Manchester United vs Brighton: Time for Albion to end century long Old Trafford hoodoo

Ian Hine: The 25 meetings between Albion and Manchester United have yielded just three victories for the Seagulls.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 5:31 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd April 2021, 5:34 pm
Graham Potter saw his team lose 3-1 at Old Trafford last season

All of these wins came at home, two since we returned to the top flight in 2017. We have yet to win a game at Old Trafford, dating back to the very first encounter, way back in January 1909, when United won an ill-tempered FA Cup tie 1-0.

Our last point against United came towards the end of our first spell in the top flight, in March 1983. The match came a week after both clubs had booked a place in the FA Cup Semi-Final. The draw had kept us apart, so it was a possible Cup Final rehearsal.

United were third in the table but a huge 18 points behind eventual champions Liverpool, and four behind the surprise package of the season, Watford. Albion were second form bottom on 28 points, two behind Norwich City and three from safety.

Manchester United programme cover from 1982-83 season

Jimmy Melia had just been confirmed as Albion manager, mainly due to our cup exploits, but the league situation remained perilous. The previous week had seen a very tense FA Cup quarter-final against Norwich City and Melia kept faith with the team that had won that game 1-0.

Graham Moseley was in goal, behind a back four of Chris Ramsey, Steve Foster, Gary Stevens and Steve Gatting. In midfield, Jimmy Case and Tony Grealish were partnered with Neil Smillie and Gerry Ryan. Up front, Michael Robinson and Andy Ritchie were enjoying a productive partnership, despite our league position.

For United, manager Ron Atkinson was able to call on England internationals Ray Wilkins and Steve Coppell, as well as Republic of Ireland stars Paul McGrath and Frank Stapleton.

Albion took the game to their hosts right from the first whistle and had the ball in the net after just 60 seconds. Referee Alan Saunders chalked the goal off, saying that Andy Ritchie had handled the ball in the build-up, much to the annoyance of the travelling fans.

Just 6 minutes later we did go ahead. After Michael Robinson had forced a corner on the left, Jimmy Case swung the ball in and after Steve Foster headed the ball back across goal, Steve Gatting was on hand to head powerfully home from eight yards out.

The goal stung United into action and both Wilkins and Coppell went close. Graham Moseley was by far the busier goalkeeper and was called into action repeatedly before half-time.

Just after he saved brilliantly at the feet of Frank Stapleton, Albion were forced into a change when Gerry Ryan was helped off with a calf injury. He was replaced by Gordon Smith, who slotted into the left side of midfield.

Just after the half-time break, the Seagulls nearly went further ahead when Michael Robinson headed just over from a corner and Tony Grealish had a long range shot well saved by Gary Bailey. United’s continued pressure eventually told and 12 minutes into the second half they were level.

Arnold Muhren found Ashley Grimes in space and his precise pass to Arthur Albiston led to the fullback smashing the ball high into the net from 15 yards.

Albion continued to take the game to United, and Gordon Smith, Neil Smillie and Chris Ramsey all went close. Midway through the half, Andy Ritchie’s shot hit the post and as the game ebbed and flowed, Michael Robinson should perhaps have done better, but hooked his shot wide with just six minutes to go.

The game finished all square, but Jimmy Melia was disappointed. “I never thought that I would be upset at coming away from Old Trafford with a draw. We had enough chances to win two games”.

Graham Potter will undoubtedly adopt a similarly positive approach to the game on Sunday evening and with confidence high after two consecutive victories, perhaps it will be the time when we lay our Old Trafford hoodoo to rest.