Whenever Manchester United and Aston Villa meet, my mind invariably goes back to the very first FA Cup Final that I have a clear memory of. United were the newly crowned League champions and just 90 minutes away from completing the first League – Cup double of the century, a double deemed by most pundits at the time as no longer being possible to achieve. But it was not meant to be.
Here’s some free advice to younger Manchester United fans. The older you get, the sharper your memories become especially when it’s involved with football. The strange thing is that you tend to remember special names that may have been forgotten by most others. A perfect example is former Ireland international John Giles who after winning an FA Cup medal with United in 1963 went on to become a legend for both Ireland and Leeds United but it’s the six years spent at United that sticks in one’s memory.
In a week when Manchester United begin another Champions League campaign, we should remember one of the most blinkered decisions ever taken in the history of English football. When Chelsea won their first ever League title in 1955 they were forced to withdraw from the inaugural European Cup competition by the then Football League secretary Alan Hardaker who feared that the new competition would create too much fixture congestion. That shameful decision was not surprising because the British had a history of being suspicious of international football as shown by the fact that none of the home teams entered the World Cup until 20 years after its inception.