The pressure was heating up on Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson. After bottling the previous season’s run-in, his side had made a disastrous start to the new campaign. A 1-1 draw at home to relegation favourites Ipswich meant they’d picked up just a single point from their opening three games.
They’d followed up the opening-day defeat to Sheffield United, where Brian Deane made himself a pub quiz legend, with a dismal 3-0 loss at home to Everton. On the scoresheet that night was Robert Warzycha, one of the few foreign faces in England’s top tier. Affectionately known as ‘Bob the Pole’ by Evertonians, the winger’s name was butchered by Ceefax on a weekly basis. Nonetheless, his goal in Manchester made him the toast of Merseyside.
Anyway, the visit of Ipswich to Old Trafford was expected to get United’s season back on track. Yet it was Chris Kiwomya who gave the Tractor Boys a shock lead after a long throw caused chaos in United’s defence. The lead lasted barely a minute as Denis Irwin walloped home an equaliser. United huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a winner, much to the home fans’ frustration.
Next up was a trip to Southampton and rumours were rife that Ferguson was going to make big changes. Frankly, his team were a shambles all over the park. In defence, Bruce and Pallister looked like two neighbours who had fallen out over a parking space. Meanwhile in midfield Darren Ferguson and Mike Phelan had been anonymous so far. In fact things were so bad that Neil Webb, about as popular with the manager as a dog shit on the floor of the Rovers Return, was on the brink of a recall.
But it was the impotence up front that troubled Ferguson the most. Hughes and McClair were far off their best. The Cock of the North looked as dangerous as a feather duster. Luckily Ferguson had an ace up his sleeve. An instant shot of Viagra to United’s flaccid forward line. He was about to unleash Dion Dublin.
Les Ferdinand continued his fine start to the season at Loftus Road as unbeaten QPR overcame a stubborn Sheffield United. Ferdinand put QPR ahead with a brilliant solo effort that saw him beat three men before rifling it into the bottom corner. As the game ebbed and flowed, the Blades scratched their way back to 2-2 only for Dennis Bailey to snatch a late winner.
Hoops’ fans went home happy, though the biggest smile was reserved for Lawrie McMenemy, who was watching in the stands. The England assistant manager was there on scouting duty for under-fire Graham Taylor, still scarred by the horrorshow of England’s performance at Euro 92. After successfully alienating the entire country by subbing the now-retired Gary Lineker against Sweden, Taylor was desperate. The forthcoming fixture against Spain was a chance to rebuild his shattered reputation.
He needed a miracle. And by God, Good Old Lawrie, his dearest friend, had found one.
He’d found Brian Deane.
There had been much debate about the implications of the back pass rule on English football and now, three games into the season, a pattern was emerging. Goals. Loads of them.
It transpired that without the safety net of a simple nudge back to the keeper, England’s top flight hoofers became panicked and error-prone.
Perhaps the side that suffered most from the rule changes was Leeds United. The reigning champions continued their rotten start to the season as they were pummelled by Middlesbrough 4-1 at Ayresome Park. Nonetheless boss Howard Wilkinson still had faith in his defensive mainstays. The likes of Lukic, Dorigo, Whyte and Fairclough would come good. Those horrible bastards won him the trophy last year after all.
The real problem was up front. Eric Cantona had scored Leeds’ consolation at Boro and he was getting a bit too big for his boots for Howard’s liking. The fans loved his fancy flair, but Sgt. Wilko liked to play percentages. You knew where you were with the Lee Chapmans of this world.
The French lad’s face didn’t fit. He’d have to get rid of him soon. If anyone was daft enough to take him.
You know things are going well when Robert Rosario scores. At 6ft 3in and 15st, ‘Big Bob’ was all hustle and bustle. A lump of a centre forward with an aversion to shooting straight, some four years before Emile Heskey made it fashionable, Rosario somehow scored the winner as Coventry won 2-1 at Wimbledon to go top of the league.
Sadly there were just 3,700 souls at Selhurst Park to see this historic event. Rosario’s pea-roller from 20 yards slipped apologetically through Hans Segers’ fingers to put City 2-0 up and a late consolation from Dean Holdsworth wasn’t enough to stop Wimbledon going bottom.