What’s all this then? Get caught up with part 1 here
My first order of business is to set up some friendlies before the Charity Shield showdown with Chelsea, so I opt for Celtic, Brondby and Kaizer Chiefs, just as Utd did in 93. I also check on players contracts expiring at the end of the season, as if this goes well, I might have a crack at the other treble with these players. Robson and Hughes aren’t keen, but King Eric signs on until 2002, good lad.
We kick off against Brondby at home, with the ‘Classic 11’ minus Pallister who is out for a few weeks with a facial injury, so GNev gets his ‘debut’ next to Steve Bruce in the middle of defence.
Hughes grabs the first when he nutmegs his marker on 22 minutes and blasts one in, and Giggs hits the second just before half time to take us in, 2 to the good. I’m pleased with that. Kanchelskis grabs a 3rd on 60 minutes, so it’s as good a time as any to ring the changes. On comes Sharpe and Robson to thunderous applause, replacing Irwin and Bruce. Brondby pull one back from a corner on 79 mins, but feeling satisfied, I bring on Sealey, McClair and Dublin for the final 10. Eric trudges off after a subdued return. It finishes 3-1, so a good start, but no stand out performances from the players yet.
Kaizer Chiefs are dispatched 2-0 with goals from Hughes and Giggs. Cantona plays a 7 and no goals, it seems his mojo is still in Marseille – we did all this for you Eric!
In the final friendly, Celtic hold us to a 2-2 draw, with Dion Dublin and Darren Ferguson getting the goals for Utd.
Onto the Charity Shield and FA Cup Holders Chelsea are dispatched more easily than I imagined, 3-0. Sharpe, replacing the injured Irwin, nets the first, a header from a Giggs corner, before Hughes scores against his old club, and Giggs rounds things off with a third. Eric, again plods through with a 7. Robson and McClair come on for the final minutes and Robson is back lifting silverware at Wembley. Hopefully more to come at the end of the season.
In the league, we start with a 2-1 home win against Spurs, Hughes grabbing a brace. Next up is Liverpool away. Cantona gets his first goal of his return just before halftime. Pinned back, Schmeichel keeps us in it until the 80th minute when Riedle equalises.
In the International Break, Eric gets called up for France and scores 2 in a 4-1 win versus Croatia. Pallister and Dublin also make substitute appearances for England in a 5-0 friendly win over Cyprus.
Back to the league and Everton come away from Old Trafford with 3 pts, Terry Cooke being the first ‘Cantona Castoff’ to exact revenge with one of the goals.
Next up, a trip to Selhurst Park and 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace – more unhappy memories for Eric here as Utd slump to 16th in the table.
The Champions League draw puts us in with friendly favourites Brondby, Bayer Leverkusen and PSV Eindhoven. On paper it looks like a good chance for us to be in Europe after Xmas and a welcome respite from current league form at least!
Another 3-0 win over Chelsea gets us back on track, a brace from Cantona and another Giggs effort sees us win comfortably. For this game I switched from a flat 4-4-2 to diamond formation, pushing Ince forwards and brought in Sharpe at left back and moved Irwin to righback and dropped Parker – I think his legs have gone.
Utd travel to Leicester in early September and come away with a 3-1 win, Dublin coming on for the injured Keane and netting at both ends. Another loss for Chelsea and Vialli is the first major managerial casualty after the de facto Bobby Gould/Wales parting (Howard Kendall jumps into the Welsh hot seat). Fergie for Stamford Bridge? No. In goes John Toshack, leaving Turkey and Besiktas behind him.
Another international break and another cap and goal for Eric in a friendly win over the USA – could he lead France to World Cup glory next summer?
A 1-0 win against Barnsley gets us back up to 6th in the table before we start our European adventure in Eindhoven. I shuffle my pack and bring in Neville, Butt, Beckham and Scholes, Neville getting the goal in a 1-0 win.
There’s no way past Steve Ogrizovic at Highfield Road and disappointing 1-0 loss bursts our mini bubble. Next up, table topping Newcastle come to Old Trafford and Hughes and Cantona combine to put Utd 1 up, before a late David Batty consolation goal.
A 1-0 away win at Leeds (Hughes) and then 1-1 draw against Brondby in the Champions League takes us into October.
The board aren’t happy with the kid from Cornwall and we’re even losing money. I turn down a £3m offer from Lazio for Nicky Butt and David Beckham looks restless with only Champions League outings so far.
However, it’s not all looking too grim, we’re 5th in the league, only 3pts off Arsenal at the top, although Newcastle’s games in hand look threatening.
At the bottom, Liverpool look uneasy, and we play second bottom Leicester in the next round of the League Cup.
Some thoughts so far –
I’m not sure how long Bruce, Parker and Kanchelskis will last over the season.
Robson is being used sparingly, but Sharpe is a revelation at left back, feeding Giggs on the wing.
Cantona isn’t quite performing as I’d hoped but overall the team is doing better than I expected.
Keeping the Class of 92 happy is going to be tricky, so I may have to field a ‘weakened team’ in the League Cup to keep them semi-happy, but we’ll see.
Before I finish this part, time to see where the ‘Cantona Cast Off’s’ have ended up.
Best friends Cole and Sheringham are separated by the England/Scotland border, pitching up at Leeds and Rangers respectively, while Phil Neville is training with Ronaldo, Zanetti and Djorkaeff!
John Curtis and David May are in the Prem while the Baby Faced Assassin is at Champions League holders Dortmund. Terry Cooke is getting regular games at Everton while Erik Nevland is banging them in at home in Norway. Wes Brown and Alex Notman are down in Division 1, along with Philip Mulryne, whilst Jordi Cruyff has popped up at Anderlecht. The biggest shock is at the bottom of the list. No, not reserve keepers still on a free! It’s Norwegian centre backs plying their trade in South America, looks like they needed to get as far away from Eric and Old Trafford as possible!
That’s all from Matt for this week but he’ll be back next week with part 3.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills