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Days Of Destiny: United 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1 – 10/4/1993

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There are important days that stand out in Manchester United’s history. One of those days that stands out for not just myself but for a countless of fans – is the 10th of April 1993. That day it could be argued is the day that Manchester United well and truly changed.

Leading up to that day’s fixture against Sheffield Wednesday in the title-run in the inaugural Premier League season there was a real sense of déjà vu amongst the United fans. After all despite a good win over Norwich the week before, many fans were still nervous as only the season before United let the league title slip when we seemingly had the trophy firmly in our grasp.

Leeds United of course took advantage of our poor form (which saw us win only 7 games out of our last 21) to claw back a five point lead with five games to go to win the last old-first division title by four points.

It was at the time a major blow for the club and for Sir Alex Ferguson who was still yearning for his first league title since moving down from Scotland. Towards the end of that season, we dropped points perhaps too casually as perhaps nerves kicked in.

A draw at relegation-threatened Luton Town was followed by a home defeat to Nottingham Forest before painful defeats at West Ham and Liverpool followed as we handed Leeds the title with a game to play.

When our fans great expectations’ turned into hopeful flickers on the penultimate day at Anfield that year, the Kop much to the distaste of the travelling United fans chanted ‘You’ll never win the League.’ Considering United’s league-title jinx which at that time had reached 25 years, there were many fans who surely could not argue that as it was another blown chance to win the league.

The game against Sheffield Wednesday at home helped to launch a new era of football at Old Trafford. The game had everything. An opposition penalty at Old Trafford (yes they did happen back then) near misses, crunching tackles and even a referee change.

The hopes of many United fans were wavering around the hour mark of the game, when Paul Ince dived in on Chris Waddle inside the area. John Hilditch, who replaced injured referee Mike Peck gave a penalty.

Wednesday’s John Sheridan made Old Trafford wince as he dispatched the spot-kick. The collective aura of disappointment and anguish surrounded M16, and it all but seemed United’s challenge had run out of steam – again.

After all, it’s worth remembering at this point, the Owls had previously gone unbeaten against the Red’s for four years and at the time were battling for a top 5 spot in the league.

However a new United emerged after Sheridan’s penalty. With 20 minutes left, the inspirational Bryan Robson entered the game, and gave the team purpose and drive.

United besieged the Wednesday goal, only to be denied by poor finishing or the impressive Chris Woods in goal. It seemed though like it was going to be ‘one of those days’ sadly.

Yet after 86 minutes, the pressure told on the Wednesday dam and the water flowed through. Denis Irwin whipped in a corner which Steve Bruce met with aplomb. The previously unbeatable Woods had seen the ball fly past him into the top corner, but United didn’t stop.

The term relentless is a feature of the new United home shirt, and it is echoed by the next 10 minutes in the game. Where United looked dead and buried before, hope and arrogance filled the team.

They knew they could get the goal, just like we have seen over the years; another late late show at Old Trafford came into production. After a corner by Ryan Giggs and subsequent cross was half-cleared, Bruce’s defensive partner Gary Pallister crossed the ball back into the box in the 96th minute.

The Stretford End held its breath as Steve Bruce met the ball with a flying header, and euphoria swept M16.  The words of commentator Barry Davies that day live long in the memory. “There’s still a bit to be done,” Davies panted down the microphone, “But Brian Kidd and Alex Ferguson are almost celebrating the title.”

An explosive release of unbearable tension was found after the game. United still had a lot to do, but secured the title weeks later. This was the game though, where everyone truly believed the league title would once more be in the hands of Manchester United.

It is arguable that there are many days in the club’s history which shaped its future: Munich in 1958, Sir Matt Busby’s European cup triumph and the club’s relegation in 1974. Yet without this day and without the drive and determination shown by the players and coaching staff who knows whether we would have gone onto enjoy even half of the success that we have gone on to achieve since.

That’s why the impact and value of this game cannot be under-estimated. It was a key game in our history. It was a game that released the shackles off for our first league title in 26 years and those shackles being realised has been a crucial blueprint in our long-term success. Forget this game at your peril.

By @MattJoyce92