Big Ron Atkinson continued Manchester United’s pursuit of Liverpool, who by the early 1980’s, were dominating English football. The Old Trafford club were into their second generation of Adidas kit and were now sponsored by Japanese electronics giants Sharp. Their home, away and third kit variations all adhered to the same template design.
The 1982-83 league campaign showed progress with a third place finish (behind runaway winners Liverpool and surprise package Watford), but it was in the cups where United made their reputation during this era.
The Milk Cup Final paired the Red Devils with their bitterest rivals from Anfield following an aggregate semi-final win over Arsenal. Despite a fantastic early opener from teenager Norman Whiteside, goals from Alan Kennedy and a fabulous curling effort by Ronnie Whelan in extra time snatched the three-handled League Cup trophy from United’s grasp.
With that disappointment to spur them on, the likes of Bryan Robson, Frank Stapleton, Ray Wilkins and Arthur Albiston set about redemption by winning the FA Cup. Yet again, Arsenal stood in the way of Atkinson’s men at the semi-final stage.
Robson and Whiteside – as they so often were – were the United heroes in the 2-1 win at Villa Park. Ultimately, the famous old competition was won in a replay with Brighton and Hove Albion at Wembley.
However, they were made to suffer again in the league – this time finishing a distant fourth to, you guessed it, the old enemy Liverpool.
The defence of the FA Cup ended abruptly at Dean Court when Harry Redknapp’s minnows Bournemouth shocked the holders in the third round.
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