Lou Macari of Manchester United: The winning goal I didn't score

'It dropped for me. I hit it, and then it was past Ray Clemence'
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Twelve months before we were under enormous pressure to beat Southampton: we were big, big favourites to win. This time there was no pressure on us whatsoever because Liverpool were on for the League, FA Cup and European Cup treble and everyone expected them to do it. The difference between this and our last visit to Wembley was incredible and, looking back, it helped us. In those days the build-up to the Cup final dominated for four or five days. I read the papers every day and whereas everyone had written off Southampton now we were being told we had to play out of our skins to stand any chance of winning. That took the pressure off and on the drive down Wembley Way, in the dressing-room, and then as we walked around the pitch before kick-off, it struck me how relaxed we were.

No matter how experienced you are or how big a club you play for pressure does get to individuals and sometimes teams don't perform, but against a fantastic Liverpool side you needed a bit of luck and we got that on the day.

Liverpool were clear favourites but it never crossed our minds to keep things tight, and we wanted to take the game to them from the start. We did that, but we also rode our luck towards the end, which is what any team needs to win a Cup final. Maybe it was payback for '76. We all felt Bobby Stokes was offside before he scored the Southampton goal and I remember seeing his shot bounce up and over Alex Stepney's hand as he went to save it.

Obviously, when people think of the luck we got in '77 they talk about the winning goal, but at the time I honestly believed I had hit the ball as cleanly as I could and that it had just sailed into the net. I had no idea anything else had happened. The goal came from a long ball out of defence and I got the first touch in midfield. A Liverpool player got a touch on the ball, but I had made my way to the edge of the box in case it dropped for me. It did, I hit it, and then it was past Ray Clemence. It never occurred to me that it might have hit anyone else on the way in. In front of 100,000 people at Wembley you don't stop to think when the noise hits you and I was off celebrating as soon as it went in. Only afterwards when they pulled me aside for the television interviews and showed me the replays did I realise the ball had deflected in off Jimmy Greenhoff's shoulder. Jimmy had tried to get out of the way of the shot and, as it turned out, it was going wide, so fortunately for me and for United he never managed it.

We felt a great sense of achievement in winning that Cup final, not because of the fierce rivalry between the two clubs but because Liverpool were a fantastic side who were supposed to be nailed on for the treble.

Our win in '77 took on added significance when United completed the treble in 1999. If we hadn't have beaten Liverpool that day then United would not have been the first and only club to have won such a fantastic treble. But we did, and so the lads of '99 have something to cherish for the rest of their lives.

Interview by Andy Hunter

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