Return of the King: Season 2 – Part 2

Matt Wills is back with the class of 94. We’re now into winter 1998 and the old boys are holding up pretty well. You can catch up with the previous episode here

Eric and his band of treble winners are back for a crack at the Champions League, but Eric is out of form and an Arsenal shaped obstacle is forming…

I left you in Part of Season 2 with Utd picking up the Charity Shield by beating Arsenal and then drawing them in the Champions League group stages, meaning we’ll play them 5 times at least this season. The form from last season has continued, but Eric is looking out of sorts again and Leeds are chasing us in the table.

Our second meeting of the season with Arsenal comes in the league at Old Trafford, which is a tight affair which bursts into life either side of halftime with Hughes and Wright trading goals on 45 and 46 minutes. Hughes then gets himself injured and McClair comes on to set up Neville with an uncharacteristic long range effort and then rounds off the game by making it safe in the 90th minute. No bookings for foes Keane and Vieira is a surprise…

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McClairs goal catches the eye of Craig Brown and he gets a run out for Scotland. After the international break, we’re off to Maine Road where it’s the Dolly and Daisy show, with Eric getting a few minutes from the bench. Manchester is red tonight.

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Back into Europe and back to Arsenal at Old Trafford for our third meeting of the season so far and again United have too much in their locker even after going a goal down to a Patrick Vieira header. Neville and Ince wrapping up the points and a handy £750k! In between which we lose Giggs for 3 months to a torn hamstring – looking light on the left with Sharpe also out long term – I notice Ben Thornley looking keener in training now. Hard luck Ben, I’m going the Sven route and playing Scholesy out on the left wing – I heard he loves it.

Next to Old Trafford are Vinnie Jones’ Wimbledon for a humdinger of a match. Eric’s first goal in what seems like an eternity is tempered by an injury to Keane, but we’re cruising with goals from Scholes, Cantona and Hughes before Pallister gets himself sent off and a Marcus Gayle brace brings some equity to the tie.

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The League Cup starts for us in the Third Round with the visit of Sheffield United and I go full blooded for a 3-1 win – our reward? Bloody Arsenal in the next round! So that’s at least 6 times we’ll face off this season, would you Tony Adam(s) and Eve it?

Halloween ends the month and takes us to Everton in the league, but there nothing to be scared of when you can rest Kanchelskis for Darren Ferguson is there?

Nope, he breaks the deadlock and Eric grabs a brace – that’s 4 goals in the last 3 games for Eric. The collars turned up again it seems.

Dortmund are beaten 3-1 in, er, Dortmund in midweek with Cantona scoring the third goal past Contala, which was probably a tongue twister for the commentator when that went in past the German keeper. Ole GS reduces arrears when he gets a penalty after being chopped down by Schmeichel when through on goal – he was lucky to only get a warning.

Results elsewhere means we’ve qualified for the knock-out stages after 4 games. Would 11 pts be enough for Arsenal to go through as one of the two best runners up? I hope not!

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European midweek exertions are followed up with a turgid 0-0 with Blackburn means a relentless Leeds United draw level at the top of the table with us – Andrew Cole seeking revenge for being discarded.

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On the international break, Eric’s good recent form continues as he scores against the powerhouse of Moldova, and it gets better when Gary Neville is side-lined for a few months. Clayton Blackmore, get your boots ready.

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Friday the 13th is unlucky for Arsenal fans, Overmars is off…

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Joining Giggs, Neville and Sharpe in the treatment room are Paul Ince with concussion and then Cantona and Hughes both get the flu. Normally you’d dip into the transfer market with these many injuries, but not me. Why bother when you have Lee Martin, Darren Ferguson and Clayton Blackmore in your squad?

Well, maybe you should consider it more when you lose 1-0 to Leicester and Brian McClair misses a penalty I suppose. Leeds draw 1-1 with an Overmars-less Arsenal to top the table by a point and I’m relieved that our next game is against Standard in the Champions League and with nothing at stake I can rest the few first-teamers that are still standing.

Fifty Five Thousand people watch my second stringers have a bit of a car-crash against Standard, put to the sword by two Van Overloop goals (a name which sounds a bit like a Belgian car crash). Ben Thornley gets the consolation. The other consolation is Arsenal losing to Dortmund – I can’t see them progressing further now, and they’re 10th in the league – Wenger out?

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Back to league action and Huddersfild are beaten 3-1 with 2 goals from Eric and a Mark Kinsella own goal. Aging Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga was in the sticks for Town. The Zenga Bus won’t be going Boom, Boom, Boom on the way back to Huddersfield tonight. (urrgh, sorry).

The FA Cup 3rd round draw pairs us up with Man City and I feel relieved to have avoided Arsenal again, not because I think they’re a threat, I’d just like to play some other teams for a change.

Which neatly takes us to Arsenal and the 4th round of the League Cup. It’s a dilemma for me, as I’m not too bothered about the League Cup, but I want to beat Arsenal so I mix the team up a bit and see how we get on.

I play the Dublinator up front with Scholes and they combine with 3 goals to beat Arsenal 3-1 and put us into the Quarter-finals, where we’ll face off against Liverpool.

Next onto the treatment table is Schmeichel, out for a month with a broken hand, so up steps Gary Walsh, but he manages to fumble a Fjortoft shot and allow the Norwegian to poke home the loose ball and we fall to a 1-0 loss away to Barnsley, which is both a shock defeat and an abysmal result according to the press and the board. Why did you have to retire Les Sealey?

I’ll finish off this part of the blog with our last group game in the Champions League against Arsenal, we’re through and Arsenal are out, so not much expectation for this game, but after recent losses I send out a strong side and it’s a 4-0 rout at Highbury. Cantona gets 2 and Hughes and Kanchelskis the others, all supplied by MOTM and left winger, Paul Scholes.

The quarter finals are drawn and we get Real Betis. They’ve sold Alfonso to Real Madrid for £15.75m (standard) and he’s now out with a broken leg for 15 months.

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Not quite a bye to the semi’s, but I’m feeling confident compared to other pairings and we should have a few people back from injury by February.

So that’s us for another week, we’re still a point behind Leeds at the top of the table, but doing well in Europe despite the injuries, so I’ll sign off with the current stats for Steve Bruce, for no reason at all, cheers!

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You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills


2 thoughts on “Return of the King: Season 2 – Part 2

  1. Pingback: The Stockport Diaries: Season 2 – Part 3 | CM 97/98

  2. Pingback: Return of the King Season 2: Part 3 – The Magic of the Cup and the Sponge | CM 97/98

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