When Sparky lit the title fuse for United

Friday 21 April 2023 15:00

On this day 30 years ago, a pivotal match in Manchester United's 1992/93 Premier League triumph, when we won our first title since 1967, was staged at Selhurst Park.

The Reds' 2-0 victory, which is often overlooked in club history but ultimately proved enough to clinch the holy grail, was achieved amid an incredible atmosphere, with the buoyant away contingent finally feeling safe to proclaim: 'We're going to win the league'.

The trigger for that was a trademark volley from Mark Hughes in the 64th minute before Paul Ince added a late clincher, with both goals set up by Eric Cantona from the left-hand side.

The mood was already jubilant before kick-off as title rivals Aston Villa had started 15 minutes earlier against Blackburn Rovers, and soon trailed 2-0. A third goal before the break had sunk Ron Atkinson's men and it was just a case of United getting our own job done at Selhurst Park to move within touching distance of the trophy.

Villa's shock 1-0 home defeat to Oldham Athletic would then mean the Reds were confirmed as league champions, ending the club's agonising 26-year wait, before the party could really start when Blackburn came to Old Trafford for our last home game of the campaign.

Crystal Palace 0 United 2 Video

Crystal Palace 0 United 2

21 April 1993: United took a huge step towards securing the title with victory over struggling Palace...

"It's difficult to recollect the game as a whole," admitted Hughes when we spoke to him earlier this month.

"It's a long time ago but I obviously have memories of the impact I was able to make with a goal. That is the stand-out but I haven't thought long and hard about it for a long time.

"We got the result and it was always a difficult place to go, Palace, but we had fantastic support, as we always had in those days, and continue to have. I think everybody understood it was a pivotal fixture that we could ideally win and things would be a little bit better for us. On the night, I have a recollection that the result went for us, and the other results went for us, although you might tell me differently!"

Events at Ewood Park, where our title-race rivals Villa were losing, had been transmitted to Hughes and his team-mates who sensed the exuberance among the United fans.

"That was what I was thinking," he added. "We needed to step up and make the most of it. I knew something was going on, I just wasn't sure what it was. The goal myself was actually a landmark one, I think. I seem to recall after the game, the director Mr Edelson saw me on the coach and he had the ball. I said is that for me but he said no, it's for the museum because it was my 100th league goal.

"Thankfully, we won the game and that was the main thing on the night."

The goal itself was classic Sparky, thrashing a volley past Nigel Martyn with venomous power, after being picked out by Cantona, while the Palace players appealed in vain for a linesman's flag.

"I did think I was offside," said Hughes. "Thankfully, it wasn't. If there was VAR, it could have been ruled out but it still had to be executed and scored. It was my favourite way of connecting with the ball, rather than heading it in or passing it in. It was good to see it go in. That was just how I trained. More often than not, before a game, I was out there, left and right, practising. I could try to get my head on it but used to wait until it dropped on my foot. 

"It was what I felt more comfortable with, that skill was more easy for me. When the ball came over in a game, it was just replicating what I was doing in training."

30 years since the famous Sheffield Wednesday game


We're marking the anniversary of a pivotal moment in the 1992/93 title race, starring Steve Bruce.

The Welshman added: "From memory, it was a good performance from everybody. Incey scored the second goal and there was a picture of the goal and I'm jumping behind him with a lot of joy, and Incey was giving it the usual [celebration]. Good moments.

"It definitely was one of those games where we were thinking it was maybe a significant one. A key one as well was the Sheffield Wednesday win [when Steve Bruce scored twice at Old Trafford] and there are always these ones that change the complexion of the season.

"We met up recently and I hadn't seen the [other players from that 1993 team] for quite a while. It was nice to catch up and we should do it more often, hopefully there will be more of these get-togethers as it's 30 years now, it's a good time to do that. We always enjoyed our company together - it was a great team and they're great lads."