Goalscorers: Ian Taylor 14, Mark Draper 27, Dwight Yorke 36 PEN, David Beckham 82
Aston Villa: Mark Bosnich, Alan Wright, Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu, Paul McGrath, Gary Charles, Ian Taylor, Andy Townsend, Mark Draper, Dwight Yorke (Riccardo Scimeca 86), Savo Milosevic (Tommy Johnson 50)
Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Paul Parker, Denis Irwin, Gary Pallister (John O’Kane 59), Gary Neville, Phil Neville (David Beckham 45), Roy Keane, Nicky Butt, Lee Sharpe, Paul Scholes, Brian McClair
Referee: Robbie Hart, Attendance: 34,655
Manchester United felt like a wounded club in the summer of 1995. Having won the double in 1994, they ended up empty-handed one season later.
Alex Ferguson’s response was to sell star players Paul Ince, Andrei Kanchelskis and Mark Hughes. Ince moved to a new culture of football of Serie A with Inter Milan, Kanchelskis switched to Everton and Hughes moved to Chelsea. With injuries keeping out Steve Bruce, Andy Cole and Ryan Giggs, plus Eric Cantona’s lengthy suspension, it was a much-changed Red Devils line-up that travelled to Villa Park on the opening weekend of the 1995-1996 campaign. Aston Villa had undergone a huge squad overhaul themselves. The likes of Ray Houghton, Dean Saunders, Dalian Atkinson and Kevin Richardson were discarded and in came Gareth Southgate, Mark Draper and from Yugoslavia, Savo Milosevic. Villa produced a quality display on a sun-drenched afternoon in Birmingham.
Brian Little opted for a three-man defence, comprising of Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu and Paul McGrath. This allowed the more attack-minded Gary Charles to push forward and his tactics worked, especially as Charles played a significant part in the opening goal on 14 minutes. His dangerous cross into the penalty area was turned in by Ian Taylor. Taylor was in his first full season at the club after moving from Sheffield Wednesday in December 1994. He was already a hero of the Holte End.
It was a speedy counter-attack that led to Villa’s second. The new strike partnership of Dwight Yorke and Milosevic combined to tee-up Draper on 26 minutes for a debut goal. United were struggling without many of their regulars and a third goal came nine minutes before the interval. Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel fouled Milosevic in the penalty area. Yorke routinely converted the spot-kick to make the scoreline 3-0. It was already a result that would raise plenty of eyebrows.
Ferguson probably peeled the paint off the visitors’ dressing room walls at half-time. He made a number of tactical changes, including reverting to a traditional 4-4-2 formation. He brought on David Beckham at half-time and his long-range strike with eight minutes left at least ensured some reward for a better second half display. However, the damage had been inflicted long before Beckham’s very first Premier League goal.
Ferguson defended his team in the media but the written press had a field day and BBC Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen famously said a few hours after the result: “He has to buy players. You can’t win anything with kids!”
Manchester United would end the season with their second league and cup double in three seasons.