At Tuesday night’s match my mate Darren gave me the front and back pages of an old newspaper, found at the back of a cupboard or under a carpet or something.
It was the Daily Mirror, from September 5, 1973, the day after United had beaten the mighty Arsenal 5-0 at Bramall Lane. The back page headline read: “THOSE FLASHING BLADES”. Those were the days!
This was the night when United were 4-0 up after 17 minutes, as Tony Currie, who scored twice, totally outshone World Cup winner Alan Ball. In his report, Peter Cooper (a Sheffield man) explained how United “destroyed” Arsenal and Currie “dismantled” Gunners defender Peter Storey.
This was also the night when, towards the end, Currie sat on the ball in front of Alan Ball, in revenge for Ball doing the same when Arsenal won 5-0 at the Lane a couple of years earlier. Cooper called Currie’s act “unnecessary, technically ungentlemanly – and magnificent”. The story goes that in fact the vanquished Ball, accepting that his team had been “destroyed”, and that Currie, in Cooper’s words, was on the night “something approaching greatness”, encouraged TC to do it. The showman that he was, Currie would not have needed a second invitation.
The newspaper sat in a plastic sleeve under my seat on Tuesday night, when United didn’t quite destroy Millwall, but the Mirror headline holds true for most of this season. Some Blades fans were panicking when Millwall had a go in the last 20 minutes, but United, as they have done so often, showed they can get in the way of the ball and even hoof it when necessary, as well as do the pretty stuff that creates chances and goals.
It’s doubtful that in modern football any player would sit on the ball if his team was 5-0 up – in the 1970s it was called being a character, today it would be ‘disrespecting the opposition’. Still, if United are 5-0 up against Chesterfield on the last day, with the title already wrapped up, it would be good if Billy Sharp did it to celebrate the end of several years of mostly misery for Blades fans.