Sat. Feb 27th, 2021

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Manchester United have rediscovered their Sir Alex Ferguson habit

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On the walk up the steps to the David Meek press lounge the walls are adorned by programme covers from milestone matches at Old Trafford, like stag heads in a hunter’s cabin.

Coronation days, the parading of the Division Two jug in 1974, glorious European quarter-finals and semi-finals are all represented. Also among the framed mementos is the United Review from March 4 1995, celebrating the ‘tenth derby double’ over Manchester City with an action image of Ryan Giggs sliding in on Nicky Summerbee. That picture is now synonymous with what was, for more than 24 years, the record win in the Premier League era.

United matched their 9-0 shellacking of Ipswich Town on Tuesday and the lovingly decorated press wall is in need of a new addition. It is so rare for United to win 9-0 they first recorded that scoreline in 1895 and the dismantling of Southampton was the fourth such triumph.

“Get more goals. Ten minutes,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer yelled. After making it 8-0, United charged like an army on a battlefield from the restart and poached a ninth through Daniel James, inflicting a second 9-0 drubbing on Southampton in successive seasons.

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Manchester United smashed nine goals past Southampton on Tuesday night as they bounced back from disappointing results against Sheffield United and Arsenal in emphatic fashion.

The game was effectively over as a contest inside the first two minutes as Southampton were reduced to 10 men, but United still had to find the goals and they did exactly that, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial (two), Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James all getting on the scoresheet.

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“It came from them, they drove it on,” Solskjaer said. “The players out there, Harry [Maguire], Victor [Lindelof], David [de Gea], the ones at the back played the ball quickly. Scott [McTominay] played the ball quickly so we got into their half and last third and they wanted more and more.

“So when you play football you have to make the most of it, it might be the last game you play, you never know. So we played like it could’ve been the last game.”

United were 4-1 up at Nottingham Forest on February 6 1999 with Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole both on hat-tricks when Solskjaer was summoned to replace Yorke, bemused to be hooked in the 71st minute when a goal away from a mid-season treble. Solskjaer plundered double the amount of goals as Yorke in a 10-minute glut and, ever the selfish striker, Cole appeared genuinely miffed in congratulating his teammate on his third.

“I was sitting there, thinking, ‘4-1, I’m not coming on today and it didn’t look like he was putting me on because Andy and Dwight were on fire as well,'” a 25-year-old Solskjaer recalled at the time. “Then he just said, ‘Ole come and change’.

“Jim Ryan (Ferguson’s first-team coach) had a few famous last words like, ‘we don’t need any more goals, just keep the ball, pass it, play nice and simple’. And, of course, I don’t like to do it that way, do I?” That remains the case in management.

Sir Alex Ferguson, shielded from the cold by a blanket and a flat cap on Tuesday night, was maybe the only spectator in attendance for both 9-0 processions 25 years, 10 months and 29 days apart. Unless there is an Old Trafford steward with a longevity to match the former United manager.



Solskjaer recalls his four goals at Forest
Solskjaer recalls his four goals at Forest

Ferguson’s United have three entrants in the club’s top 10 biggest wins; the 8-1 rout of Forest and 7-0 thrashing of Barnsley, joint tenth with six other conquests.

United’s ‘Pride of all Europe’ chant begins, ‘We are just one of those teams that you see now and then, we often score six but we seldom score 10’. United put seven past Barnsley in 1997, West Ham in 2000, Roma in 2007 and Blackburn in 2010, and enjoyed six-goal hauls on 13 occasions under Ferguson. From the 1990 League Cup tie to the Premier League in 2011, Arsenal bookended the 20 games that Ferguson’s United tallied six or more goals in.

The penchant for pummelings ended with Ferguson taking his last bow in front of the away end after an uproarious 5-5 draw at West Brom in May 2013. United did not manage another five-goal haul in the league until their trip to Cardiff in December 2018 – Solskjaer’s maiden match as caretaker manager.

United pillaged six goals for the first time since the 8-2 embarrassment of Arsenal at Tranmere in the FA Cup in January of last year and ended a drought of eight-and-a-half years without scoring five at home in the league with the 5-2 hammering of Bournemouth in July.


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Leeds were vanquished 6-2 at Old Trafford last month, a non-contest so laden with opportunities United must have rued not hitting double figures. Had the bumbling officials signalled a suitable amount of added time against Southampton, United might have matched the Busby Babes’ club-record 10-0 denuding of Anderlecht in 1956.

There have also been 5-0s in Europe against Club Brugge, LASK and RB Leipzig over the last year. Those are unlikely to make the press lounge wall.

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