Everton v Manchester United: 30 years on from dramatic FA Cup final
Andy Mitten reflects on the memorable tussle between Everton and Manchester United in the 1985 FA Cup final as the sides prepare to do battle in the Premier League.
There have been many epic encounters between Manchester United and Everton, though none as dramatic as the 1985 FA Cup final. Howard Kendall’s Toffees were the best team in England, the champions and chasing a treble having won the European Cup Winners’ Cup three days earlier. United were considered incapable of mounting a serious title challenge.
“I didn’t think about Man United that much when I was a kid,” recalled Jamie Carragher, then a match going Evertonian. “Liverpool were our rivals and we were one and two year after year. United were a threat, but you never thought they’d win the league as they always faded. United were a cup team and I liked Olsen and Strachan.”
United had won the FA Cup in 1983, the trophy won by Everton a year later. Ron Atkinson’s side then prevented an all Merseyside final by beating Liverpool after a replay in the semi-final.
“I scored my best goal that night,” remembered captain Bryan Robson. “Did a one-two with Strachan on the halfway line and Alan Hansen was chasing me. So I just let go and it went right in the top corner. You can do that 25 times on the training pitch and you will miss 24 times, but it was the one time when it went right for me. Then Sparky came up with a goal to win us that game.”
Thousands of Evertonians went from Rotterdam, where their team had beaten Rapid Vienna, to London. Others, including a young Jamie Carragher, travelled from Merseyside.
“My dad, for some reason, liked Man United,” recalled Carragher. “I always remember him saying that they played good football with wingers. He liked Ron Atkinson too. He said there was nothing not to like about Man United.
Carragher’s father got into a spot of bother outside Wembley.
“My dad got locked up before the game,” remembered Carragher. “A ticket tout showed a load of tickets and my dad went ‘F*** off’ and grabbed them. He turned around and saw a policeman. Dad was arrested. My brother and I were hysterical, but we were in a bigger group. The police actually sat us on the Everton coach to calm us down, the driver pointing out who sat where. We then got in the ground with dad’s mate and with about half an hour to go my dad somehow found us. For some reason he was carrying a big hooter, like a vuvuzela!”
A crowd of 100,000 awaited.
“I thought that I’d missed my chance of playing in an FA Cup final after being injured in’83 but I had another in ’85,” recalled United’s former Everton full-back John Gidman. “We were the underdogs and Big Ron told us, ‘Don’t sit back. Go at them.’ It was hot and we took salt tablets. The Wembley grass was long and I used longer studs than usual. When Peter Reid hit a volley, I stretched as far as I could to reach it, convinced the ball was going in. Somehow, my stud clipped it and it went wide.”
United were holding out when Kevin Moran was sent off in the 78th minute after a challenge on Peter Reid, thus becoming the first player to be sent off in an FA Cup final.
“I didn’t deserve to go,” said Moran. “If I was at fault with a bad tackle I’d get up and check the other player was OK. I didn’t do that because it wasn’t a bad tackle. TV showed that I went for the ball. My foot was on the ground but Peter’s impact pushed him over me.”
The red card was nonetheless issued. Even Reid protested to the referee.
“He did, but only after I’d gone,” noted Moran. “He could have got up earlier rather than lying there like he was half dead. We were good buddies and used to hang out.”
“I was in a bit of a daze coming off,” continues Moran. “I thought we might lose the game because I’d been sent off. I sat on the bench dazed...”
The game ticked into extra time.
“Kevin should never have been sent off, but the referee was on his last game and wanted to make an impact,” agreed United forward Frank Stapleton. “I had to play centre-half when Kevin went off. I was OK in that position, but I thought that Bryan (Robson) would have stopped back rather than me. I played alongside big Paul (McGrath), he marked Graham Sharpe and I had Andy Gray. I knew that I could compete with him in the air and that he would never run me. I just had to make sure that I didn’t lose my concentration and that I stayed with him when he wandered into space.”
While United aimed for a replay, Norman Whiteside had other ideas, bending a 110th minute shot around Neville Southall. It was one of the FA Cup final’s greatest ever goals.
Manchester United's Norman Whiteside (l) celebrates scoring the winning goal in extra time with teammates John Gidman (c) and Gordon Strachan (r)PA Sport
“I was the first player to congratulate him and said: ‘If there wasn’t 100,000 people here I’d f*** you now.’” recalled Gidman. The goal brought Moran to his senses too.
“When Norman scored, when I went absolutely mad, jumping up and down,” smiled Moran.
“Everton looked tired too because they’d just had a European final,” said full-back Arthur Albiston. “I was right behind Norman’s shot. I jumped into Ron’s arms and wrapped my legs around him. I got hammered for that, especially with my injured ankle. Sometimes you do daft things.”
“My mate on the terrace asked me what had happened,” recalled Carragher. “I told me that b*****d Whiteside had just scored! I could hardly see it because it was at the opposite end.”
“We were playing well, but when Norman scored the goal, my elation quickly turned to fear,” said Stapleton. “I started thinking that I didn’t want to be responsible for any mistakes which would let Everton back into the game. Mick Duxbury kept talking to me. I said to him, ‘Keep talking to me, Mickey, because I’m wandering and following the ball – that was the natural thing for a striker to do.’ Fortunately we got through it. I’ve never seen the ’85 Cup final game since. I might have a copy of it on a video somewhere in the attic.”
United held out, though goalkeeper Gary Bailey suspected they would – thanks to witchcraft.
“My dad had come over for the ’83 final from South Africa,” explained the goalkeeper. “They are big into witchcraft there and he had seen goalkeepers use a lock and key. My mates had said, ‘Gary, you’re a nightmare at Wembley; you’ve conceded seven goals in three games. Dad gave me the lock and key with a red and white ribbon on. I was to lock the goal before I played in it and then unlock it at half time otherwise my team wouldn’t have scored in the second half. I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, bulls**t’. But I went with it and kept a clean sheet against Brighton, then another one against Liverpool in the Charity Shield and another against Everton in the 1985 final. So draw your own conclusions. The other players had their own superstitions. Whether it got me focussed or not, it was worth doing.”
Everton were floored by the goal from the player who’d later sign for them.
“After the game, I remember picking my old Villa team mate Andy Gray up, a tear in his eye, and telling him to keep his head up,” said Gidman.
“Whiteside’s goal ruined the day,” recalled Carragher. “We went back to Liverpool that night and Liverpool fans were waiting for us. They were delighted because Man United had stopped Everton doing the treble. We stayed in the pub until 3am, singing and dancing because while Everton had lost, we’d just won the league.”
“Once we’d won I was fine,” remembered Moran. “People kept saying: ‘I’m sorry for you’ but we’d won the game and I felt no different at the celebrations.”
Given that there wasn’t a precedent, the FA held Moran’s medal back.
“That was petty,” Moran opined. “And it became a media debate about whether I should get a medal or nor. I was finally told on the plane to the (celebratory) Caribbean trip that I’d get my medal.”
The day after parading the cup in Manchester’s Albert Square, the victorious United team left for Montego Bay in Jamaica as a treat from the United chairman Martin Edwards.
United had won another cup, but they wouldn’t win the league for another eight years. Everton won the league again in 1987 and haven’t won it since, though they’ve hammered United in each of the last two games at Goodison. United fans will be hoping for more of the spirit of Whiteside on Saturday afternoon.