Winning at Old Trafford became habit for Dave
Only one man has been able to celebrate victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford as both a Norwich City player and manager – he even has a unique hat-trick to his name.
Dave Stringer was playing at right-back when the Canaries pulled off one of their biggest FA Cup shocks of all, beating a United side that included Bobby Charlton, George Best, Denis Law and Nobby Stiles 2-1 on their own ground in the fourth round in 1967.
More than two decades later, in October 1988, in his first full season as City manager, Stringer’s surprise Division One leaders chalked up another memorable away success over Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils, winning 2-1 to open up a six-point gap at the top of the table. Just to prove it was no fluke, they returned early the following season to record a 2-0 win.
Indeed, difficult though it is to comprehend with the balance of power in football today, Stringer’s City won his first five matches against Ferguson as manager – easy when you know how.
There was one more notable Old Trafford success that could easily be overlooked – a 1-0 FA Youth Cup quarter-final victory for Stringer’s City youngsters in 1983, courtesy of a Louie Donowa goal, en route to winning the double.
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Add to that a gripping League Cup semi-final, first leg against United in 1975 when City drew 2-2 with the man himself in the centre of defence – the first part of a 3-2 aggregate victory that took them to Wembley – and it’s not difficult to see why the so-called “Theatre of Dreams” is one of his favourite grounds.
“We have had good results against them over the years and I suppose for a long period we had more wins than defeats,” said Stringer. “When we went there in 1967 we were a mediocre second division team, but like all clubs in that position, you’re looking for a good FA Cup run.
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“Perhaps they didn’t take us quite as seriously as they should. But the FA Cup was more prestigious than now and if you look at the United team that day, it’s not like today when some clubs almost put out a second eleven. And there were more than 63,000 there. It was still a most difficult tie because of the players they had. We were expected to go there as lambs to the slaughter.”
Stringer returned as manager in 1988 with a City team flying higher than ever before.
“It was my first full season, the start of my managerial career, so it was terrific to go there and win,” he said.
“Mike Phelan scored one of the goals that night. He’s done exceptionally well with United as assistant manager but he will know all the history behind the fixture with Norwich and he’s not going to take it lightly.”
City’s 1989 victory coincided with �2.3m defender Gary Pallister’s United debut, and the chances of Ferguson completing 25 glorious years as manager looked remote at the time – his quest for honours finally ended by winning the FA Cup that season.
“It’s an incredible feat that he has stayed for that period of time,” said Stringer. “Early on it was doubtful whether he would stay but once they won the first trophy it’s just been success after success, and he’s kept the team fresh by gradually making changes each year.”
The 2011 version of Ferguson’s United and a 75,000 crowd await the Canaries tomorrow, so do they have a chance?
“Of course they have a chance,” said Stringer. “It’s 0-0 when you start and if you play well on the day . . . sometimes if a team has played a European tie in midweek it can work in your favour, though with the size of squads today they can field a different eleven.
“But playing in front of a crowd like that should lift a team. It’s an added motivation to do well. There is no point going there and letting them walk all over you.”
• NO, THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN – OR SKY!
All eyes turned to the sky – not merely to Sky – at Carrow Road on Monday night when the Goodyear airship floated across the stadium to provide aerial camera shots of the Canaries’ Premier League game against Sunderland.
But there is nothing new under the sun, and one was reminded of those dramatic pictures of the Graf Zeppelin hovering low over Wembley Stadium, where King George V was among those watching the 1930 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Huddersfield Town.
On that occasion, the 776ft intruder was not given the warmest of welcomes as it flew over London’s most famous landmarks before heading north-west to cast its giant shadow over the pitch.
Reports at the time say the crowd jeered, but the Zeppelin crew mistook the jeers for cheers and decided to hang around for a while.
“Those who sat in the stands could not see it, but they heard its engines going with an almost deafening roar,” reported The Times. “Its presence was most disconcerting for the players and spectators . . . but the game went on without interruption.”
Arsenal won 2-0 with goals by Alex James and Jack Lambert – no relation. But it seems unlikely the 1930s news-reel audience were treated to aerial replays of the goals.