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Uniteds First FA Cup Final (No, I wasnt there!)

Sat Jun 14, 2008 4:24 pm

First FA Cup Triumph


Saturday 24th April, 1909 at Crystal Palace

Manchester United 1 Bristol City 0
Sandy Turnbull (22)


In 1902 Newton Heath were on the point of bankruptcy. The club was £2600 in debt (a fortune in those days). Team captain at the time Harry Stafford led a vigorous fund-raising campaign which involved one particular incident where his St.Bernard dog escaped his leash at a fundraising event and was found by local businessman John Davies. Davies took a liking to the dog, found that Stafford was its owner and agreed to buy the dog from Stafford for a contribution to club funds. This chance meeting led to the club being saved, the formation of Manchester United and, with the help of Davies's funding, United became a major force in 1900s english soccer.

The signing of many top players including giant keeper Harry Moger, half-backs Dick Duckworth, Alex Bell and "captain marvel" of his day Charlie Roberts. Shortly after they were joined by Sandy Turnbull and Harold Halse (our Edwardian version of Yorke and Cole) and the cherry on the cake was the signing on 15 May 1906 of "superstar" of his era, Billy Meredith.

Under Ernest Mangnall's shrewd management, United had won their first League title in 1907-08 by a massive 9 points (only 2 points for a win in those days. It would actually have been a 15 point margin under today's rules!). Now they turned their attention to the oldest Cup in the world of football.

In the 1st Round they were drawn at home to non-league Brighton & Hove Albion and, in typical United style, struggled to overcome less gifted opponents, managing to eke out a 1-0 win in front of an 8300 crowd at the old Bank Street ground, thanks to a Harold Halse goal.

In Round 2 United were paired with high-flying Everton, who had finished 3rd in the League in the previous season. A huge crowd of 35217 turned out for this battle of the giants and a tight affair was settled by another 1-0 win and another Harold Halse strike!

Round 3 saw another tricky tie against top-flight regulars and Cup experts Blackburn Rovers. United however showed some of their best form in this game and, in front of a delighted 38500 crowd, Rovers were on the end of a 6-1 drubbing! Sandy & Jimmy Turnbull (no relation) both helping themselves to hat-tricks!

Cup fever was in the air as United fans could almost taste the prospect of a Final, as a quarter-final tie at Turf Moor against 2nd Division Burnley lay ahead. Having brushed aside Blackburn so easily just 2 weeks earlier Burnley were expected to be a push-over. True to form again though things didn't go exactly to plan and United were trailing 1-0 with a shock looking likely when the game was abandoned with the pitch becoming unplayable. Having survived their scare, when the match was replayed United eventually won through by 3-2 with Jimmy Turnbull (2) & Halse again the heroes.

The Semi-final draw brought United head-to-head with the runaway league leaders Newcastle, who a few weeks later took United's League crown. Another epic clash was expected between two of the best teams in the country. Played out before a 40118 crowd at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, United won the day again by a score of 1-0 and the scorer? That man Harold Halse!!

So United had reached their first FA Cup Final. On 24 April 1909 the Red Devils took to the field at Crystal Palace tp lay Bristol City. Although not a major team in the modern game Bristol City were invariably in the top flight of football at this time and finished 8th in the League, 1 point ahead of United in this season. Although United were favourites because of the stars in their line-up, Bristol certainly should not be underestimated.

71,401 spectators crammed the ground to see these teams play for the title of FA Cup Winners:

United: Harry Moger (keeper), George Stacey, Vince Hayes (full-backs); Dick Duckworth, Charlie Roberts (c) and Alex Bell (Half-backs); Billy Meredith, Harold Halse, Jimmy Turnbull, Sandy Turnbull and George Wall (forwards).

Bristol City: Clay; Annan, Cottle: Hanlin, Wedlock, Spear; Staniforth, Hardy, Gilligan, Burton and Hilton.

A 2-3-5 formation was used almost exclusively in those days and it usually meant for some great attacking football. United's half-back line of Duckworth, Roberts and Bell was probably the finest in the league and Meredith and Wall provided a plentiful service to Halse and the Turnbulls.

As both sides usually played in Red with white shorts, the FA insisted one team change their usual kit, so United took the field in all white with a wide V-neck design.

United generally dominated play. Meredith in particular giving a virtuoso display and running the Bristol defence ragged. Playing with a strong wind behind them United's pressure eventually paid off midway through the first half when Harold Halse rattled the crossbar with a powerful strike which fell to Sandy Turnbull who blasted the rebound into the roof of the net.

United could not add to this lead and were severely hampered when full-back Vince Hayes had to leave the field injured (no substitutes back then remember) and later returned to a reshuffled team to play on as best he could in the forward line. Despite this Bristol could only create one clear cut chance in the game, a neat passing move which resulted in Hardy being left unmarked in the area but his shot was brilliantly saved by Harry Moger.

So it was that Charlie Roberts became the first in a long-line of United skippers to collect the famous trophy and proudly bring it back home to its rightful place in Manchester.

United of course moved on to bigger and better things with the building of Old Trafford where they moved in February 1910. They won the League again in 1911 but slowly the team started to break up and in 1912 inspirational manager Ernest Mangnall left to join Manchester City! Dark days lay ahead for United for the next 30 years until the arrival of a new manager in 1945, Matt Busby. The rest, as they say, is history.

My old man said be a City fan...

Nothing significant and lasting will ever come of FFP! - RedSte (2012)

Jado Antoun
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Re: Uniteds First FA Cup Final (No, I wasnt there!)

Sat Jun 14, 2008 7:27 pm

Excellent read mate !! Thanks !

"The day I came here was a privilege. The day I leave, I feel honoured." - Sir Alex Ferguson

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Re: Uniteds First FA Cup Final (No, I wasnt there!)

Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:43 pm

Brilliant read Ste (Y) (Y)

[center]In Love With Detail[/center]

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Re: Uniteds First FA Cup Final (No, I wasnt there!)

Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:02 pm

Condor and Graham where supposed to meet me in "The Drunken Slapper" after the match, the last I heard was they both got run in for bashing some City fan and pinching his horse and cart

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Re: Uniteds First FA Cup Final (No, I wasnt there!)

Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:33 pm

Great article Ste. Sorry it's taken me so long to find it!

1966 was a great year for English football. Eric was born!

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