Wimbledon 0 Man United 3
Wimbledon 0 Manchester United 3, Selhurst Park, English Premier League, August 17, 1996. Manchester United had very few problems in overcoming unfancied Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in their opening encounter of the 1996-97 season. A goal apiece from Eric Cantona, Denis Irwin, and David Beckham eventually saw United win the game by a 3-0 score.
Manchester United´s season opener against The Wombles at the latter´s adopted home at Selhurst Park in South London gave their supporters a good taste of just what Alex Ferguson´s young and exciting players were capable of. The Manchester United First Team Squad for the 1996-97 campaign contained goalkeepers Peter Schmeichel, Paul Gibson, Kevin Pilkington, and Raimond van der Gouw; defenders Gary Neville, Denis Irwin, David May, Gary Pallister, Phil Neville, Colin Murdock, Ronny Johnsen, John O’Kane, Paul Teather, Ronnie Wallwork, Michael Clegg, Chris Casper, John Curtis, Michael Appleton, and Pat McGibbon; midfielders Terry Cooke, Eric, Cantona, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Grant Brebner, Jordi Cruyff, Karel Poborsky, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Simon Davies, Ben Thornley, and Philip Mulryne; and forwards Andy Cole, Jon Macken, Alex Notman, Brian McClair, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Ferguson had strengthened his Old Trafford squad during the summer of 1996 by signing goalkeeper Raimond van der Gouw; defender Ronny Johnsen; midfielders Karel Poborsky and Jordi Cruyff, and forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while goalkeeper Tony Coton; defender Steve Bruce; and midfielders Lee Sharpe and Paul Parker had all left the club.
Double winners Manchester United had demolished Newcastle United by 4-0 at Wembley Stadium in the FA Charity Shield the week before and were overwhelming favourites to beat The Crazy Gang. United took the advantage in the Premiership meeting against Joe Kinnear´s Wimbledon thanks to French goal plunderer Eric Cantona who netted with a devastating shot from inside the eighteen-yard area in the twenty-fifth minute of the first half. Manchester United continued to dominate proceedings in the second period of the tie and Republic of Ireland international Denis Irwin eventually made it 2-0 to the visiting side when the experienced campaigner managed to find the target from a rather difficult angle in the fifty-sixth minute of the contest. Shortly afterwards, however, Oyvind Leonhardsen came close to scoring for The Dons, but the strong running Norwegian midfield engine was denied by Manchester United and Denmark goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. Then, in the final minute of the tussle, twenty-one-year-old midfield playmaker David Beckham powered an absolutely astonishing long distance shot from his own half past bewildered home goalkeeper Neil Sullivan and into the back of the net to make the final scoreline read 3-0 in the favour of United. Wimbledon Team: Neil Sullivan, Kenny Cunningham, Brian McAllister, Chris Perry, Marcus Gayle, Ben Thatcher, Robbie Earle, Vinnie Jones, Oyvind Leonhardsen, Andy Clarke, Dean Holdsworth. Substitutes: Paul Heald, Dean Blackwell, Neal Ardley, Efan Ekoku, Mick Harford. Manchester United Team: Peter Schmeichel, Denis Irwin, Phil Neville, David May, Roy Keane, Gary Pallister, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Jordi Cruyff. Substitutes: Raimond van der Gouw, Gary Neville, Ronny Johnsen, Brian McClair, Karel Poborsky.