By Roy Cavanagh
Tommy Docherty kept his promise!
In one of the great FA Cup finals, Manchester United stopped Liverpool from having the chance to win a treble with the League, FA Cup and European Cup which they themselves would do 22 years on. The addition of Jimmy Greenhoff in November 1976 added that vital experience Docherty’s great young side needed. It came too late to make a real impact on the league, Man United actually finished sixth, but in the FA Cup they were the team to beat.
A harder than imagined victory over Walsall at Old Trafford set up a Fourth Round tie with high flying Queens Park Rangers. They had a team of very experienced players, playing attractive football under manager Dave Sexton, so you could see why he would be highly thought of when United, incredibly, needed a new manager after the final. More of that later.
The tie with QPR at Old Trafford was a great match which United edged 2-1 that set up an away match at Southampton, the side who had beat United in the previous May’s final. It was a game all United fans wanted to see. Sadly, I missed out on a ticket in our small allocation but listened to the radio as we got a 2-2 draw to bring them back to Old Trafford. You have to remember in those days that replays just took place the following Wednesday, none of this waiting a week and a half. A crowd near to 60,000 saw United play really well and get their Wembley revenge by knocking out the cup holders 2-1.
Another home tie, and another massive crowd, saw Aston Villa come to Old Trafford for the Sixth Round. Going behind 1-0 was not in the script but Docherty’s side was a very good one and they fought back to win 2-1 with the Stretford End roaring at the winning goal in during the second half. Next up, Leeds United.
Games against Leeds in those days were very competitive on, and off, the pitch. To be in an FA Cup semi-final played at Hillsborough made it even more talked about. Unfortunately for me, I had inexplicably booked a family holiday for the end of April in Malta, where I met up with the famous supporters club there. So, it was in Valletta that I got the news that we had won 2-1 to go back to Wembley as Tommy Doc had promised.
Going to Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup Final was a great experience in those days. The FA Cup was a real trophy to win and very important for the fans. That we would be playing Liverpool, already league champions and due to play the European Cup Final the following Wednesday, made it an even more explosive day.
United were up for it and despite Liverpool being favourites, we really took the game to them and grabbed an early lead in the second half. A quick Liverpool equaliser seemed to have given them a real advantage but a Lou Macari shot going in off Jimmy Greenhoff settled the match and set up incredible scenes as the players, staff and fans just went ballistic. The sheer happiness for everyone connected with the club seemed to only be leading to future success.
What nobody, except a certain few knew, was that Tommy Doc had been having an affair with the club physio Laurie Brown’s wife. When it came out the club sacked Tommy. Should he have been sacked? Well, as they are still together, in my opinion no. Would Manchester United have gone onto win the league under Tommy Doc? I think they would, he would have made a couple of signings and that was enough, although being Tommy something would have cropped up in the future.
Next up in our FA Cup final series in 1978/9 for our third final in four years. This time it was Arsenal standing in the way of glory at Wembley.