Steve Coppell in action.

What happened the only time we faced Tranmere?

Friday 24 January 2020 11:22

Manchester United have only met Tranmere Rovers once at senior level in our entire history.

The game came in the League Cup second round, only four fixtures into the 1976/77 season, one that would end in glory for Tommy Docherty's men with an FA Cup final triumph over arch-rivals Liverpool at Wembley, erasing the memories of losing to Southampton in the showpiece event in the previous campaign.

The draw at Old Trafford pitted winger Steve Coppell against his former club and he was, understandably, excited to take on his ex-employees.

Gerry Daly scored two goals in the win over Tranmere Rovers.

"It will be a bit strange," said Coppell on the eve of the tie. "I learned an awful lot of what I know from these people and now I'm having to play against them.

"I go back to Tranmere whenever I can and always look for their result first. I was delighted when they won promotion, just as I was heartbroken when they were relegated the season before."

Local journalist Charles Lambert did not appear to be looking forward to the game as much, writing in the Liverpool Echo: "Tranmere's chances are widely estimated as being only slightly better than those given [to] the Christians when they took on the lions."

So it proved on the night, even though the 5-0 final scoreline is a little misleading as the match was goalless until the break, with the Third Division side acquitting themselves well.

Johnny King's Rovers had chances with striker Ronnie Moore, subject of interest from United over the close season, forced a good save out of Alex Stepney. However, two goals arrived within a matter of minutes after the break to boost United. Both came from early crosses, with Gerry Daly finishing coolly and Lou Macari belting in a second.

Stuart Pearson extended the lead, after keeper Dick Johnson parried a Coppell effort to deny him a goal against his old club, and winger Gordon Hill got on the mark in the 79th minute. Republic of Ireland midfielder Daly wrapped things up, five minutes later, with his second goal of the evening.

Tommy Docherty got his hands on the FA Cup at the end of the season.

Tranmere's players received a round of applause from the Stretford End after the final whistle and Coppell admitted: "Rovers were magic in the first half until we changed our formation."

Reds boss Docherty also felt the visitors played well but had no doubt the home side were far superior overall. "They played the ball about and tried to play good football. In the first half, they could have been quite pleased with themselves, although we could have been 3-0 or 4-0 up at half-time."

His opposite number, King, commented: "Our heads dropped and it takes a lot to lift them. The score was a bit hard on us."

Of course, there was also the financial benefit to the Birkenhead club, who picked up a six-figure sum in gate receipts.

"The money is useful," said chairman Bill Bothwell. "But I was as proud tonight as ever I have been in my life. We never lost our temper or our sportsmanship."

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