes to be made.
      Regardless, it does now seem that some good work is being done, but more is most definitely needed.
      Despite being most definitely a united > england man, obviously as an englishman i like to see my country do well, even if i cant actually get behind them and support them 100%.

  3. Agree. Selling Nani would be a huge mistake. People forget that last season the only ones likely to score were Rooney and Nani for large parts of the season. Anderson, Berba, Park can be shipped out for a good 20-25MM midfielder and we should be alright.

    • @godzilla: Agree. I actually like young, have since his days at watford. But he really seems to have lost something that once made his game so special.
      If i had to guess what that was, id say its actually a confidence thing moreso than a lack of talent.
      2 odd years ago for example hes used to love having a run at defenders. At united however, so often he seems to be in 2 minds, take a half hearted jog, and then turn round and make a safe easy pass backwards to the defenders.
      The young i mention a few years ago would have run at the full back at pace, and either skinned him and delivered a peach of a cross, or come inside and caused equally as much trouble (look at the number of goals throughout his career where hes come inside and hit it beautifully in the top corner. Last season alone im thinking spurs, arsenal).
      Unfortunately i just get the feeling that playing at this level internationally and for us, has fazed him somewhat. Which is a shame, as i think ability wise he has/had it all in his locker to be a truely great player.
      Not that im talking about getting shot of him i should add, but agree with you, if its between him and nani, it has to be nani every time.
      He gets severely under rated by the majority of united fans i feel, which staggers me because even though he has the ability to infuriate and go missing alot, his stats prove these last 2 and a half years that hes probably the best winger in the world for creating chances for his team mates (i dont class messi or ronaldo as wingers obviously just to specify).
      So unless nani actually demands to leave, and someones going to offer what hes actually worth (imo in excess of £35m) then theres not a single part of me that is even thinking about selling the lil man.
      Hopefully he signs his new contract offer and, even if im in the minority for wanting this, is given the number 7 shirt for next season because its exactly his type of player- ie someone who can get you off your seat, that the number 7 should be going to so that to makes nani the stand out candidate.

  4. @Craig Mc: am just happy that I won’t be watching anymore of that catenaccio crap till 2014 world cup. it was just annoying. I agree the English need to impact more technical training especially among the youth. all this pace and power bullshit won’t cut it especially against European teams at either club or country level. doesn’t have to be tikitaka just good possession football.

    it will be interesting to see the kind of tactics will adopt next season but I hope sir Alex wasn’t taking notes from Roy.

  5. Dan – Sorry I deviated from topic mate, but I did read the article and thank you for the work you put into getting it together and the good job you did of writing it. Roy Keane for 3.75 million – what the heck would he have cost to buy in these OTT years of value, and overspending on players so much less able than Keano?

    • @Craig Mc: £3.75m was a world record amount aswell in those days too wasnt it (or was that just for a british player?).
      Amazing to think in the space of 19 years weve gone from seeing £3m as expensive to these days seeing £25m trading hands for dross like milner, santa cruz, lescott and as much as £40m being the norm on the continent 😯
      Staggering, but thats the way football is today.
      Players like keano, scholesy and robbo i can only imagine what they’d be worth in todays market. Quite what zidane would be worth then, when he went for £47m and thats back in 2001, is anyones guess.

  6. Anybody else glad Fergie is not releasing any of our players bar Giggsy??? for the Olympics? Or am I wrong about that?

    • @Craig Mc: De geas been included in the spain squad i think, also the likes of smalling, jones, cleverley and maybe powell ie those who didnt play in the euros and who are “potential” players might be selected.
      Have also heard of giggs and scholes, possibly hernandez and park going too so quite a few potentially.

  7. @ Dan: I love the fact that you put so much effort into writing these articles. I like that you research into the dates/events that have happened around United matches it shows that at the end of the day there’s so much more happening in the world than Football.

    however, my grouse is also against this same thing as interspersing the united matchdays/results with world events breaks the flow of the article. hope you can find a way around it and keep this up. I am looking forward to “You cant win with kids” as thats the year i got hooked to united 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • @Nuevo: The world events were included to give readers a perspective on when things happened and what else was going on in the world, it was especially aimed at all the people who come here from the States and India etc, I personally think it’s a great idea and a nice little touch. Anyone else?

      • @Ian: Agreed its a nice touch i just wished that it could have been integrated a little better. As it tends to break the flow of the article. BUt thats my personal opinion and nothing more than that..

        As i said it has to have taken immense effort to have researched so much and then put it all together for an article. Looking forward to the next one

  8. My word Young looked awful this tourney, all he did was defend/track back on the left side, Pirlo and De Rossi made Gerrard ever so average. Parker at one point, with about 4 metres of space infront of him, refused to even glance up and sent he ball right back to lescott. It wasnt a suprsise really, England were lucky in every game. Was a matter of time. This should be a lesson to fergie, these type of players- Young, Jones, Parker are a thing of the past. Jones must not step into the midfield this season. I guess with the signing of Kagawa, we have rectified our problem a bit, because the boy does not lose the ball, is very good and using his body and quick feet to disrespect his markers, actually I cant remember him failing to control a ball as some of our players-ahem Rooney, do . Scholes being there too will ensure we will dominate possession in most league games. Hopefully Cleverley will stay fit as he too can receieve the ball in tight spaces and get rid of it unlike the England “heroes”. to be fair to Roy though, he can build, Wilshere will have the biggest impact on the midfield and if Cleverley gets over his injuries he too will prevent a pathetic 35% stat.

    Danny Welbeck cannot play like he has this tournament for United, incapable of simple control and pass play is unforgivable for a striker, especially in todays game. Would be interesting to see what type of player Nick Powell is, whether hes part of the new breed, Wilshere and Cleverley or the same old. Hes Youtube videos look positive though in terms of how he runs with and keeps the ball.We have reached our English player quota I feel.

    • @Robbie: I think a few of you are being a bit harsh on jones.
      Fair enough his 2nd half of the season really was awful (and thats being kind) but that seemed to come about after his injury around the turn of the year (i think).
      In his first 3 odd months i thought he was very very impressive. The kid is still just 19 and has been having to play out of position for much of his time here.
      Defenders always seem to mature alot later than other outfield players (im thinking rio, who even upto 2005/06 was still a mistake waiting to happen alot of the time, and his concentration really could be awful, and that was when he was in his late 20s).
      I agree hes got a lot of learning to do and that based on his 2nd half season showing, hes obviously not as advanced as maybe some of us thought he was, but i think based on what ive seen of him, he has all the potential to go on to be a world class player.
      Provided hes stopped being played all over the shop. CB and RB fine, but CM? No way.
      Give the lad time and i think he’ll be a star. Its just unfortunate in the meantime hes always going to be burdened with his £17m price tag, and will be expected to perform as such most weeks.
      But he’ll get there, of that i have no doubt.

      • How can you say ‘No Way’ to PJ being a CM Tony? SAF and Capello are pretty good managers aren’t they? They obviously think he has the tools to at least be given games there, to me that says there is a way, no?

        • @Ian: I saw Phil Jones play in midfield against Blackburn and he was useless. I saw him play in midfield against Basel and he looked clueless then as well.

          In fact, whenever he has played in midfield he has been completely out of touch. Sorry, I don’t see a future for him at this club at anywhere other than RB.

        • @Moscow: Give him time, he is still only 20. People seem to give young English players less time than the lads who come from abroad. People have given Anderson plenty of time and talk about his potential! Foe me Jones is very young and raw and will be a very good player in a few years.

        • @Ian: Not for me mate. I dont think he reads the game well enough to play in the midfield, at the highest level anyway.
          But ive been proven wrong before, so could easily be the case again.

          @Stephen: Agree stephen. The rio example is a valid one i feel. Great great player, but it was only a few years ago people still werent very sure of him due to his lapses in concentration and regular errors. That was in his 20s, so jones at 19/20 has plenty of time to get things right.

        • @tonymontanna4united: Also many people were calling Ronaldo a circus act for many seasons before he developed. Jones has great ability but needs to shave of some rough edges. If he were Spanish I am sure he would be given more time.

        • @Moscow: Moscow 😆 your eye deceive you again my friend! Go and watch our game at Loftus Rd v QPR last season, he’s immense that day, he gave Carrick the freedom to get forward and (I remember it because I tipped it a few days beforehand) score his first goal for months.

          There’s one thing PJ has in his locker that most lads his age don’t have and that’s a passion to learn the game. I’ve spoke to a couple of coaches who’ve worked with him and they both say he lives and breathes the game, if he’s given the technical coaching PLUS games at CM I reckon he could easily play there, I think he’s more suited to that than CB tbh, it’s a matter of IF he’s given the games there, I hope he is, he could become the next Bryan Robson, and that’s saying something.

      • @tonymontanna4united: Yeah I have no problem with Jones at right back. I think though he should never play in middle as we did in a champions league game at Basle I think. Id like to see him eventually at CB, just right now hes a liability there and in that position it shows glaringly. He has all the attributes except maybe a few inches in height.

  9. Any news on the future of Modric? Is he going to Madrid for sure? If theres one player Id like to replace Scholesy in the long term its him.

  10. Yeah I admire Ferguson for trying to keep his teams British. But if we want to be globally competitive we have to realize that English players simply aren’t that good.

    Ashley Young had an awful tournament. Premier League quality but not continental or international class.

    I’m also worried about Ferguson’s reversion to a 90s 4-4-2.

    We have Kagaya who can play as an attacking midfielder. We have Carrick who is good at what he does. All we need now is a commanding central midfielder to add a bit of steel and we can play a 4-2-3-1 with Nani Kagaya and Valencia floating behind Rooney.

    • @colver: English players intertwined with foreign players is essential to be successful in the Premier League. You need in any league a spine or a core of players who are from that Country. Having a side of foreigners is never successful as they are generally mercenaries, at least with players from that Country you get a degree of loyalty and understanding of the culture

  11. 1994 feels so far away. Thanks for this round-up. It marks the year so full of events and history.

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