Gary Bailey speaking to MUTV

Bailey: FA Cup run can lift the whole club

Monday 26 February 2024 09:00

Gary Bailey knows what it's like to experience the heartache of losing an FA Cup final before going on to lift the famous trophy.

The legendary goalkeeper established himself between the sticks for United in the late 1970s after Alex Stepney retired, and won two of the three FA Cup finals he played in.

Bailey hopes the current Reds team can use the disappointment of derby defeat to Manchester City in last season’s final at Wembley as fuel to go all the way in the competition this term.

The Reds have beaten Wigan Athletic and Newport County away from home to reach the fifth round, where Nottingham Forest lie in wait on Wednesday night at the City Ground.

Bailey: Our FA Cup runs were legendary Video

Bailey: Our FA Cup runs were legendary

Gary Bailey is rooting for the Reds in the FA Cup, having won the trophy twice as our goalkeeper in the 1980s...

“They really have to dig deep, they have to put the best team out in every FA Cup match, they have to hope for some good draws because you have to have a bit of luck here and there,” he told MUTV recently.

“There’s everything to play for. Obviously we have to get into Europe so there’s still something to be done in terms of our league position. But a good FA Cup run will lift confidence, lifts morale and lifts the whole club. Fingers crossed we make the final again.”

Historically, United have been hugely successful in the FA Cup - winning the competition 12 times. But with the most recent occasion coming in 2016, Bailey would dearly love the Reds to end the wait for glory this season.

“I would love it this season primarily because we’re out of Europe and probably not going to win the Premier League so this is all that’s left,” said Gary, who played 294 times for United between 1978 and 1987.

“Historically for United, it’s been a massive trophy. It got a little bit lost in the 1990s and the 2000s because Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams were just so wonderful in the league and the Champions League.

“But you go back to the 1980s and the 1970s, our runs in the FA Cup were legendary and the fans loved it. If we can get to an FA Cup final again this year and win it, I think it will end up still being a decent season so all our hopes are now resting on the FA Cup.”

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The Reds came close to winning the FA Cup in Gary’s first final in 1979 after coming from 2-0 down to draw level with Arsenal late on before Alan Sunderland’s 89th-minute winner for the Gunners.

It gave Gary and his team-mates added motivation to go on and lift the trophy, which the Reds achieved in both 1983 and 1985.

“It was a tough one in ’79, goal in the final minute came from a cross that I didn’t quite reach,” Gary admitted.

“When it’s the deciding goal, it comes under the microscope. If you lose 4-0 nobody cares or if you win 4-1, still nobody cares. The deciding goal in the final minute, that’s pressure.”

Gary and his team-mates celebrate beating Everton to lift the trophy in 1985.

He continued: “We got back in ’83 and I think there was a lot of relief in the team because we nearly lost it against Brighton, had to make a save at feet in the last seconds. If we’d have lost again, I think it would have been very difficult to pick us up.

“We got through that, won the replay and we won again in ’85 with that fantastic Norman Whiteside goal. It was good for the fans - the joy that those two FA Cup wins brought at the time. We should have maybe won the league, we were close in about four or five seasons running so that was the downside.

“But the FA Cup was just an incredibly special run for us. Probably the ’85 one was the better of the two, beating Everton who were champions - they had just won in Europe, the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and they were a fantastic side. So beating them with 10 men in extra time was a great achievement.”