West Ham returned to the top tier of English football in 1981/82, with their first meeting with Man United on their return coming in January 1982 at Old Trafford. Man United – in manager Ron Atkinson’s first season - stood third in the table at the time and two points behind leaders Ipswich Town, but having played two extra games. West Ham in contrast had crashed from fifth place to twelfth after attaining just one point from their previous four games. A goal from future West Ham manager Lou Macari gave Man United a 1-0 win which took them to the top of the table. Man United built up a six point lead over Liverpool, who a month earlier had been languishing in twelfth place.
However, by early May of 1982 when Man United made their first trip to Upton Park for four years they only had faint hopes of a title, standing in third place eight points behind Liverpool with three games to go. West Ham meanwhile lay in tenth place. Goals for David Cross for West Ham and Kevin Moran for Man United meant a 1-1 draw at the Boleyn Ground, with Man United unable to overhaul Liverpool after the Merseysiders picked up a 1-0 away win over Birmingham. Liverpool secured the title one week later, after second place Ipswich lost 1-3 at home to Nottingham Forest. Man United finished in third place with two further wins, while West Ham finished their first season back in the top flight in ninth position.
By early October 1983, West Ham and Man United were vying for position at the top of the table after the Hammers picked up a 3-1 home win over Champions Liverpool. Two straight away defeats for West Ham on the South Coast against Southampton and Brighton however saw them drop to fifth place by the time of Man United’s visit to the Boleyn Ground. The Reds in contrast sat atop of the old First Division after eleven games. The Hammers took the lead with a goal from Paul Goddard, which doubled after penalty king Ray Stewart added a second from the spot. Man United were then reduced to ten men with Ashley Grimes sent off for striking the back of the referee’s head after he failed to give a penalty decision in Man United’s favour, before Geoff Pike added a third for the East London side.
Irish defender Kevin Moran pulled one back for Man United to score his second goal against West Ham in two seasons, however it was not enough to prevent a 3-1 win for West Ham, which knocked Man United off of the top of the table, sinking to third while the Hammers leapfrogged into to second on goal difference. Liverpool meanwhile topped the table after a 3-1 home win over Brighton that same day.
The two sides met again three months later in the third round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford. By this point, Man United were languishing ten points behind run away leaders Liverpool in third place, therefore their only hope of silverware came in the Cup competitions. Goals for Steve Coppell and a great finish from former Arsenal striker Frank Stapleton gave Man United a 2-0 win.
West Ham returned to Old Trafford in late March 1983, having sunk to thirteenth place. Man United meanwhile were third, but now eighteen points adrift of leaders Liverpool. The Red Devils meanwhile were four days away from a League Cup Final clash with Liverpool at Wembley and had progressed to an FA Cup Semi Final date with Arsenal after seeing off Everton in the Quarter Finals ten days prior. Goals from Scott McGarvey and Frank Stapleton gave Man United a 2-1 win, while Alan Devonshire had been on target for the Hammers. Man United however went on to lose to Liverpool in the League Cup, but secured their first trophy win under Ron Atkinson – and only their second since winning the European Cup under Busby fifteen years prior – beating Brighton 4-0 in a replayed FA Cup final two months later.
By the following November 1983, when Man United visited Upton Park for the 1983/84 season, West Ham stood in second place ahead of Man United on goal difference in third. Both sides were two points behind Liverpool who the day before drew 1-1 away at Ipswich, meaning that a win for either side would take them to the top of the table. The match was moved to Sunday as this was the very first season in which live league football was televised, with the game featuring on ITV’s ‘The Big Match Live’. Man United took the lead with a goal from Ray Wilkins, however an equaliser from Dave Swindlehurst meant that the two sides played out a 1-1 draw, which moved both sides to within a point of Liverpool at the top of the table.
The return fixture at Old Trafford that season came at the end of April 1984. Man United were still in the hunt for their first title in seventeen years, standing two points behind league leaders Liverpool with just five games to go. West Ham meanwhile had dropped to sixth position. In front of a crowd of 44,124, the two sides played out a 0-0 draw. Liverpool however also dropped points with a 2-2 home draw to Ipswich Town with a goal of the season contender from Eric Gates cancelling out Liverpool’s lead. Man United however failed to win any of their final five games of the season and a 1-1 away draw with Spurs at White Hart Lane secured a hat-trick of League titles for Liverpool – the first side to do so since Arsenal in the 1930s. West Ham meanwhile finished the season in ninth place.
By the time of West Ham’s league visit to Old Trafford for the 1984/85 season in mid-October, one point separated the sides with West Ham in fifth and Man United dropping to sixth place after a 0-3 loss to Aston Villa the week prior. The loss at Villa Park had been Man United’s first of the season, however the Reds had drawn five of their nine games played to date. Scots defender Gordon McQueen gave Man United the lead, before future TalkSport breakfast show host Alan Brazil doubled their lead with his first goal for United, followed by a third from Gordon Strachan. A twenty yard strike from midfielder Remi Moses put Man United four goals up, with a fifth added by a young Mark Hughes. Paul Goddard pulled one back for the Hammers with five minutes from time, but couldn’t prevent a 5-1 win for Man United, which pushed them up to fourth in the table.
West Ham returned to Old Trafford that same season in early March to face Man United in the Quarter Final of the FA Cup. Man United were third in the league, but seventeen points behind league leaders Everton who had a game in hand. West Ham meanwhile were languishing in sixteenth place, meaning that both sides were reliant on the FA Cup to save their season. Man United took the lead with a goal from Mark Hughes, before the Hammers drew level from an own goal by Man United defender Graeme Hogg. Some scenes from the infamous Thames Television documentary ‘Hooligan’ following West Ham’s ICF were filmed on location during this game and from the corner in which Norman Whiteside put Man United two one up, you can see Man United’s Gordon Strachan struck by an object thrown from the West Ham end. Two further goals from Norman Whiteside gave the young Northern Irishman a hat-trick. Paul Allen pulled one back for the Hammers but Man United progressed to the Semi Final with a 4-2 win.
The two sides would meet once again in the League back at the Boleyn Ground just six days later. The match was covered live by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’, which in its earliest days of covering live football in the 1980s showed games at 7PM on a Friday evening. This was the very last occasion in which ‘Match of the Day Live’ was shown in this time slot. From hereafter, the BBC decided to maximize its audiences by showing its live football coverage at 3PM on Sundays, back to back with the Sunday omnibus edition of its new soap opera, Eastenders.
Another unpopular factor with Match of the Day’s Friday night coverage was that it hit the match day attendance – for this fixture only 16,674 bothered to turn out for the game. On twenty five minutes, West Ham took the lead with a penalty from Ray Stewart before Man United equalised five minutes later with a terrific header from Frank Stapleton. West Ham restored their lead with an own goal by Mike Duxbury, before thirteen minutes later Man United captain Bryan Robson had been introduced as a substitute. Almost immediately Robson levelled the scores and earned Man United a 2-2 draw. Man United ended the season as FA Cup winners and preventing a League, FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup treble for Everton, though finished fourteen points behind the Toffees in fourth. West Ham meanwhile finished two points above the relegation zone in sixteenth place.
The climax to the 1984/85 season however saw the tragedies of the Bradford Fire and the Heysel Stadium Disaster between eighteen days of each other, which collectively saw the deaths of ninety five people. The BBC-ITV cartel which held the duopoly on English football coverage decided that football’s stock was at its lowest and put forward an offer for TV rights which the Football League considered derisory. As a result, a TV blackout followed which lasted for the first half of the 1985/86. This coincided with a flying start to the season for Man United, which many had believed to have been entirely lost to video footage, though was actually captured for posterity in its entirety by private video and foreign TV broadcast. By the time of West Ham’s visit to Old Trafford on August bank holiday Monday of 1985, Man United had won their first three games and sat atop of the old First Division. West Ham in contrast had won one, but lost two of their first three. Man United’s winning run continued with a 2-0 win (@05.05) secured by goals from Mark Hughes and Gordon Strachan pouncing on a stray back pass. Man United’s winning run stretched to ten straight victories, which gave them a nine point lead over Liverpool, before a 1-1 draw with Luton Town in early October disrupted the sequence. By the end of that month, West Ham had been drawn away at Old Trafford in the third round of the League Cup. A goal from Norman Whiteside gave Man United a 1-0 win (@09.59).
Man United remained unbeaten until a 0-1 away defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in early November. By the time in which Man United visited Upton Park at the start of February 1986, Everton had overhauled a Man United side that had topped the old First Division from the first day of the season after a 1-0 win over Spurs at Goodison Park. By this time, television coverage had returned to British TV screens after the dispute between the Football League and the TV companies had been resolved. The first match shown by ITV’s ‘Big Match Live’ had only came the week prior. Man United’s visit to Upton Park therefore followed on Live on ITV the following week. Despite being one point behind Everton, Man United had two games in hand. West Ham in contrast stood in fifth place. A win for Man United therefore would have taken them back to the top of the table.
Man United’s season had been derailed somewhat by injury to captain Bryan Robson. It was Robbo who gave United a first half lead. Into the second half, West Ham pulled level with a strike from Mark Ward before a goal from Tony Cottee gave the Hammers a 2-1 victory. For Man United, this was their fourth defeat in six games and now only four points separated them from West Ham in fifth.
United’s poor run of form continued and by the end of February, having picked up just one win over rock bottom West Brom were trailing Everton at the top by six points who had won six straight league games since the turn of the year.
West Ham in contrast had played no further league games during the month of February due to postponements from snow and FA Cup ties. West Ham found themselves drawn against Cup holders Man United again this season, this time in the fifth round. Frank McAvennie gave West Ham the lead before Frank Stapleton equalised for Man United with the match ending in a 1-1 draw. The replay took place four days later at Old Trafford and featured live on ITV’s ‘The Big Match’. Goals for Geoff Pike and another Ray Stewart penalty gave West Ham a 2-0 victory. West Ham’s dreams of the double however ended three days later in a Quarter Final tie with Sheffield Wednesday, losing 1-2 at the Boleyn Ground.
Back in the League, the fortunes of Man United and West Ham went in opposite directions. At the start of March, West Ham stood in sixth place eight points behind Man United in third but with four games in hand. After two further away defeats to Arsenal and Aston Villa, from late March onwards West Ham won eleven of the next thirteen games. Man United in contrast won just two from the next seven. Man United’s title hopes ended in a 0-0 draw at Spurs in late April. By the final game of the season, Man United had sunk to fourth place and ten points off of Liverpool at the top of the table. West Ham in contrast stood in second place, four points off of the top with a game in hand.
The Hammers faced an away trip to relegated West Brom, hoping that London rivals fifth placed Chelsea could prevent a Liverpool victory to set up a league title showdown with Everton at Goodison Park forty eight hours on. Despite a 3-2 win over West Brom, Liverpool however picked up a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge to seal the title, along with the double one week later. West Ham achieved their highest ever finish in third place, however couldn’t benefit from qualification from European competition as English sides were still banned from Europe. Hardly aiding the cause for re-entry to Europe would be a running battle between one hundred and fifty Manchester United and West Ham hooligans aboard a North Sea Ferry called the Koningin Beatrix.
Man United fans were heading to Amsterdam to play a pre-season friendly with Ajax, while West Ham were participating in a three day pre-season tournament held by FC Groningen. The Ferry was forced to turn back to Harwich, where fourteen arrests were made, one hundred and ten other fans placed on a London bound train under police escort, as well as four fans hospitalised as a result of clashes with broken bottles and knives. Three weeks later, the two sides would meet in the League at Old Trafford. After losing star striker Mark Hughes to Barcelona over the summer and goalkeeper Gary Bailey to injury, Man United’s poor form continued into 1986/87, losing their opening fixture to Arsenal 1-0 at Highbury.
Two days later at Old Trafford, Man United met West Ham. Goals for Alan Devonshire and two for Frank McAvennie gave the Hammers a 3-2 win, while Frank Stapleton and Peter Davenport would be on target for Man United.
A further 0-1 home defeat to Charlton the following Saturday meant that Man United lost all of their opening three fixtures. By the start of November 1986, Man United had only managed three wins from their opening thirteen games, which saw Ron Atkinson sacked and Aberdeen’s Alex Ferguson appointed in his place. Fergie’s first visit to Upton Park came in mid-April 1987. Man United had risen up to eleventh, while West Ham had dropped to fourteenth. The two sides played out a 0-0 draw. The two sides met again at Upton Park the following October, once again live on ITV’s ‘The Big Match’. Man United stood in fifth place, while the Hammers sat in seventeenth. Goals for Colin Gibson for Man United and Ray Stewart for West Ham meant a 1-1 draw in front of a crowd of just 19,863.
By the end of March 1988, Man United had risen to second in the table though fourteen points behind run away leaders Liverpool who had just lost their first game of the season after equalling the then record of twenty nine unbeaten from the start of the season. West Ham meanwhile sat five points above the relegation zone in fifteenth. At Old Trafford, Man United managed their first victory over the Hammers in seven games with a 3-1 win secured by goals from Viv Anderson, Bryan Robson and Gordon Strachan, while on target for the Hammers was Leroy Rosenior. At the end of Alex Ferguson’s first full season at the helm, Man United secured the runners up spot though were never really contenders as Champions Liverpool succeeded in what was a one-horse race that season. West Ham in contrast had managed to avoid being drawn into a round play-off games (that ultimately relegated Chelsea), by a goal difference of +6.
Going into the 1988/89 season, Man United strengthened their squad by bringing back Mark Hughes from an unsuccessful stint at Barcelona. The Hammers meanwhile lost striker Tony Cottee to Everton for a record fee of £2.2 Million. West Ham visited Old Trafford at the end of September 1988, on the same day in which disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson won the 100 metres final at the Seoul Olympics just a few days short of testing positive for a banned substance. Alex Ferguson decided briefly to bring through youth at Old Trafford and among his original fledglings making their debut was a seventeen year old signing from Torquay United called Lee Sharpe, as well as nineteenth year old midfielder Russell Beardsmore who came on as substitute.
Goals for Peter Davenport and Mark Hughes gave Man United a 2-0 victory.
The return fixture at Upton Park came the following January, by which point West Ham were only kept of the bottom of the old First Division on goal difference. Man United in contrast were enjoying something of a feel good factor after defeating Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford on New Years’ Day. West Ham took the lead with a penalty from former Arsenal legend Liam Brady. Man United however equalised with a goal from Gordon Strachan, while goals from Lee Martin and Brian McClair gave Man United their first away victory over the Hammers for twenty two years, with a 3-1 win.
That victory would be the second of a run of four straight wins that pushed Man United up to third, however that would be the zenith of their season with just two further wins for the remainder of the term, meaning that the Reds finished the season in eleventh place. West Ham in contrast would finish the season second from bottom, their drop outside of the top flight confirmed with a 1-5 loss to Liverpool at Anfield, which meant that Arsenal were required to win their final fixture against the Merseysiders by two clear goals at Anfield to win the title (a tall order, of which they duly carried out). Relegation led to the sacking of long serving boss John Lyall, who would be replaced by former Man United star Lou Macari, before the return of long serving player Billy Bonds at the helm.
For the Hammers, there would be a two year absence from the top flight before returning as runners up of the old Second Division in 1990/91. By the time of West Ham’s first visit to Old Trafford on returning to the old First Division in late November 1991, Man United were vying for the top spot with Leeds United in the hope of winning their first League title for a quarter of a century. West Ham however had won just four of their first sixteen games, though had lost just one of their last six games having held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at home on Live TV the week prior. Man United opened the scoring with a superb volley from a seventeen year old Ryan Giggs. The Reds doubled their lead with a goal from thirty four year old captain Bryan Robson. The Hammers pulled a goal back with a chip from Frank McAvennie, however were unable to prevent a 2-1 win for Man United.
Man United’s first visit to Upton Park for three years came at the end of April 1992. The Reds went into the Easter Weekend two points clear at the top of the League table with a game in hand over second placed Leeds United. West Ham meanwhile were rock bottom of the table and nine points adrift of safety with five games left to play. Man United pulled off a 1-0 home win over Southampton on Maundy Thursday, though were to face another fixture just forty eight hours on away to a Luton Town side battle relegation, this time managing a 1-1 draw. A further forty eight hours on saw Man United crash to a 1-2 defeat to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest on Easter Monday.
Man United were then to travel to Upton Park to play their fourth fixture in just six days against a West Ham side who had lost their last three games and their relegation to the second tier only delayed by the fact that nineteenth placed Coventry City had only picked up one point from the last six games. A goal on the half volley from the edge of the area for left back Kenny Brown gave West Ham a shock 1-0 win.
The result gave the Hammers faint hope, though left the title destiny outside of the hands of Man United for the first time in the title race as they now sat one point beneath Leeds United at the top of the table. Just one week on, a relegation head to head with Coventry City confirmed the Hammers drop to the Second tier, meaning that they would miss out on the inaugural Premiership season, which would begin the following August. For Man United, a further loss away to Liverpool after Leeds United pulled off a 3-2 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane meant that the title headed to Elland Road. The joke emerged among disgruntled Man United fans that the difference between Alex Ferguson and an arsonist was that an arsonist wouldn’t throw away their last three matches.
In West Ham’s absence however Man United would finally win their first title after a long twenty six year wait. The Hammers would spend just one year outside of the top flight, returning the following season as Second tier runners up to Champions Newcastle United. Their first meeting during the Premiership era came in early September 1993. Man United had carried on from where they left off, winning four and drawing one of their first five games. West Ham meanwhile had won just one of their first five fixtures. Goals for Lee Sharpe, an Eric Cantona penalty and Steve Bruce two minutes from time meant a 3-0 win for Man United.
By the time of Man United’s visit to Upton Park at the end of February 1994, the Reds had won an incredible twenty out of twenty eight fixtures, losing just one game against Chelsea nearly six months prior. West Ham in contrast were consolidating their position among the elite in fourteenth place with a ten point cushion from the drop zone. The fixture saw the return to Upton Park of West Ham old boy Paul Ince in a Man United shirt after his acrimonious split from the Hammers five years prior. Man United took the lead with a goal from Mark Hughes. The game however turned in the space of three minutes, with veteran Lee Chapman equalising with twenty one minutes to go, before Trevor Morley put the Hammers ahead three minutes later as a result of a defensive mix up by the Man United defence. West Ham held their lead for fifteen minutes before Paul Ince bagged an equaliser with three minutes left to play which secured a 2-2 draw.
The result gave Man United a seven point cushion with a game in hand, however began a run in which the Reds only bagged one win from five games which saw Blackburn Rovers draw within three points of United on level games and a five game suspension for Eric Cantona who received two red cards in successive games. Blackburn drew level on points by April, though Man United held on to their title by an eight point margin by May, along with the FA Cup to win their first ever Double and at that point only the fourth side of the twentieth century to do so. Also, for the first time in six years West Ham held on to their place in the top flight with a thirteenth place finish, this however was followed by the resignation of Billy Bonds.
Bonds was reported to be unhappy because the West Ham board wanted to appoint his assistant Harry Redknapp as manager, while moving Bonds upstairs on the West Ham board. It turned out that Redknapp was appointed boss in place of Bonds, which led to the production of one of West Ham’s strongest squads of recent seasons. West Ham’s first visit to Old Trafford during the Harry Redknapp era came in mid-October 1994. Man United after winning back to back Premiership titles had lost three of their first nine matches played and stood in fifth place.
West Ham meanwhile had won just three of their nine games played, standing in thirteenth position. A goal from Eric Cantona ahead of half time gave Man United a 1-0 win. Man United’s visit to Old Trafford for 1994/95 came on the final day of the season. This would be the very first instance in which a co-ordinated final day of fixtures occurred in top flight English football, with the hope of Sky Sports capturing all the drama on ‘Super Sunday’. Manchester United stood two points behind league leaders Blackburn Rovers, who a month prior had been six points clear of Man United at the top of the table.
The Reds therefore needed a win at Upton Park to keep their hopes alive, in the hope that Liverpool would defeat a Blackburn side now managed by their former boss and legendary striker, Kenny Dalglish. Man United won the title at the Boleyn Ground in 1967, however had only won at Upton Park twice in the twenty eight years which followed, the last of which had been six years prior in 1989. Alan Shearer gave Rovers the lead on twenty minutes, while over at the Boleyn Ground eleven minutes later a goal from former Man City forward Michael Hughes put West Ham a goal up. Seven minutes into the second half, Brian McClair equalised for Man United, with the Reds given further hope by a John Barnes equaliser at Anfield just past the hour.
In the final minute of the game at Anfield, Harry Redknapp’s son Jamie gave Liverpool the lead, however Man United had failed to add to their score at Upton Park, meaning that Blackburn secured the title by one point over Man United.
West Ham next met Man United two games into the 1995/96 season. Alex Ferguson’s side had lost a significant amount of experience with the departures of Paul Ince, Andrei Kanchelskis and Mark Hughes and were defeated 1-3 in their opening fixture to Aston Villa four days prior, after which Alan Hansen delivered his famous summary on Man United’s chances on the season ahead. West Ham in contrast lost their opening fixture 1-2 at home to Leeds United.
In front of a restricted capacity of 31,966 due to the extension of Man United’s Old Trafford Stadium, the Reds took the lead with a goal from Paul Scholes five minutes into the second half. Six minutes later, West Ham equalised from a Steve Bruce own goal. With twenty two minutes to go, Roy Keane put Man United back into the lead. A high tackle by substitute Marco Boogers in the dying minutes followed by a subsequent brawl saw the Dutchman red carded. Man United gave their season a kick start by securing a 2-1 win.
Boogers however picked up a four match ban, from which the media frenzy led him to return to Holland to hide out in a caravan park. Boogers ended up playing just four times for the Hammers, before being loaned out to FC Groningen for the remainder of the season and never returning. Harry Redknapp would later admit that he wrongly signed Boogers on the basis of videotape evidence alone. Man United came to Upton Park for the return fixture in late January 1996, by which point Man United stood in third place and a good twelve points off of run-away leaders Newcastle United. West Ham however having lost five of their last six games, dropped to fifteenth place and just three points off of the relegation zone. A goal for Eric Cantona after eight minutes meant a 1-0 win for Man United, which pushed them up to second.
Man United caught up with Newcastle by the end of 1995/96 to win back the Premiership title, as well as becoming the first side to win the League and FA Cup Double twice, while West Ham finished tenth. In defending the title, they met West Ham at the Boleyn Ground at the start of December in 1996. Man United sat in sixth place, nine points behind league leaders Arsenal, but with two games in hand. West Ham in contrast languished in fifteenth position. Man United took the lead with a goal from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer nine minutes into the second half. With twelve minutes to go, Man United’s lead doubled with an excellent chip from David Beckham. Three minutes later, the Hammers pulled one back with a goal from Florin Raducioiu and then with ten minutes to go drew level with a penalty from Julian Dicks to secure a 2-2 draw.
The result left Man United eight points off of the top of the table, however by the time of the return fixture at Old Trafford on the final day of the season in May had retained their league title by an eight point margin. West Ham meanwhile practically secured their safety in the top flight a week earlier with a 5-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday, which gave them a three point margin and a +10 goal difference over eighteenth place Coventry City. Goals for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jordi Cruyff – son of the late Dutch legend Johan – gave Man United a 2-0 victory. West Ham meanwhile finished the season in fourteenth place.
In 1997/98, the Hammers returned to Old Trafford in early September. West Ham were surprisingly one place behind Man United in third, having won three of their first five games. The Hammers took the lead after fourteen minutes with a goal from John Hartson who had been signed from Arsenal at the back end of the previous season. Seven minutes later, Roy Keane equalised with a deflected shot and with fourteen minutes left to play Paul Scholes bagged the winner in a 2-1 victory for Man United.
The return fixture at the Boleyn Ground the following march came on the back of a 0-2 defeat for Man United away at Sheffield Wednesday. West Ham meanwhile stood in ninth place. Man United topped the Premiership table by a nine point margin over second place Liverpool, however third placed Arsenal were eleven points behind with three games in hand. Trevor Sinclair gave the Hammers the lead on six minutes, however on sixty six minutes Paul Scholes equalised for Man United, with the match ending in a 1-1 draw. The only footage of this game on the video sharing websites however is an open goal missed by West Ham’s Samassi Abou. Arsenal that same evening bagged a 1-0 away win over Wimbledon to move them within nine points and three games in hand.
Four days later, Arsenal bagged another victory at Old Trafford reducing the lead further to six points. By the season’s close, Arsenal caught up with Man United to win the title on the back of ten straight wins, with another two games left to play. Arsenal also bagged the Double, with Man United suffering their first trophy-less season in eight years. Man United’s summer of discontent in 1998 increased further with David Beckham’s sending off against Argentina at the World Cup in France, which hampered England’s chances as they crashed out on penalties. This led to an outpouring of vitriol against the Leytonstone born twenty three year old, which saw effigies of him hung outside the Boleyn Ground where Man United’s first away fixture of the 1998/99 season took place. The match passed off as a 0-0 draw.
The return fixture at Old Trafford came in early January 1999. Man United stood in fourth place, five points off of leaders Chelsea with a game in hand. West Ham meanwhile were eighth. Goals for Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and two for Andy Cole gave Man United a 4-1 win, while a young Frank Lampard gave West Ham a last minute consolation goal.
By the season’s close, Man United won back their Premiership title, as well as managing an unprecedented treble with the FA Cup and Champions League. The Hammers meanwhile managed their highest ever finish during the Premiership era in fifth place. The last meeting before the millennium came one week before Christmas 1999 at Upton Park, with Man United anticipating a New Year trip to Brazil instead of competing in the FA Cup due to their unprecedented withdrawal from the competition.
Man United were two points behind league leaders Leeds United with a game in hand.
West Ham meanwhile sat in tenth place. Man United raced into a three goal lead with Dwight Yorke opening the scoring and two from Ryan Giggs in under twenty minutes. By seven minutes into the second half, two goals from Paolo Di Canio pulled it back for West Ham, before Dwight Yorke scored his second of the game just past the hour to secure a 4-2 win for Man United. By the following April, when West Ham came to Old Trafford for the return fixture, Man United were seven points clear of second place Leeds United at the top of the table. Costa Rican forward Paulo Wanchope gave the Hammers the lead, however goals for Paul Scholes, Denis Irwin, Andy Cole, David Beckham Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and two for Paul Scholes gave Man United a 7-1 win.
A defeat for Leeds United at home to Chelsea meant a ten point lead for Man United with seven games left to play. Just two wins from the last six games for Leeds United meant that the title stayed at Old Trafford. Three games into the 2000/01 season, Man United visited Upton Park, with the Hammers having suffered back to back defeats in their first two games. Man United took a two goal lead with goals from David Beckham after six minutes and Andy Cole four minutes into the second half. Within the final four minutes however, a Paolo Di Canio penalty and a goal from Davor Suker – a recent signing from Arsenal, bagging the Hammers a 2-2 draw.
The return fixture back at Old Trafford came on New Years’ Day 2001. Man United were eight points clear of second placed Arsenal at the top of the Premiership, while the Hammers stood in eighth place. Goals for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a Stuart Pearce own goal and Dwight Yorke gave Man United a 3-1 win, while Frederic Kanoute pulled one back for the Hammers.
By now, West Ham had failed to clock up a win over Man United during the Premiership era, however four weeks later back at Old Trafford the Hammers eliminated Man United from the FA Cup with a 1-0 third round win courtesy of a Paolo Di Canio goal fourteen minutes from time. Man United however completed a hat-trick of League titles, becoming only the fourth side ever to do so, after Huddersfield in the 1920s, Arsenal in the 1930s and Liverpool in the 1980s.
West Ham reached as far as the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup, but slipped to fifteenth in the Premiership table though manager Harry Redknapp parted company with the Hammers one game prior to the end of the season. In 2007, Redknapp explained that: ‘the chairman Terry Brown had offered me a new four-year contract. What I did was talk to a fanzine, made some comments, and sometimes I should be a bit more careful. I sat down with these guys from the fanzine and they started asking me questions and I spoke to them in the way I’d talk to someone in a pub. I said a few things I shouldn’t have said. He read it and got very upset. I walked into his office expecting to sign the contract and walked out without a job!’
As will be seen tomorrow, after a period of relative success under Harry Redknapp and a production line of quality youngsters such as Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard Jnr, his dismissal saw a decline for the Hammers which eventually led to their relegation and the latter walk out on Upton Park to Chelsea. Though one bright spot for the Hammers would be finally ending their post-Premiership winless streak against Alex Ferguson’s side and even bagging a few significant victories along the way.
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*Published August 10th 2017