Tag Archives: Old Trafford

Shock Results: Manchester United 1-2 Nottingham Forest (December 1994)

Goalscorers: Stan Collymore 35, Stuart Pearce 62, Eric Cantona 68

Teams:

Manchester United: Gary Walsh, Steve Bruce, Denis Irwin, Gary Pallister, Roy Keane, Paul Ince, Ryan Giggs (Nicky Butt 74), Andrei Kanchelskis (Gary Neville 87), Brian McClair, Eric Cantona, Mark Hughes

Nottingham Forest: Mark Crossley, Steve Chettle, Des Lyttle, Stuart Pearce, Alf-Inge Haaland, Scot Gemmill, David Phillips, Steve Stone, Ian Woan, Stan Collymore, Bryan Roy (Lars Bohinen 84)

Referee: Keith Burge, Attendance: 43,744

Manchester United had gone eight whole months without conceding a home Premier League goal at Old Trafford. Despite being distracted slightly by their European commitments, the reigning champions were still just a point behind league leaders Blackburn Rovers before kicking-off at home to Nottingham Forest.

Having made a brilliant start on their top-flight return, Forest’s form had levelled out, with just one win in seven league matches and a recent exit in the League Cup at home to First Division Millwall. Frank Clark’s side were not expected to stop the United juggernaut. The Red Devils had only dropped two points since beating Blackburn 4-2 back in October.

In the first 20 minutes, it was the home side that looked more likely to score. Mark Hughes was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring; with his volley smashing the crossbar with Mark Crossley well-beaten and Andrei Kanchelskis’s fizzling free-kick only just cleared the bar moments later. However, Forest were causing some problems from set-pieces and Stan Collymore had the ball in the net but the goal was disallowed for him impeding his marker at a corner.

Collymore was a Manchester United transfer target and had scored in the 1-1 draw between the sides back in August at The City Ground. 10 minutes before half-time, he found the back of the net again against the team who had turned Premier League clean sheets at Old Trafford into an art. Found by Bryan Roy, Collymore cut inside Denis Irwin and before Gary Pallister could make a sliding challenge, the striker unleased a powerful shot into the top corner of Gary Walsh’s goal. United’s defence had been breached after 1,135 minutes since Graeme Sharp had scored in April 1994 for Oldham Athletic.

Collymore missed another glorious opportunity early in the second half but Forest found their second goal just past the hour mark. From a short corner routine, Steve Chettle’s flick-on was only partially cleared into the path of the captain, Stuart Pearce. His shot took a deflection off one of the charging defenders and left Walsh completely stranded. The visitors had a two-goal buffer to defend.

The home side’s frustration started to boil over. Referee Keith Burge gave out yellow cards to Ryan Giggs, Roy and Des Lyttle after a couple of ugly skirmishes. Both Giggs and Roy were lucky to avoid further sanction. On 68 minutes, Manchester United found a way through. From a Giggs corner, Eric Cantona flicked the ball into the net on the near post despite the efforts of Steve Stone on the goal-line.

Stone did clear a late effort off the line from Paul Ince and despite waves of intense pressure, Nottingham Forest held on for their fourth victory in their last 12 visits to Old Trafford. It would turn out to be Manchester United’s only home loss of the domestic season and a costly one. They missed out on a third successive title in May by just a single point.

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Iconic Moments: History for Rush (October 1992)

Liverpool FC have had a history of great goalscorers, ranging from Kenny Dalglish and Kevin Keegan, to Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler. However, leading the list of all-time goals for the 18-time English champions is Ian Rush.

In October 1992, Liverpool FC travelled to Old Trafford to play Manchester United and made a blistering start. Don Hutchinson’s deflected effort gave Graeme Souness’ side the lead before a moment of history from Rush made it 2-0. From Ronny Rosenthal’s cutback, Rush smashed the ball into the back of Peter Schmeichel’s net to score his 287th goal for the club, surpassing the tally achieved by the legendary Roger Hunt.

Although Mark Hughes scored twice in the second half to ensure the spoils were shared, it was Rush’s achievement that made the headlines. After the game, he said: “Obviously I am proud and privileged to have beaten the record of a great player like Roger Hunt. He was my father’s hero.”

Rush finished his Liverpool FC career in 1996 having scored 346 goals in 660 appearances across two spells, winning five league championships, five League Cups and the European Cup in 1984.

Referees in the Middle: Andy D’Urso

Premier League Career: 1999-2005

First Premier League Match: Sheffield Wednesday 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (21 August 1999)

Final Premier League Match: Fulham 3-3 Aston Villa (28 December 2005)

Andy D’Urso blew the final whistle on his professional refereeing career at the end of the 2014-2015 season. However, he hadn’t been involved in the Premier League since December 2005 and his career in the top-flight effectively ended in a similar way to Graham Poll’s international dreams – only he didn’t show three yellow cards, he just didn’t send a player off for two bookings.

Based in Billericay, Essex, he is a member of the Barking & Dagenham Referees Society and was promoted onto the Premier League officials list in time for the 1999-2000 season. When he received his promotion, D’Urso had gathered five years of useful experience in the Football League.

In total, he took charge of 119 Premier League matches; the first appointment was at Hillsborough in August 1999 when Tottenham Hotspur won 2-1 away at Sheffield Wednesday. Later that season, he was involved in his first major controversy when taking charge of a game at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Middlesbrough.

D’Urso bravely awarded the visitors a penalty when Juninho was fouled by Jaap Stam. It was the first spot-kick given to a visiting team in the Premier League at Old Trafford since December 1993. The Red Devils were furious and chased after D’Urso, led by skipper Roy Keane. Nicky Butt, Denis Irwin, Stam, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham were all seen to be using behaviour that even led Manchester United to question their own conduct. Andy stuck to his principles but the penalty was ultimately saved and United won the game 1-0. The media showed the incident on a regular basis in the weeks that followed and it was the first major sign that the ‘Respect’ campaign between players and officials had been placed into great scrutiny.

D’Urso later said: “It was my first season in the Premier League, my first time refereeing Manchester United and my first time at Old Trafford. With more experience I would have stood my ground. I kept saying ‘go away,’ but the further back I walked the more they walked on. A more experienced referee would not have retreated. But there are no grudges. I’ve refereed Roy Keane on a number of occasions since without a problem.”

His worst moment came in a game between Southampton and Blackburn Rovers in August 2004 which the Saints won 3-2. Blackburn skipper Barry Ferguson scored in the match but was shown two yellow cards by D’Urso during the contest. However, he wasn’t sent off. He acknowledged the error in his match report and a red card was later included onto Ferguson’s disciplinary record.

However, the FA took a dim view to this incident and suspended him from refereeing duty for 28 days. He vowed to carry on with his career and successfully won an appeal against his decision to be relegated from the Select Group of officials. However, his regular days in the Premier League were over. His last match in the top-flight was a 3-3 draw in December 2005 between Fulham and Aston Villa.

D’Urso continued his career back in the Football League and in his final professional season, he became the first official to referee at every club in the top four divisions of English football when he took charge of the League Two encounter between Newport County AFC and Morecambe at Rodney Parade.

Shock Results: Manchester United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion (April 2018)

Goalscorer: Jay Rodriguez 73

Teams:

Manchester United: David de Gea, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young (Marcus Rashford 75), Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera (Jesse Lingard 45), Paul Pogba (Anthony Martial 58), Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hegazi, Kieran Gibbs, Allan Nyom, Chris Brunt (Claudio Yacob 90), Jake Livermore, James McClean, Matt Phillips (Grzegorz Krychowiak 77), Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon (Daniel Sturridge 85)

Referee: Paul Tierney, Attendance: 75,095

Since their Manchester Derby victory at Old Trafford in December 2017, there had been little doubt that Manchester City were going to claim their third Premier League title. However, Jose Mourinho’s men had delayed the inevitable a week earlier, coming from 2-0 down to defeat City 3-2 at The Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola’s side had bounced back less than 24 hours earlier, dismissing Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at Wembley Stadium. They knew they would become champions if Manchester United failed to beat West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford. The chances of that happening seemed slim. West Brom were bottom of the table, destined for relegation and had won only three league matches all season. The Baggies were now being guided by former player Darren Moore, who had replaced Alan Pardew in the job 13 days earlier.

Mourinho’s side should have been full of confidence after their Derby heroics eight days previously but as the rain started to fall at The Theatre of Dreams, they put in a tepid first half display that was systematic to some of their performances in the top head-to-head matches. Paul Pogba, who had been behind the caviller fightback at Eastlands, was completely anonymous against the bottom club and sacrificed for Anthony Martial after 58 minutes. The home side simply couldn’t get themselves going.

In fact, it was the visitors who created the best opening of the first half. Jake Livermore broke through but was denied by smart goalkeeping from the ever-reliable David de Gea. De Gea would be outdone though by his opposite number. Ben Foster pulled off one of the saves of the season midway through the second half, flying to his left-hand side to push away a powerful Romelu Lukaku header.

As the game wore on, West Brom simply grew in confidence and with 17 minutes left, they took the lead from their classic route of scoring; via a set-piece delivery. Chris Brunt’s delivery wasn’t cleared by the home defenders and Jay Rodriguez was in the right place to tuck the ball into the back of De Gea’s net from close-range.

Foster made another important save from Lukaku shortly afterwards and although they enjoyed 70% possession, West Brom matched United’s total for shots on-target. They fully merited this victory. Paul Tierney’s full-time whistle confirmed Manchester City officially as Premier League champions and they would finish a massive 19 points clear at the end of the season.

Although they would eventually experience the inevitability of relegation, West Brom finished their season in great form, beating Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur in the run-in. That form was enough for Moore, who played 104 times for the club during a five-season spell to land the job in late May on a permanent basis.

Iconic Moments: Fernando’s horrendous miss (September 2011)

Fernando Torres cost Chelsea £50 million on transfer deadline day in January 2011 when he elected to join the Blues from Premier League rivals Liverpool FC. It is fair to say that Chelsea supporters rarely saw the best of the Torres that haunted defenders throughout the world from his Liverpool days.

The lowest point of his Chelsea career came in September 2011 at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Having scored his first goal of the season early in the second half, the Spaniard got the perfect opportunity to double his tally with seven minutes left to play.

Played through by Ramires, Torres beat the offside trap and rounded goalkeeper David de Gea. The goal was gaping infront of him. Somehow, he managed to slice his shot wide into a delighted Stretford End. Cue a serious amount of laughter from United supporters and Liverpool fans who had never quite forgiven Torres for his transfer.

Sky Sports analyst Jamie Redknapp said: “To use a golfing term, it was almost like a yip.”

It remains one of the worst misses we’ve ever seen in the first 25 years of Premier League football.

Iconic Moments: The Battle of Old Trafford: Mark II (October 2004)

13 months after the explosive encounter at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Arsenal, the sides squared up to one another again. Arsenal had gone 49 games unbeaten in the Premier League. They were looking to make it 50 matches at the home of their most competitive rivals. They also knew that a victory here would virtually rule Manchester United out of the 2004-2005 title battle before the end of October.

Referee Mike Riley was going to be in for a difficult afternoon. He tried to allow the game to flow but there were sly fouls and challenges all day, with Rio Ferdinand lucky to escape punishment for hauling down Freddie Ljungberg in a goalscoring position. Ruud van Nistelrooy’s studs-up challenge on Ashley Cole also went unpunished on the day but the Dutchman would be charged and banned later by video authorities.

In the 73rd minute, the Red Devils won a controversial penalty as Wayne Rooney went down under Sol Campbell’s challenge. Replays showed that Rooney had made a complete meal out of the minimal contact between the two England internationals. After the demons of the previous season’s fixture, Van Nistelrooy did well to keep his nerve, send Jens Lehmann the wrong way and fire Sir Alex Ferguson’s side infront. In stoppage-time, Arsenal fell for the classic counter-attack with Alan Smith playing Rooney in to seal the three points for Manchester United and end Arsenal’s historic run.

In the tunnel after the match, tempers boiled over between staff of both clubs. A slice of pizza was thrown at Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson by Cesc Fabregas, which wasn’t confirmed by the perpetrator until 2017 when he confessed on the Sky One panel show “A League of Their Own.” Wenger was fined £15,000 for comments made about Van Nistelrooy who himself was banned for three games for his challenge on Cole.

Iconic Moments: The Battle of Old Trafford: Mark I (September 2003)

For over a decade in the Premier League, the prime fixture was between Manchester United and Arsenal. Between the two teams, they have won 16 of the 25 Premier League titles since the creation of the league in 1992. There have been some tasty battles between the sides and none more so than this encounter in September 2003.

In a hard-fought encounter, chances were few and far between. Ryan Giggs hit the post from a free-kick, whilst Ashley Cole came closest for Arsenal with a shot that whistled just wide of the post. The first flashpoint arrived 10 minutes from the end of the game. Gunners captain Patrick Vieira clashed with Ruud van Nistelrooy and appeared to kick out at the Dutchman who dived out of the way to ensure contact wasn’t made. Perhaps Van Nistelrooy had made the most of the incident but Vieira could have no defence for his action. Steve Bennett promptly sent the Frenchman off for violent conduct.

Then in stoppage-time, Martin Keown hauled down Diego Forlan to the ground in the penalty area and Bennett awarded the Red Devils a spot-kick. Arsenal players were feeling aggrieved, especially with Van Nistelrooy who would take the penalty. If he scored, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side would win the match and go top of the table. However, he missed with his penalty beating Jens Lehmann but smashing the crossbar. At the full-time whistle, Keown lost complete control of his temperament, jumping all over Van Nistelrooy. Arsenal players let their emotions take over and many of their players started pushing and shoving Van Nistelrooy around like a rag doll. What followed were some unsavoury scenes with players from both sides squaring up to one another.

Arsenal were fined £175,000 and bans were handed out to Lauren, Ray Parlour, Keown and Vieira whilst Ashley Cole was fined for verbal abuse. Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo were fined from Manchester United for their part in the fracas after the final whistle.

For the record, the match did end 0-0 and was the closest Arsenal came to defeat in their historic ‘Invincibles’ season of 2003-2004.

Premier League Files: Dean Gordon

Premier League Career: Crystal Palace (1992-1993, 1994-1995, 1997-1998), Middlesbrough (1998-2002)

Left-back Dean Gordon is a perfect example of a journeyman footballer who represented a host of different clubs during his career. In his 18-year stint as a footballer, he played for no fewer than 20 teams with spells in England, Cyprus and even New Zealand. To be fair to Dean, a lot of this movement came after his prime days in the game which were spent in the top two divisions with Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough.

Born in Croydon, Gordon made the breakthrough professionally at his local club, Crystal Palace. Starting as a trainee, he turned professional in July 1991 and would eventually make over 200 appearances for the Eagles across seven league campaigns. Gordon was part of the Palace team that won the First Division championship in 1994 and won promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs three years later. Unfortunately, all three Premier League campaigns he took part in ended in relegation from the top-flight. Strong in the tackle, Gordon loved to fly forward from the left-flank and also had a tendency to score some spectacular goals from distance. One of his best came in his penultimate match as a Palace player at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium – although it ended in a 5-2 defeat.

Following Palace’s third Premier League relegation, he left in July 1998 and joined Middlesbrough for £900,000. In his first season on Teeside, he started every single Premier League match, as Boro finished ninth in the table. He was one of the goalscorers too in December 1998 when Bryan Robson’s team went to Old Trafford and beat Manchester United 3-2.

His next three seasons at The Riverside Stadium were a real struggle though and he was limited to a meagre 20 further games with his final appearance coming in a 1-0 victory over local rivals Sunderland in January 2002. He was released at the end of that campaign by Steve McClaren and joined Coventry City.

It was from here when Gordon’s constant club changing happened. Some of his previous sides include Grimsby Town, Reading, APOEL Nicosia, Torquay United and Auckland City. Following his retirement in 2009 after a spell in non-league football, Dean now lives in Sunderland and runs Futsal Sunderland, providing competitions and other Futsal events for all ages.

Premier League Files: Paulo Wanchope

Premier League Career: Derby County (1997-1999), West Ham United (1999-2000), Manchester City (2000-2001, 2003-2004)

Costa Rican Paulo Wanchope was an enigmatic forward who could do amazing things one minute, then completely frustrate you the very next. However, he will still go down as having one of the most amazing debuts in the Premier League.

He joined Derby County in March 1997, costing the club £600,000. His debut would come at Old Trafford against current champions and league leaders Manchester United. Unless you really knew your football, few would have heard of the name Paulo Wanchope at kick-off. It was a completely different story by the full-time whistle.

Derby were already 1-0 up when Wanchope took possession inside his own half. He went on to beat no fewer than four Manchester United players with a gangling, but decisive run through their backline before calmly placing the ball beyond the advancing Peter Schmeichel. It was a moment that Derby supporters would never forget and was actually voted the greatest goal in the club’s history during their 125th anniversary celebrations.

Part of an impressive attacking line-up under Jim Smith’s tenure at Derby, Wanchope combined brilliantly with the likes of Dean Sturridge, Stefano Eranio and Francesco Baiano. He scored another 21 Premier League goals for the club, including a goal to send Arsenal to their first defeat of their 1997-1998 title-winning campaign.

In July 1999, Derby decided to cash in on Wanchope as his form had started to dip in the final months of the previous season. He joined West Ham United for £3.5 million and formed a formidable partnership with the charismatic Paolo di Canio. Between them, they scored 31 times in the Premier League as West Ham United finished ninth. In 1999-2000, Wanchope scored 12 league goals but the Hammers faithful never quite took to him as the supporters did at Derby.

When Freddie Kanoute and Davor Sukur both arrived at Upton Park in the summer of 2000, Wanchope was sold to newly-promoted Manchester City for £3.65 million and made a swift impression for his new side, scoring a hat-trick in their 4-2 victory over Sunderland. This was in Manchester City’s first top-flight game at Maine Road in over four years. He added another six goals but couldn’t prevent Joe Royle’s side slipping out of the top-flight after just a single season back amongst the elite.

He stayed with the Citizens in the First Division and despite injury setbacks; he scored 12 times in just 15 appearances to help them to the title and an immediate return to the Premier League. Unfortunately, a knee injury was now hurting his career. He spent the entire 2002-2003 season on the treatment table and was a bit-part player on his return with Kevin Keegan having the services of Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Fowler on his books.

Nevertheless, Wanchope still scored six times in 2003-2004, including a crucial winning goal at home to Newcastle United that effectively kept the club in the Premier League after severe threats against relegation. He moved to La Liga in the summer of 2004, signing for Malaga. Further spells came in Qatar, Japan and the United States before retiring in November 2007, citing his knee problems as the decisive factor in not being able to demonstrate his best form.

He moved into coaching and even had a spell as national team manager of Costa Rica but resigned in 2015 after video footage emerged of him hitting a match steward.

When fit, Paulo Wanchope had an excellent goalscoring pedigree and Derby County supporters will never forget that incredible debut bow in April 1997 at Old Trafford.

Iconic Moments: A Brucey bonus (April 1993)

The first Premier League season was drawing towards its conclusion and a real head-to-head scrap was developing for the championship between Ron Atkinson’s Aston Villa and Manchester United. Alex Ferguson’s team were doing the chasing going into the Easter weekend. It was at this stage a year earlier where they’d folded in the run-in and handed the title to their rivals from the Pennines in Leeds United.

United were playing Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford and the game was finely poised at 0-0 when the referee in the match, Mike Peck picked up an Achilles injury and had to be replaced. Beginning the match as linesman, John Hilditch was suddenly thrust into the limelight as substitute referee. His first decision was a simple one. Paul Ince’s poorly-timed tackle on Chris Waddle saw a penalty given. It was converted by John Sheridan and Sheffield Wednesday led 1-0. Some Manchester United fans looked despondent. Were their title dreams and the 26-year wait for a championship set to continue?

The home side pushed forward and in the 88th minute, Steve Bruce headed home from a corner to level the scores. Time was surely nearly up? Not for Hilditch. He had timed the length of the stoppage for the referee change, plus numerous time-wasting tactics from the Owls’ players, including substitutions. It meant seven minutes of injury-time were to be played and this was before electronic scoreboards on the touchline.

Wednesday players kept badgering the referee on how long was left but the final whistle still wasn’t blown. There was just enough time for Gary Pallister’s cross to be deflected off Nigel Worthington’s head and into the path of Bruce, who diverted another terrific header past Chris Woods’ despairing dive. Old Trafford exploded in joy and exultation. On the touchline, Alex Ferguson and Brian Kidd couldn’t contain themselves. Kidd jumped onto the pitch and looking up to the heavens. This was an iconic image in the first 25 years of Premier League football.

The 2-1 win was the catalyst for a faultless run-in from Manchester United. They would eventually win the title by 10 points, provided by efficient time-keeping and a real Brucey bonus.

Shock Results: Manchester United 1-2 Bolton Wanderers (October 2001)

Goalscorers: Juan Sebastian Veron 25, Kevin Nolan 35, Michael Ricketts 84

Teams:

Manchester United: Fabien Barthez, Phil Neville, David May (Gary Neville 78), Wes Brown, Mikael Silvestre, Nicky Butt, Juan Sebastian Veron, Paul Scholes (Ryan Giggs 66), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke (Luke Chadwick 67)

Bolton Wanderers: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Simon Charlton, Gudni Bergsson, Bruno N’Gotty, Mike Whitlow, Bo Hansen (Anthony Barness 82), Paul Warhurst (Jermaine Johnson 54), Kevin Nolan, Per Frandsen, Ricardo Gardner, Michael Ricketts

Referee: Graham Barber, Attendance: 67,559

This was the 100th meeting between Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers. After this surprising victory in October 2001, Sam Allardyce said: “There is no better feeling, apart from watching my children being born – it is my best result as a manager.”

Bolton had made a strong start to their Premier League return and had already beaten Liverpool FC and held Arsenal at Highbury. However, they had just lost 4-0 at home to Newcastle United seven days earlier.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side weren’t at their free-flowing best and had been beaten in the UEFA Champions League in midweek by Deportivo La Coruna. Nevertheless, they were expected to brush the Trotters’ side aside with relative ease infront of their biggest crowd of the season.

Ferguson did make eight changes following the defeat to the Spanish side in midweek and as expected, they did a lot of the pressing in the opening exchanges with Bolton sitting and containing their more fancied opponents. Allardyce’s tactic was working until the 25th minute.

Juan Sebastian Veron drove a free-kick into the back of the Bolton net from 30 yards out. However, 11 minutes later, the visitors’ silenced the Old Trafford faithful with an equaliser that suggested they were playing with utmost confidence. Bruno N’Gotty floated a long ball towards the back post. It was met by Michael Ricketts, who nodded the ball down into the path of Kevin Nolan. Nolan hit the deftest of volleys and it flew into the back of the net. Fabien Barthez had absolutely no chance.

The Red Devils were sprung into life by this shock equaliser and Jussi Jaaskelainen had to be sharp to make a remarkable double save to deny Paul Scholes and Andy Cole in very quick succession. Jaaskelainen’s acrobatics here would see him earn a nomination for the Premier League Save of the Decade at the 10 Seasons’ Awards. He was beaten by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shortly afterwards but the Norwegian was denied by an offside flag.

Many would have felt Bolton would try and hold on for a fantastic point but they sensed a real upset and having matched the men from Old Trafford throughout the second half, they seized their opportunity six minutes from the end. Ricketts shook off the attentions of Wes Brown, broke clear and smashed the ball past Barthez to set Allardyce’s side up for only their second win at the Theatre of Dreams in 40 years.

Bolton would stay up in 16th place on their return to the Premier League. Six home defeats for Manchester United during the season would see Ferguson’s side restricted to a third-place finish, nine points adrift of eventual champions Arsenal.

Referees in the Middle: Keith Hackett

Premier League Career: 1992-1994

First Premier League Match: Ipswich Town 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (30 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool FC (30 March 1994)

The majority of Keith Hackett’s career was before the introduction of the FA Premier League but even though he had reached the planned retirement age before the reformation in English football, his exemption onto the list for the inaugural season showed how well-respected he was.

Hackett’s record is right up there with the best in the business. In a list maintained by the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History and Statistics), Hackett is within the top 100 referees. When he retired in April 1994, he had been refereeing for over 34 years.

Like many of his peers, Hackett began in the local leagues in 1960, taking charge of games across Yorkshire. He became a Football League linesman in 1972 and four years later, had progressed to the full list of officials. He was just 32 years old when this milestone was achieved.

His best period was the 1980s. He was one of the youngest referees to ever have the privilege of officiating at the FA Cup final which was in those days, the ultimate domestic honour in English club football. Hackett’s year for the showpiece was the 1981 classic between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City which finished 1-1 before the Ricky Villa magic in the replay days later.

Three years later, he was back at Wembley to do the all-Merseyside Charity Shield when a Bruce Grobbelaar own goal meant Everton beat Liverpool FC. The domestic set was complete when he got the 1986 League Cup final as Oxford United won their only knockout trophy, defeating Queens Park Rangers 3-0.

In 1988, Hackett was the English choice of official at the 1988 European Championships in West Germany. He took control of the hosts’ 1-1 draw with Italy during the group stages which was played in Cologne. Later that summer, he went to the Olympic Games to officiate in the football competition in Seoul, South Korea. Again, he looked after a West German match, this time the semi-final with Brazil which ended 1-1 but saw the South Americans win on penalties.

In October 1990, he had to deal with one of the toughest incidents of his or anyone’s career when a 21-man brawl broke out at Old Trafford during a league clash involving Manchester United and Arsenal. Hackett and his match officials handled a tricky situation with stern punishments for both clubs. After consultations between them and the FA, Manchester United were docked one point and deducted two points from Arsenal’s total. The Gunners’ still won the league championship.

When the Premier League began, the new league could trust on Keith Hackett’s judgement and control. He took charge of 36 Premier League matches, handed out just 38 yellow cards and didn’t dismiss a single player. In that period, he only awarded three penalties and two of those were in one match when Oldham Athletic lost 4-1 to Tottenham in the inaugural season. He retired just short of his 50th birthday in 1994 with his last match in the middle being a blockbuster encounter between Manchester United and Liverpool FC. United won the midweek match 1-0 with Paul Ince scoring the only goal.

After retiring from officiating, Hackett became a referees’ assessor and in March 2004, he replaced Philip Don to be appointed General Manager of the PGMOB (Professional Game Match Officials Board). His knowledge has also come through in publishing through books, cartoon quizzes and columns for the Observer and the Daily Telegraph.

He is honest enough in his assessments too. At the end of the 2016-2017 campaign, he stated in a strong article that the likes of Jon Moss, Kevin Friend and Roger East shouldn’t be retained on the current elite list.

Keith Hackett is still a strong voice in the game and he won’t hold back either. People listen to his frank and honest assessments nowadays, just like they did when he was controlling football matches in the middle.