"He just collapsed at the airport": how a Manchester United player could have lost his leg after the 1991 Rumbelows Cup final defeat to Sheffield Wednesday
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Roll the clock back 29 years to this very day and another goalkeeper, in another League Cup final, did the exact same thing.
In the days of only two substitutes, it was unusual for a manager to select a goalkeeper on the bench and in Manchester United’s 1991 Rumbelows Cup final defeat against Sheffield Wednesday, Sir Alex Ferguson was no different.
And so all eyes shot towards the young Scot when, with 12 minutes remaining and after a collision with Owls forward Paul Williams, the knee of Les Sealey began to pour with blood.
Hobbling around his penalty area in agony, Sealey resisted medical advice to leave the field, at one point screaming at the club’s physio to get off the pitch.
“It was a really nasty, horrible gash and should have come off,” remembers United dangerman Lee Sharpe, speaking to The Star.
“Usually, after every final, we’d have a party in London to celebrate or even if we lost, but this time we didn’t because we had the Cup Winner’s Cup semi a few days later.
“So we went straight to the airport and Les just collapsed.
“They reckon if we’d got on the plane gangrene would have set in and he would have lost his leg.
“That sort of made it less about football in a way and it was then about trying to forget about it and get our heads on for the next game. It helped that it was obviously a big one.”
Sealey, who went on to win the European Cup Winner’s Cup with United within a month of the defeat to Wednesday, tragically died some years later from a heart attack at the age of only 43.
He was working as the goalkeeping coach of West Ham United at the time, where one of his charges was future Wednesday stopper Stephen Bywater.
Bywater wore the number 43 at several clubs including Wednesday as a mark of respect for Sealey’s impact on his career.