Equal­ising for Manchester United

Frank O´Farrell´s Manchester United hit rock bottom when his players were rolled over by Crystal Palace at Sel­hurst Park on the 16th of December 1972. The South Lon­doners were two goals up at the break and the rampant home team man­aged to add three more in the second period of the tie to demolish The Red Devils of Manchester to the loud tune of 5–0.

The Manchester United Squad exper­i­enced a painful and unex­pected 5–0 defeat against their fellow releg­a­tion strug­glers Crystal Palace at Sel­hurst Park shortly before Christmas 1972 and hard pressed Old Traf­ford supremo Frank O´Farrell was forced to resign with imme­diate effect after the clash against The Glaziers. In their pre­vious First live fodbold Divi­sion away games before the fix­ture with Bert Head´s troops, Manchester United had beaten Nor­wich City, drawn with West Ham United, West Brom­wich Albion and Leicester City, and been defeated by Liv­er­pool, Everton, Wol­ver­hampton Wan­derers, Shef­field United, New­castle United and Manchester City. As for Crystal Palace, the Sel­hurst Park club had over­come Manchester City, New­castle United and Everton, drawn with Derby County, Liv­er­pool and Leeds United, and lost to West Brom­wich Albion, Nor­wich City, Cov­entry City and Arsenal at home.

The Manchester Reds began the encounter well enough and should have gone into an early lead when a mag­ni­fi­cent long pass from Republic of Ire­land inter­na­tional left wing­back Tony Dunne found nat­ural born hit man Ian Storey-Moore who shot from close range, but his effort was magic­ally stopped by home goal cus­todian John Jackson. After eleven minutes of the play, how­ever, Crystal Palace went ahead in the match as pre­vious Swindon Town goal plun­derer Don Rogers fed a bril­liant through pass to the onrushing Paddy Mul­ligan who placed the ball between Manchester United goal­keeper Alex Stepney and the near post. Recently signed mid­field entre­preneur from Everton Alan Whittle then enjoyed two con­sec­utive goal scoring chances but both oppor­tun­ities were denied. Shortly after, Storey-Moore came close to equal­ising for Manchester United but his fero­cious drive went straight at the net­minder. Instead, it was Crystal Palace who doubled their advantage as Mul­ligan col­lected Roger´s clever pass inside the eighteen-yard area and beau­ti­fully curled the ball past the com­pletely help­less shot stopper and into the back of the net just two minutes before the half time break.

The South London club con­tinued to dom­inate the pos­ses­sion after the inter­mis­sion refresh­ments and a mere two minutes into the second period, Don Rogers gave the hosts a three goal lead when he latched on to an intel­li­gent pass from Alan Whittle and rounded the away goal­keeper to put the ball into the empty net. Not so long later, Whittle finally man­aged to get on the scoring sheet him­self when the for­ward thinking play­maker notched up the fourth goal of the after­noon with an aston­si­hing effort which gave Stepney no chance to save what­sover and with as little as three minutes remaining of the con­test, Rogers com­pleted a tre­mendous brace to ensure a com­fort­able and com­pre­hensive 5–0 win over Manchester United. Frank O´Farrell: “I will never forget it. The sec­retary of the club had a scrap of paper in front of him and mumbled: We have ter­min­ated your con­tract. Sir Matt Busby was sat at the head of the table and did not utter a word. But I thought that I am not going out of here without him telling me why, so I asked him and he looked straight ahead and he said: No reason.” Manchester United Team: Alex Stepney, Tommy O’Neil, Tony Dunne, Tony Young, David Sadler, Martin Buchan, Willie Morgan, Ted Mac­Dou­gall, Brian Kidd, Wyn Davies, Ian Storey-Moore.