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A Crazy 10 Days Against The Crazy Gang

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Not very often in sport, do you come up against a team three times in the course of a regular season in the space of a fortnight. Back in 1997 Manchester United did exactly that as they met Wimbledon thrice in the new year as the teams shared a win each and a draw in which the Dons.

 25/1/1997 – FA Cup Round 4 – United 1 Wimbledon 1:

After disposing of Spurs in Round 3 of the Cup at home 2-0, many of our fans no doubt would probably have been pleased to see us draw Joe Kinnear’s side at home compared to the other sides we could have been paired against.

Those fans would not have been foolish in thinking that United had won the game when Paul Scholes headed in an Eric Cantona cross in the final minute of the game to finally break down the Don’s resistance. After all when United score late, more often than not there’s only time for the opposition to kick off.

Wimbledon to their credit who had battled hard all day ignored the script and after United gave away a freekick, Alan Kimble’s excellent delivery found Robbie Earle (yes the same Earle whose a pundit for ESPN) inside the area to power home a header past Peter Schiemchel in injury time to the shock of everybody inside Old Trafford.

29/1/1997 – Premiear League – United 2 Wimbledon 1:

Four days after the drawn FA Cup tie, the two sides met in the Premier League with United getting a win that moved them to the top of the table for the first time since September.  United sealed the game late on coming from behind, but should have won the game comfortably before half-time.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer starting up front alongside Cantona was unlucky not to grab a hat-trick in this game as twice he hit the crossbar with the Don’s goalkeeper Neil Sulivan thwarting the forward on a couple of other occasions as well.

Chris Perry surprisingly put Wimbledon ahead with a volley just after the hour mark and for a 10-15minutes the Don’s fans were dreaming of their first win at Old Trafford since October 1992 back in the inaugural Premier League season.

Ryan  Giggs equalised for United with a looping header from a corner before Andy Cole followed in Solksjaer’s volley from a David Beckham cross to win United the game.  Could United now continue the momentum down at Selhurst Park and go through to the Fifth round to face QPR at home?

4/2/1997 – FA Cup Round 4 Replay – Wimbledon 1 United 0

Sadly for Sir Alex and the boys, Wimbledon in front of a sold-out crowd at Selhurst triumphed on a rainy night thanks to a powerful header from Marcus Gayle from a Kimble cross midway through the second half.

The Dons probably just about shaded the game and wasted two good first-half chances before Gayle’s strike after half time. It was probably one of Kinnear’s last great nights in charge of the team as the likes of Earle, Vinnie Jones and Dean Holdsworth worked their socks off to just about hold United out.

United were left to rue Sulivan’s fantastic reaction-save from a Gary Pallister header from a corner minutes before Gayle’s goal and the correct decision to rule out a last-gasp Schmeichel bicycle kick goal from a corner. Although as you’re see here there was no doubt about the decision, it was frustrating as Peter caught the ball well.

Wimbledon after knocking us out progressed to the semi-finals where they lost 3-0 to Chelsea at Highbury and went on to finish a respectable 8th in the Premier League. United went onto win the title that season and but for bad luck against Borussia Dortmund would have reached the Champions League final that year in Munich. 

By @ADennehey87