25 Years ago today Manchester United faced a tricky trip the City Ground to face Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round of the Fa Cup. United went into the game struggling in the league and trophy less under Alex Ferguson. They hadn’t won anything since the 1985 Fa Cup, it was coming up to five years since United had won a trophy. The Fa Cup was United’s only chance of silverware in the 1989/90 season and seen as the salvation for Alex Ferguson if United could win the trophy. The trip to face Nottingham Forest was probably the last thing that United and their fans wanted as Forest were performing well in the league.
If you believed the tabloid newspapers at the time, Ferguson would have been sacked if Manchester United had lost the tie against Forest. This has since been denied by people within the club especially Sir Bobby Charlton who said the club could see that Ferguson was building the club not just first team with emphasis on bringing young players through the youth system. It’s fitting then the player who scored the winning goal in this match was one who had come through United’s youth system. The goalscorer Mark Robins revealed that he and the other players probably felt this game was break for the club from the regular league games, especially as United were struggling in the league and went into the tie on a run of seven games without a win in the old First Division.
Robins also said the players knew the pressure was on the manager as it was in all the newspapers and they obviously could hear and see the fans reactions during and after games during the run of seven games without a victory. A month before the Fa Cup against Forest United had lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. United supporters in the Stretford End revealed a banner that accused Ferguson of presiding over three years of excuses at Old Trafford. Robins said going into the game that the United players knew that Forest would be up for it, they were on a high after a good run in the League, they were playing at and the game was live on television.
Manchester United won the tie 1-0 thanks to Mark Robins goal, the game wasn’t the best, which isn’t surprising given that it was being billed as possibly Alex Ferguson’s last game in charge of Manchester United. The winning goal came when Robins applied the finish to a Mark Hughes ball into the box. United won the tie and would go onto to win the Fa Cup four months later when they beat Crystal Palace 1-0 in a replay after the first game had finished 3-3. Mark Robins wasn’t a player that featured regular in the United first team and left United in 1992 for Norwich City and would go on to play for 10 different clubs. Robins isn’t the most famous player to come through United’s youth system but many will tell that he scored the goal that saved Alex Ferguson’s job and I think we all know what happened to Alex Ferguson and United after that goal.
Nottingham Forest vs Manchester United – 1990 Fa Cup 3rd Round