Wembley 25: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Manchester United 0 - Paul Thompson’s Rumbelows Cup Final match report from The Star

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Sheffield Wednesday laughed all the way to Wembley and left weeping tears of joy.

Their wonderful emotional triumph was etched in the face of captain Nigel Pearson when he broke down after the final whistle. Andy why not?

Rumbelows Cup - Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester United - 21st April 1991
John Sheridan after scoring

Rumbelows Cup - Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester United - 21st April 1991 John Sheridan after scoring

It showed what the day meant to the players, the club, and the supporters who had waited 56 years for the Owls to win a major trophy.

They did it with a marvellously professional performance that transformed them from underdogs to magnificent victors with a 1-0 scoreline against mighty Manchester United.

Wednesday had their individual heroes, none greater than goalscorer John Sheridan, whose rocket shot just before half time to clinch victory, and goalkeeper Chris Turner, whose reaction save from a Brian McClair header towards the end just as surely won the Cup for Wednesday.

There was the usual and powerful reliability of Peter Shirtliff and Pearson, with the skipper a worthy winner of the official Man of the Match award, plus Wembley debuts to be proud of for men such as Phil King and Paul Williams.

Rumbelows Cup - Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester United - 21st April 1991
Sheridan is congratulated by his team mates on his winning goal.

Rumbelows Cup - Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester United - 21st April 1991 Sheridan is congratulated by his team mates on his winning goal.

But most of all it was a fantastic achievement by the team as a whole. Deprived of the industry of Carlton Palmer, they worked within their limitations, always grafting, always competing, doing a splendid job in shackling United’s stars such as Mark Hughes and Lee Sharpe and also managing to play their own football in bursts and create the better, more clear cut chances.

Comedian Stan Boardman, a friend of Ron Atkinson’s, was invited on the team coach between the hotel and Wembley to help relax the players - and it obviously worked for Wednesday set off as if they had been playing at the great stadium all their lives.

They made the more assured start, settling down quickly and shading the play for the first quarter of an hour.

In that period Sharpe made what was to prove almost his only exceptional moment of the match as he got away from Roland Nilsson and delivered a cross that was cleared by Pearson.

Rumbelows Cup - Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester United - 21st April 1991
Crowd scene
Fans

Rumbelows Cup - Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester United - 21st April 1991 Crowd scene Fans

Wednesday were certainly not overawed even when Sharpe headed over the top from a cross by Neil Webb and when McClair half volleyed a sharp opening over the angle of the near post from a right wing cross by Paul Ince who was probably United’s best player in the first half.

Wednesday just kept battling although not really showing the passing rhythm and movement that they have produced in so many matches this season, with perhaps the absence of Palmer a major factor in this.

United began to win midfield in the second half without really seriously penetrating Wednesday’s defence.

There had not been a shot on target by either side until Wednesday scored. From the second of a couple of free kicks out on the right, Worthington shaped to take it with that trusty left foot and the person next to me in the press box will confirm that I had a hunch that the Owls would score!

How we reported the match from Wembley 25 years ago

How we reported the match from Wembley 25 years ago

Sure enough Worthington swung the ball into the box where Pearson’s typically strong challenge unsettled the defence, Gary Pallister could only head the ball out a short distance and, from 22 yards, Sheridan slammed a superb first-timer to which the keeper got a touch, going to his left, but on it flew to go in off the far post.

Wednesday supporters, who had given their team incredible backing, went into ecstasy and the match became more intense for both sets of supporters with Hirst and Williams first attacking on the break and Robson threatening for United just moments before the half-time whistle.

Paul Thompson, with his Wembley Match Verdict, as reported in The Star the following day

Indisputably the better team – with a bigger heart, the greater ambition, the fiercer hunger for glory and the support of the more fanatical crowd – won the Rumbelows Cup at Wembley

DINK! It’s a wonderful sound that all Wednesdayites know and love. It’s the sound of victory. Owls fan Laura Jones looks back on why that win was so special

“We didn’t fear anybody. We felt we could get a result against anyone in that particular season.” Lawrie Madden on an incredible campaign

Skipper Nigel Pearson said: “It’s the greatest sporting moment of my life, and for the fans I’m sure.” Read more quotes from players and management in the immediate aftermath

Liam Hoden on how Monster Trucks upstaged Wednesday’s cup celebrations on television

Legendary Owl Roland Nilsson on his pride at the Class of ‘91

Wednesdayites were wondering during the break whether their team could stay in front but really there was never much sign of the Owls collapsing.

Indeed, Worthington might have put the game perhaps beyond doubt only six minutes into the second half. An inspired run by Williams past Dennis Irwin set up a chance for the midfield player who had a clear sight at goal yet he delayed a fraction and was thwarted by a block from Bruce.

United threatened again with a cross by McClair that Hughes just failed to reach yet Wednesday were performing with commendable spirit and resolve and although there was controversy when the ball crossed the line after Turner had stretched to take a cross by Phelen, the challenge by Hughes on him was undoubtedly at the keeper’s body and the referee Ray Lewis, who had an excellent match, was quite right to disallow the goal.

Blackmore fired wide and, with Wednesday still surviving fairly comfortably, United seemed to be running out of hope as the last quarter of an hour approached.

There was drama in the closing stages with Robson cracking a shot wide from the edge of the box after Ince and McClair had done the spadework.

But Wednesday fans were screaming for a goal after the referee sensibly played the advantage following a push is the back on Hirst, Williams was through on the keeper though pressed on either side by defenders. As Sealey came off the line and Williams steered the ball wide, the keeper suffered a badly gashed knee yet bravely carried on despite an injury which will keep him out of the European Cup Winners Cup second leg on Wednesday.

In fact, neither keeper was overworked but Turner’s magic moment came in the 82nd minute. Irwin crossed on the right, McClair dived in with a header yet made the keeper’s task slightly easier by directing the ball straight above him at a convenient height for Turner to react brilliantly and push the ball over the top.

A counter attack by Wednesday fizzled out through the exhaustion of John Harkes who was immediately taken off and replaced by Laurie Madden who can never have imagined that he would play, if only fir a short spell on the right side of midfield in a Cup Final.

Still the scares were not over for Wednesday and Shirtliff had to put a foot in against Hughes as the striker brought down a cross and tried to turn, before Worthington and Sheridan almost set up Williams in injury time, Sharpe making a telling tackle.

A Hughes cross flew across the Wednesday goal but not close enough to be a threat.

Wednesday fans sensed victory and the players were in no mood to let it slip.

When the final whistle came at last after several of injury time, it brought Wednesday’s finest hour since they won the FA Cup in 1935.

It may not have been the classic Final this time that many people predicted but who cares?

The glory days are back at Hillsborough and won’t it be marvellous if the Owls can clinch a Cup and promotion double to wipe away the agony of last season?

Goal: Sheridan (38 mins) for Wednesday.

Attendance: 77, 612

Star player: NIGEL PEARSON...forceful influence

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Turner, Nilsson, King, Harkes (Madden 88), Shirtliff, Pearson, Wilson, Sheridan, Hirst, Williams, Wothington. Unused sub: Francis.

MANCHESTER UNITED: Sealey, Irwin, Blackmore, Bruce, Webb (Phelen 56), Pallister, Robson, Ince, McClair, Hughes, Sharpe. Unused sub: Donaghy.

Referee: Ray Lewis (Great Bookham)