40 YEARS AGO: ARNOLD MUHREN
Debut: 28 August 1982, United 3-0 Birmingham City
Another 20 years down the track, more peaks and troughs navigated – and as the 1980s blows in a commercialist wind, so football and United begin to go global…
Any DVD of Red memories of the 1980s would – understandably – be dominated by the widescreen, all-action performances of Bryan Robson, the man who carried the fight to Liverpool, on oft-dislocated shoulders. But the subtle promptings of fellow midfielder Arnold Muhren, ice to Robson’s fire, would feature in any discerning director’s cut.
The Dutchman had been a pivotal presence in Ipswich Town’s stylish, near-miss title challenge of 1980/81. Technically excellent, with a gift for a through-ball that could dazzle a geometry student, here was a whiff of exotica eagerly inhaled by denizens of M16. Hard as it is to fathom in the global age of player recruitment, at the time ‘Arnie’ was the only non-UK/Republic of Ireland-born player in United’s 22-man squad – only our second ever ‘overseas’ signing.
He ended that 1982/83 campaign, the first of three, as the first Dutchman to win – and score in – an FA Cup final, converting United’s last goal from the spot in the 4-0 replay romp against Brighton, on Sir Matt Busby’s 74th birthday. Though he’d won the UEFA Cup at Portman Road, this outstripped it – a history lesson on the Cup’s once-seductive powers. “Ever since coming to England, I’ve wanted to win this,” he told Shoot!. It was also his first spot-kick in English football.
That was as good as it got, medals-wise. Muhren’s absence with a tendon injury at the back end of 1983/84 was a significant factor in a failed title bid, yet when fit, his left peg rarely delivered anything but the right stuff.
Years in existence: 104
Competitive matches played: 3589
Honours: League title x7, FA Cup x4, Charity Shield x5
Club record appearances: Bobby Charlton, 758
Club record goals: Bobby Charlton, 249
ELSEWHERE IN ENGLISH FOOTBALL
Title holders: Liverpool
FA Cup holders: Tottenham Hotspur
ELSEWHERE IN BRITAIN
Monarch: Queen Elizabeth II
Prime Minister: Margaret Thatcher
Population: 56.2 million