Manchester United's perfect start to the new season with five wins out of five has brought back memories of the class of 1985/86 under the guidance of Ron Atkinson who opened the season with ten straight wins without the distraction of a European campaign. The tragic scenes at Heysel meant that beating Everton in the 1985 FA Cup final did not lead onto a fight for the Cup Winners Cup.
Wind the clock back 26 years and I was merely an excitable nine year old whose sole method of keeping up to date with the latest scores was via Radio 2 on a Saturday afternoon and the dulcet tones of Peter Jones and Bryon Butler. This was then supplemented by Final Score on Grandstand where the famous vidiprinter made an appearance with either Bob Wilson or Des Lynam navigating their way round the day's games. Of course, this was the time before real football began (according to Sky and the advent of the Premier League!) and there was no Soccer Saturday or late live game to round off the afternoon. In fact, there was no live football at all in 1985 as contract talks had broken down over plans for a deal worth £19 million across a four year period. When you think of the multi-billion pound deals now being signed world-wide by the Premier League, this emphasises the huge shift in demand for our national sport. This television blackout meant that United's historic start to the season went completely under the radar in terms of coverage on the box and when a deal finally was secured, just six matches were shown live until the end of the season! Fast forward to 2011/12 and Sky will show that number across a couple of weekends! If you would like to read more about the 1985 TV blackout, please click here for an excellent article from the Independent.
The details of those opening ten matches are shown below:
|Graphic courtesy of Wikipedia|
|Big Ron Atkinson|
The challenge facing the present side is undoubtedly greater than that of their predecessors 26 years ago. The added burden of European football, greater squad depth of their rivals, frequent international breaks among other things mean that if the current crop ascertain ten straight victories it will be a fine achievement. I would also suggest that the ten fixtures faced by United at the start of this season is their toughest to date in the Premier League era. After overcoming the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea, they will face Liverpool (A), Manchester City (H) and Everton (A) in their 8th, 9th and 10th fixtures. If they come unscathed through these, then it will be difficult to see past United for a record 20th title unless widespread complacency rears its head. As this is something that does not even feature in the vocabulary of the management team at Old Trafford, one would expect a relentless march towards the finishing line.
There have been enough signs in these opening five league fixtures to suggest that despite the free flowing football they have displayed that they will come unstuck at some point along the way towards that magic ten victory mark. A moment of luck from the opposition is all it takes for the achievement to be consigned to history yet you get the feeling that such a setback will not derail this current squad to quite the same extent that it did to the talented players who graced the Old Trafford turf 26 years ago.
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