Milestones on United's road to the brink

20 Oct: Newcastle 5 Man Utd 0

When Philippe Albert's lob into the Leazes End goal made it five past Schmeichel it was time for Newcastle and the nation to revel in the schadenfreude of the champions' downfall. It was Manchester United's heaviest defeat for 16 years and their first in a League match against Newcastle for nine years. The balance of Premiership power had shifted from Old Trafford to St James' Park. Or so it seemed. It was Newcastle's seventh successive league win and it put them three points clear of Arsenal. But they won just one of their next nine Premiership fixtures before Kevin Keegan first tendered his resignation, in the wake of a Boxing Day defeat at Blackburn. It was Alex Ferguson's most comprehensive defeat in 22 years of management. "Just another blip in the long history of Manchester United," he said as he left the St James' Park press room.

16 Nov: Man Utd 1 Arsenal 0

FERGUSON and his players found a way out of their predicament, with a little help from their friends - and their rivals. Ferguson pointed to the Old Trafford crowd as the key to what proved to be a pivotal result. "Sometimes you forget how young this side is," he said. "They would rather have encouragement than criticism and that was shown today. When you have 55,000 here cheering you on it makes all the difference." It was, however, a David Seaman blunder which handed United their victory. His fluffed clearance led to Nigel Winterburn bundling the ball into the Arsenal net. Minds were concentrated on Europe at the time - Juventus visited Old Trafford four days later - but it was a turning point on the home front. Seaman and Winterburn unwittingly launched Ferguson's side on an unbeaten run of 16 Premiership matches, 11 of which were victories.

26 Oct: Southampton 6 Man Utd 3

A FIVE-GOAL blip may have seemed simply a misfortune but a six- goal one, six days later, looked like carelessness. Alex Ferguson gave a wide berth to the Dell's press room as he beat a hasty retreat. His team, reduced to 10 men following Roy Keane's dismissal midway through the first-half, were torn to shreds by the craft of Eyal Berkovitch and the killer instinct of Egil Ostenstad. The anoraks were forced to reach beyond even the dog-eared Rothmans to find the last time United suffered two such League results in successive. It dated back to December 1963, in fact, to the two games which preceded George Best's debut: a 4-0 loss at Everton and a 6-1 defeat at Burnley. Andy Mitten, editor of the fanzine United We Stand, summed up the mood. "For once," he said, "I can empathise with friends who support Manchester City."

12 April: Blackburn 2 Man Utd 3

THE result was crucial, having slipped to defeat against Derby at Old Trafford the previous Saturday and having made a habit of domestic hiccups after European nights. United duly followed defeat in the Ruhr Valley with a victory in the Vale of the Ribble. "They were lucky weren't they ?" Tony Parkes, Blackburn's caretaker, said, with irony as heavy as his team's defeat ought to have been. "No," he added. "The scoreline flattered the match... At least we were beaten by the best team in England." With Andy Cole as sharp as he was in his old days, United were incisive from first to last whistle. Ferguson's attacking formation - with Cole alongside Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Eric Cantona and Paul Scholes at the apex of his midfield - proved a masterstroke. Cole scored the opener, set up the second for Scholes and served up the third for Cantona.

2 Nov: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 2

ANOTHER match day, another blip. But this time the nightmare was suffered, against a team listing Hitchcock at the top of their team-sheet, in the Theatre of Dreams. It was, in fact, United's second home defeat in four days and their fourth successive loss. It followed Fenerbahce's midweek win, United's first defeat at Old Trafford in 40 years of European competition. United's lack of penetration was highlighted by Mark Hughes' cut and thrust performance for Chelsea, who became the first visiting team to win at Old Trafford in 36 Premier League fixtures. United dropped to sixth in the table, eight points behind Newcastle. The silence which greeted the final whistle was not golden for Ferguson, five days away from the 10th anniversary of his arrival at Old Trafford. "We'll get out of this. No danger. I know what we've got to do. So do the players," he maintained.

19 April: Liverpool 1 Man Utd 3

STANDING in the press room that was once part of Anfield's celebrated boot room, Alex Ferguson knew his team had put the metaphorical boot into Liverpool's challenge. "It's a massive step for us," he said. "You've got to earn the right to be champions and I think we came to the right place to do that." At the right time, too, he might have added. Ferguson's hungry men devoured a Liverpool team when it came to this Saturday morning title crunch. By lunchtime United could taste the promise of a fourth championship in five seasons. It was not quite handed to them by David James, though the Liverpool goalkeeper gift-wrapped Andy Cole's clincher. He was not the only hesitant member of the home guard when Gary Pallister headed in two first-half corners with a forcefulness which hallmarked United's rollercoaster ride to the brink.

Compiled by Simon Turnbull

Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own