Man Utd 2 Notts County 0

Mark Hughes

Man­chester Uni­ted 2 Notts Coun­ty 0, Old Traf­ford Sta­dium, Eng­lish Foot­ball Lea­gue Fir­st Di­vi­sion, Au­gust 17, 1991. Man­chester Uni­ted had no dif­fi­culties beat­ing Fir­st Di­vi­sion new boys Notts Coun­ty on the open­ing day of the 1991-92 sea­son. Ma­rk Hug­hes put Uni­ted ahead six min­utes be­fore the break and Bry­an Rob­son ad­ded a sec­ond goal for the hosts in the 51st min­ute to seal a 2-0 win over Notts.

Al­though a found­ing mem­ber of the Foot­ball Lea­gue, Notts Coun­ty had spent most of their life out­side of the top flight. Af­ter sev­er­al years of yo-yo­ing be­tween the top two di­vi­sions, the once proud club fou­nd them­selves in the Third Di­vi­sion at the end of 1929-30 sea­son. They got pro­moted fir­st time ask­ing, on­ly to go down four years la­ter and then up ag­ain in 1950. Then, af­ter spend­ing eight sea­sons in the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion, they suf­fered re­leg­a­tion to the Third Di­vi­sion at the end of the 1957-58 cam­paign and dis­ap­point­ment fol­lowed dis­ap­point­ment as they slipped in­to the Fourth Di­vi­sion the very next year. They won pro­mo­tion at the fir­st at­tempt, but were back in the Di­vi­sion Four in 1964 af­ter fin­ish­ing rock bot­tom in the Third Di­vi­sion. But wi­th the com­ing of man­ager of Jim­my Sir­rel, a for­mer in­side for­ward wi­th Celt­ic, Brad­ford Park Av­en­ue, Brighton and Hove Al­bion, and Alder­shot, in Nov­ember 1969, things were go­ing to be dif­fer­ent. A Glaswe­gi­an, Sir­rel qui­ckly won re­spect at Mead­ows Lane and would take Notts Coun­ty to the Di­vi­sion Four Cham­pi­on­ship in 1970-71 and out of Di­vi­sion Three in 1972-73. Af­ter a rather short lived ma­na­geri­al spell at Shef­field Uni­ted, he re­turned to Notts Coun­ty in Septem­ber 1977 and gui­ded them to pro­mo­tion to the Fir­st Di­vi­sion in 1980-81. The Scot mo­ved up­stairs to be­come gen­er­al man­ager in the sum­mer of 1983, but he was re­appoin­ted head coach two years la­ter and re­mained in the po­s­i­tion un­til his re­tire­ment in May 1987, by which time the club were lan­guish­ing in Di­vi­sion Three. Af­ter a com­par­at­ively brief spell un­der John Barn­well, Neil War­nock was ap­poin­ted man­ager in Jan­uary 1989 and the ex-Gains­bor­ough Trin­ity, Bur­ton Al­bion, and Scar­bor­ough boss would go on to guide the club to two suc­cess­ive pro­mo­tions from the Third and Sec­ond Di­vi­sions respectively.

Man­chester Uni­ted and Notts Coun­ty had last played each oth­er on the 14th of April 1984 when The Mag­pies ma­naged to edge out The Reds by a 1-0 mar­gin at Mea­dow Lane cour­tesy of a goal from for­mer Lei­cester City stri­ker Tre­vor Christie wi­th el­ev­en min­utes re­maining on the referee´s watch. This time ar­ound, Man­chester Uni­ted showed no sign of un­der­es­tim­at­ing the men in black and white striped shirts and their hard work paid di­vidends. Ma­king his de­but for Man­chester Uni­ted in this mat­ch was Den­mark in­ter­na­tion­al goal­keeper Pe­ter Schmei­chel, who had ar­rived at Old Traf­ford from Dan­ish Su­per Lea­gue Brondby for a trans­fer fee of ar­ound £500,000 dur­ing the sum­mer. Man­chester Uni­ted push­ed hard for an open­ing goal and they were duly re­war­ded when a well-de­livered cross from the right si­de ended up in the path of Welsh in­ter­na­tion­al Ma­rk Hug­hes who sco­red from clo­se ran­ge in the 39th min­ute of the en­counter. Six min­utes in­to the sec­ond pe­riod, Notts Coun­ty mid­fielder Don O’Ri­ordan, a £16,000 aqus­i­tion from Grimsby To­wn in Ju­ly 1988, was for­ced to leave the field wi­th a ser­i­ous in­jury and the ex­per­i­enced cam­paign­er was re­placed by pre­vi­ous West Brom­wich Al­bion front­man Kev­in Bart­lett. Man­chester Uni­ted con­tin­ued to mount at­tacks as the ha­lf wore on and doubled their ad­vant­age when a mag­ni­fi­cent twenty-yard vol­ley from Three Li­ons mid­fielder Bry­an Rob­son flew pa­st Notts Coun­ty shot stop­per Ste­ve Cherry and in­to the top right-hand cor­ner of the net three min­utes be­fore the hour-ma­rk. Man­chester Uni­ted kept on dom­in­at­ing pos­ses­sion and threat­ened to score on sev­er­al oc­ca­sions dur­ing the lat­ter sta­ges, but Al­ex Ferguson´s troops failed to add more goals to their tally.

In oth­er places in the Fir­st Di­vi­sion, de­fend­ing Foot­ball Lea­gue Cham­pi­ons Ar­senal were held to a 1-1 draw by Queens Park Ran­gers be­fore a 38,000 crowd at High­bury, 1991-92 run­ners-up Liver­pool edged out Old­ham Ath­let­ic 2-1 at An­field thro­ugh goals from mid­fielder Ray Hough­ton and wing­er John Bar­nes, Shef­field Wed­nesday were de­feated 3-2 by As­ton Vil­la at Hills­bor­ough, Chel­sea and Wim­bledon shared the spoils in a  2-2 draw at Stam­ford Bridge, Man­chester City emer­ged 1-0 vic­tors over Cov­entry City at High­field Road, South­ampton suc­cumbed to a 3-2 de­feat ag­ainst Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur at The Dell, West Ham Uni­ted could on­ly man­age a 0-0 draw ag­ainst Luton To­wn at Up­ton Park, Ever­ton suf­fered a 2-1 loss at the hands of Not­ting­ham For­est at City Gro­und where ex-Pre­ston North End for­ward Nigel Jem­son hit the win­ner for The Tricky Trees, whi­le Nor­wich City and Shef­field Uni­ted played out a 2-2 draw at Car­row Road, wi­th Ro­bert Fleck scor­ing a brace for The Ca­nar­ies, and Bri­an Deane and Co­lin Hill find­ing the back of the net for The Blades.

In the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion, Bris­tol Rov­ers and Ips­wich To­wn fou­ght out a high-scor­ing 3-3 draw at East­ville, Bris­tol City ma­naged a 1-1 draw ag­ainst South­end Uni­ted at Roots Hall, Ply­mouth Argyle emer­ged 2-1 vic­tors ag­ainst Barns­ley at Ho­me Park, Black­burn Rov­ers and Ports­mouth earned a point each in a 1-1 draw at Ew­ood Park, Ox­ford Uni­ted went down 2-1 ag­ainst Port Vale at Vale Park, Cam­bridge Uni­ted over­came Grimsby To­wn by 4-3 at Blun­dell Park, New­castle Uni­ted were beaten 2-1 by Charl­ton Ath­let­ic at Up­ton Park, goal­keeper Kev­in Poole, de­fender Paul Fitz­patrick, mid­fielder Nick Plat­nauer, and for­ward Ash­ley Wa­rd all made their com­pet­it­ive de­buts for Lei­cester City as The Fil­berts ma­naged a 0-0 draw ag­ainst Swin­don To­wn at The Coun­ty Gro­und, Tran­mere Rov­ers se­cured a 2-0 vic­tory over Brighton and Hove Al­bion at Gold­stone Gro­und, Elton John´s Wat­ford fell 2-0 ag­ainst Wolver­hampton Wanders at Vicar­age Road, a goal from mid­fielder Rob­bie Mustoe saw Middles­brough run out 1-0 win­ners ag­ainst Mill­wall at Ayre­some Park, and Sun­der­land and Der­by Coun­ty shared the points in a 1-1 draw in front of an at­tend­ance of over 20,000 people at Roker Park.

UEFA Cup Win­ners´ Cup hold­ers Man­chester Uni­ted, who had a wealth of in­ter­na­tion­als in their squad, should per­haps have pro­duced more goals ag­ainst Neil Warnock´s Notts Coun­ty si­de at Old Traf­ford, but it was nev­er­the­less an ac­cept­able start to the 1991-92 cam­paign. For their next Fir­st Di­vi­sion ga­me, the Man­chester Uni­ted play­ers would now pack their equip­ment and make the re­l­at­ively short jour­ney to the Black Coun­try to lock horns wi­th an As­ton Vil­la te­am brim­ming wi­th con­fid­ence and en­thu­si­asm af­ter get­ting all three points away from their Vil­la Park ho­me in their open­ing fix­ture of the new sea­son. Man­chester Uni­ted Te­am: Pe­ter Schmei­chel, De­nis Ir­win, Clay­ton Black­more, Steph­en Bru­ce, Dar­ren Fer­guson, Paul Par­ker, Ma­rk Hug­hes, Bry­an Rob­son, Bri­an Mc­Clair, Paul In­ce, An­drei Kanchel­s­kis. Sub­stitutes: Ga­ry Pal­lister, Ry­an Gig­gs. Notts Coun­ty Te­am: Ste­ve Cherry, Char­lie Pal­mer, Alan Par­is, Craig Short, Dean Yates, Don O’Ri­ordan,  Dean Tho­mas, Phil Turn­er, Tom­my John­son, Ma­rk Draper, Dave Re­gis. Sub­stitutes: Kev­in Bart­lett, Chris Short.


Mark Hughes Quickfacts

Ma­rk Hug­hes con­trib­uted 37 goals in 89 Fir­st Di­vi­sion ap­pear­ances for Man­chester Uni­ted be­fore he was sold to Bar­celona for a trans­fer fee of £2 mil­lion at the start of the 1986-87 campaign.


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