Quinton Fortune celebrates scoring against Bradford in 1999.

Which club have we waited longest to play?

Monday 17 January 2022 12:54

Manchester United take on Brentford in the Premier League on Wednesday and it will be our first top-flight meeting with the Bees for 75 years.

Although the Londoners visited Old Trafford for a League Cup clash during the 1970s, you’d have to go way back to April 1947 for the previous fixture in the First Division, as it was back then.

Fans have even had to wait an extra month for the reunion, with December’s original date postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak at Carrington.

You’d have to be in your 80s to recall a post-Easter 1947 goalless draw at Griffin Park, or the Reds’ 4-1 victory over the Bees at our temporary Maine Road home the preceding December, when Jack Rowley netted a hat-trick during Matt Busby’s first season in charge.

But it’s not quite our longest gap between top-flight fixtures against one club.

When Bradford City were promoted to the Premier League under Paul Jewell in 1999, they ended a 77-year hiatus from England’s foremost football league.

The Bantams drew 1-1 at Old Trafford in December 1921 and, although there were a number of clashes in other competitions in the meantime, had to wait until the same month 78 years later for their next visit after promotion.

Unfortunately for the West Yorkshire club, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side ran out 4-0 winners on Boxing Day 1999, with Quinton Fortune, who is featured in our main image, netting his first for United. We added a further 13 goals without reply in the next three meetings across two seasons, before Bradford were relegated – they are yet to return to the big time.

Our Greater Manchester neighbours Oldham Athletic were an early Premier League foe, with the Latics having regained their place ahead of the last old First Division season, in 1991-92, and Brian McClair’s late goal settled a tight game at Old Trafford early on in that particular campaign.

United’s previous top-flight dalliance with the Boundary Park club had also come in 1921/22.

We were relegated to the second tier at the end of that campaign and bounced back in 1925, by which time Oldham had also been demoted.

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There were no Division One games with Bristol City – the losing side as we won the first of our 12 FA Cups in 1909 – for 66 years between 1911 and their return in 1977.

The Robins’ spell back in the big time was short-lived and they were relegated back to the second tier in 1980, with a Championship play-off final defeat 14 years ago the closest they have come to Premier League football.

Fifth on the list is current non-league side Notts County. The Magpies were founder members of the Football League but spent much of the 20th century in the lower divisions, rising back to the top tier after 55 years away in 1981.

We went 40 years without playing Blackpool but the first game back was one to remember!

County, who had famously beaten reigning champions Aston Villa on the season’s opening day, took a surprise lead at Old Trafford on Halloween 1981, although goals from Garry Birtles and Remi Moses eventually gave Ron Atkinson’s Reds the win.

In recent years, Cardiff City (51 years) and Huddersfield Town (45 years) have relished reunions with United, with the latter beating United 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium on a forgettable afternoon for us in October 2017.

Our first top-flight trip to Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road in 40 years was one to savour, though.

United had won just two Premier League away games in 2010/11 by January, although Dimitar Berbatov was at the double and Javier Hernandez also scored to clinch a remarkable 3-2 comeback victory in the final 18 minutes against Ian Holloway’s Tangerines.

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