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Manchester United


Sammy McIlroy fires United level
It's McIlroy.. It's STILL McIlroy!

1979 FA Cup Final

Wembley, 1979: Arsenal are cruising to a 2-0 win. Then, with four minutes left, Manchester United turned up. What followed was the most dramatic finale in FA Cup history. Here are some of your memories of that day >


FA Cup Final 1979

  • Result: Arsenal 3-2 Man United
  • Venue: Wembley
  • Scorers: Arsenal - Talbot 12; Stapleton 43; Sunderland 89
  • Man Utd - McQueen 86; McIlroy 88
  • HT: 2-0
  • Att: 100,000

Manchester United fans who had travelled to Wembley in '79 watched their side outplayed by Arsenal - and more specifically Liam Brady - for 85 minutes. Brady had set up goals for Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton to give the Gunners a two goal lead by half time and with five minutes to go it looked hopeless for the Reds... 2-0

Then, with five minutes to go, Gordon McQueen bundled home a late consolation before Sammy McIlroy ended a mazy run to turn the game on its head... 2-2

Alan Sunderland scores Arsenal's winner
Alan Sunderland scores the winner!

Then in the dying seconds, Brady capped a virtuoso performance by flying down the left wing and crossing to the far post. He found Alan Sunderland, who slid in the winner to cap the most remarkable finish ever seen in an FA Cup final... 3-2 to Arsenal.

Victory to the Gunners.. and every United fan in the land was left stunned. We asked for your memories of that day. Here are some the best!

Your memories

Rob Daniel:
My first F.A. cup final, the build up, the crowd the game, everything lived up to my expectations. Although over the years I began to realise what a dump Wembley had become. Arsenal out played united until those last few minutes. I remember Sammy Mcs run, it seemed to last forever and finally the ball rolled over the line. Queue the celebrations, it went wild in the united end. I ended up on the floor with many others and as I recovered and got back on my feet, there it was running towards us the biggest perm in football had just scored the winner for Arsenal. I didn't see the goal just Alan Sunderland running down the pitch celebrating. Heartbreaking but I always remember the united fans singing right to the end and after the final whistle. That memory will always stay with me.

Ian Short from Stockton-on-Tees:
I remember the game very well, it was my first Wembley Final (besides the England World Cup final which I attended on my own as a 12 year old, but that's another story!) and I only knew I was going the day before the match. The reason for that was that a colleague at work was the nephew of a Wembley Steward and apparently after the dog meeting on the Thursday night the Stewards held a ballot for a final ticket and my colleagues uncle won. We made all the travel arrangements on the Friday and I travelled down on the day of the game by train. I got a bus to where the steward lived and duly picked up my ticket. His wife said he had left for the game but he had left me a message to say that if I made my way to the Royal Box restaurant after the game he would be on the door and he would let me in. What a thrill my first FA cup final with United and I would be mixing with all the celebrities after the game. I put the ticket into a plastic bag and then taped it to my chest where it stayed until I reached the turnstiles. The ticket couldn't have been better, it was right behind the goal at the United end. Then it all started to go wrong, Arsenal scored and then scored again and at that point we never looked like scoring. Big Gordon popped up and we cheered, more in hope than conviction but up strode "Super Sam" and we had equalised. We went berserk! We were still jumping up and down and hugging prefect strangers as if they were our long lost family and suddenly there was a roar from the other end. What the hell were they shouting about we had just scored! But to our dismay in all our celebrating we had missed the fact that Arsenal had gone down the other end and scored the winner....gutted! At the final whistle I thought about my place in the Royal Box restaurant but I just couldn't face it I was just completely devasted. I made my way straight back to Kings Cross and got the first train home.

Dave Bloor:
This game to me was one of the most memorable football matches I have ever been to.
After being exhilarated by watching United  knocking out Liverpool in the semi thanks to Jimmy Greenhoffs header at Goodison this was my first trip to Wembley. I even made a banner. It read Gordon McQueen, Jordan is King, United are Ace, Arsenal are Jokers. We left Manchester early driving to Stanmore where we got the tube in to Wembley.  My best mate and me had saved tokens and got standing tickets. His brother who had a seat and his Dad who would you believe got a ticket at face value outside the ground but left the game ten minutes early thinking Arsenal had won 2-0.
This was actually the score at half-time and me and my mate were so disconsolate we just sat with our head in our hands on the gig Wembley steps.I remember Brian Talbot and Liam Brady running midfield. I dont remember much about the rest of the game up to Gordon Mcqueen I think scoring with about 5 minutes to go.We all thought it was just a consolation until Sammy Mcilroy seemed to beat the whole Arsenal team 3 times before rolling the ball into the net.On the TV replays I think Sammy only beat probably two men but to me at the time he seemed to beat everybody before the ball tantalisingly fell into the corner of the net.It was the most wonderful moment I have ever felt watching football. Followed 30 seconds later by the worst moment ever. All I remember is after turning round from celebrating Uniteds equaliser thinking why are the Arsenal fans jumping up and down at the other end.It dawned they had gone and scored another. After the game as a fifteen year old I was that consumed by the tragedy I couldent go to the toilet for 4 hours. I could talk about my emotions from this game for hours and have actually described this game on a public speaking course when asked to describe something very meaningful in my life.It may only have been a game of football but never in my whole life I dont think I have been so elated then so dissappointed in such a short space of time.

Dave Bradshaw from Seaford:
I was nine years old, approaching ten at the time. I couldn't really remember the 1977 win over Liverpool, so this was the first FA Cup run to Wembley that I had followed. I wore my red admiral kit for the whole day and was glued to the TV throughout. I cried my eyes out with tears of joy when Sammy Mac scored the equaliser and then balled my eyes out in despair when Sunderland scored the winner. After the match I went out to play football over the park, and my friend Grant was proudly wearing his Arsenal kit. Grant was from the private estate and had everything - Adidas Beckenbauer boots, Subbuteo and Scaletrix. I was from the council estate with market football boots and my cousins hand me down bike. Lets just say that Grant went home with a few bruises on his legs that night - if only Lou Macari had kicked Liam Brady as much, he may not have had such a big influence on the match!!!!!

Terry Haven:
I remember the 79 final just like yesterday. how gut wrenching one min tears next 2 minutes great joy next tears...I still hate EFFING arse nill!

Raymond Leong from Singapore:
During those days, over here in Singapore, we did get much live coverage of soccer matches. As an ardant fan of Manchester United since 1975, the only way of wach them live is to support them till we reached a Cup final, then we get to see it Live". I manage to catch 3 live finals featuring United, the 1976,1977 and 1979. United didn't have much luck in the league so the FA Cup was a good trophy for us to put one over our Liverpool supporters. I remember well, as I was night here when the final was played. We did well 2 seasons ago by beating Liverpool and the new manager Dave Sexton was remarkable in creating a stable United side. Much of the side was retain from the last final and United had two good signings in Gordon McQueen and Joe Jordon from Leeds. We were really expected them to do well. 2 down with 5 mins to go, my mates whom were watching with me had already begun their cat calls and my good friend till today, is an Arsenal supporter, as begining to rub his hands in anticipation of what would be a free supper after the match as I would have lost the bet. I could see his face change dramatically and instantly when United equalised. I was estatic. I was jumping up and down like any 17 year old, and when it brought me down to earth when Liam Brady crossed and Keeper Alan Bailey misjuged the flight of the ball and flew over his head and there was the sickening sight of Alan Sunderland sidefooting the ball into the net.
It was all so dejecting having some so close and if Sunderland's goal hadn't come, I sure we would have won it in extra time. This time around, I am keeping my fingers crossed for United to win the toss and have the right to wear the "home" jersey. This would be our Cup season again!

Joanne Crane:
I'd bought myself a new scarf to wave at the telly watching the match. We'd just equalised.....I can still hear the commentary ("It's McIlroy....it's STILL McIlroy!) and my Dad nearly broke his armchair when he leapt up and landed back down with a thud. My mum came running in from the kitchen to see what the commotion was and said "What if Arsenal score now?"......which they did. "THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS IF ARSENAL SCORE NOW!" my Dad shouted. We'd lost after making a miraculous recovery.....and I've hated Arsenal ever since... especially Alan Sunderland. I still have the scarf though!

John Kelsall from Warrington:
I was at that final as a 14 year old boy, taken by my older brother and his mates. I have five main memories:
1. I remember being in a pub in London and my brother's friends saying: "Hey, it's great in here, why don't we stay in here and watch the game rather than mess about trying to get to Wembley". My heart sank, I saw my brother look at me and he said, "No, come on we've got to go". It was such a relief. I think that if I hadn't been there then they would have stayed in the pub.
2. I remember it being so hot inside the ground (I was high up behind the goal), that sweat was literally dripping off the bottom of my trousers.
3. I clearly remember Sammy McIlroy scoring as it was in front of the end we were at. The goal appeared in slow-motion to me – it felt like he was forever going past players – until he finally slotted the ball into the net. The end of the ground we were in absolutely erupted – beer went up in the air and the crowd surged forward, and everyonestarted hugging each other as we knew we were then going to go on and
win the cup.
4. And then the most vivid memory of all – seeing Arsenal score at the other end – and nobody around me seemed to know about it except me as everybody was still celebrating the equalizing goal. I had to grab my brother and tell him, and gradually our end of the ground stopped jumping around. It was like a Mexican wave but in reverse. You could see the jumping slowly stop like a wave as people found out the
terrible news.
5. And finally I remember being so thirsty whilst we waited in a long queue for a tube train to take us away from Wembley and back to our B&B. People were selling tins of Coke to the queue for 50p (an extortionate amount of money for those times) and we bought one in desperation and it was really, really warm and horrible – which just
rounded off our day. The day had started so exciting and seemed to me to end in so much sorrow.

Peter Daubney:
The 1979 FA cup final still brings tears to my eyes all these years later. I was watching TV as a 10 year old with my family in the same room as I will watch this years final. The settee is in exactly the same place as it was then. Having watched Arsenal dominate for much of the match I shall never forget the goals from first Gordon McQueen and the great Sammy Mcilroy with a mazy dribble and the excited John Motson on the BBC commentary saying its still Sammy Mcilroy. Having recovered to 2-2 I was crying my eyes out with joy and I had to go out into the kitchen to get a tea towel to dry my eyes only to return to the sitting room to see the ball get passed down the left wing, crossed and then put in by Alan Sunderland. I can barely type his name.
The tears of joy turned to despair and I still had the tea towel in my hand so I used it again. Utter devastation. When Giggsy scored that fantastic goal in the semi 20 years later I felt revenge was sweet. Lets hope the boys can eclipse the awful memeories of 79 by beating the Arsenal this year.

John Parry:
I attended the final along with my father, we left from Manchester Piccadilly  on the sadly missed "Football special" along with thousands of other reds. I remember it being a glorious sunny day and standing behind the goal which United were attacking in the second half. I also remember roaring on United after the first goal being scored, and being delirious when Sammy equalises watching my farther clinging onto the bag he had taken as a big gap appeared in the standing crowd, thinking Arsenal are dead on there feet and we would win the game in extra time! When I heard someone shout OH KNOW at which time a turned towards the pitch again to see Alan Sunderland running away from UNITED's goal with his arm raised. I hadn't even know the game had kick off again! as I was still celebrating the equaliser.

last updated: 13/05/05
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