Manchester United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
Bury . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
AN eighth-minute goal by Mike Phelan, his third for the club in three years and his first at Old Trafford, helped United through to the fourth round of the FA Cup and a home tie with Brighton but for all their skill and polish the end result was unsatisfying as they exhibited their now long-standing failing, the inability to translate tactical superiority into a decisive score. Caviare and champagne is all very well but this crowd likes roast beef and bitter.
Not until 11 minutes from time did they clinch the tie when a new name capped an illustrious start.
Without Ince, Kanchelskis and Giggs, all injured, and with Robson convalescing on the bench, United gave a debut to Keith Gillespie, 18, from Larne, their latest winger from Ulster, a slim, dark boy who will be eternally grateful to his parents that he wasn't christened George. The night was mild and the attendance of 30,000 helped raise Bury's hopes of taking pounds 100,000 as their share of this third-round tie.
Brian McClair dropped back into midfield and Lee Sharpe moved inside, delivering his first shot, just wide, in 30 seconds as Bury repelled six corner kicks in six minutes.
United's seventh attack was fruitful: Mark Hughes fed Gillespie on the right, the centre was measured exactly for the oncoming, unmarked Phelan and the header beat Gary Kelly's dive.
Bury's captain and striker, the shaven-headed Kevin Hulme, known apparently as Reggie the Roofer in deference to his former calling and a supposed resemblance to Reggie Perrin, struggled vigorously to retaliate and Peter Schmeichel was called upon to make a sudden dive to push round a long, swerving shot from Bury's Mark Kearney.
Eric Cantona's first attempt on goal, a spectacular bicycle kick from 15 yards from Hughes's header, again went too close for Bury's comfort; Sharpe then demonstrated another dimension of his talent by leaving Derek Ward for dead in a race down the left.
Bury's difficulty was that they could rarely retain possession long enough to create a threatening movement, and all credit to them and their manager Mike Walsh that they did not adopt the obvious alternative option and bang the ball downfield for Hulme and Danny Sonner to chase. They continued to try to match United's midfield play even though the clubs are 83 places apart in football's hierarchy and some pounds 11m in transfer fees.
By the second half Bury had found one area worth exploiting, for United had only Phelan and McClair in midfield and there was plenty of space to be had there. For all United's superiority, handsomely illustrated by some clever flicks and nod-ons by Cantona, their dominance was hardly reflected in the scoreline.
Indeed, Alex Ferguson must have pointed out rather forcibly at the interval that United were not there to swan around, however elegantly. The near-silence of the crowd, Bury's 5,000 following apart, indicated an art gallery or a library rather than Ferguson's vaunted theatre of dreams.
Bury tried to give their attack more muscle by replacing the slim Danny Sonner with Ian Stevens, but it was Sharpe, again, who forced the dangerous opening, dropping a cross neatly on to McClair's head, but the Scot's impetus carried him too far and too fast, and the ball flew over the bar from five yards.
That escape spurred Bury into their best spell, Schmeichel's impetuous advance once leaving his goal vacant, Steve Bruce having to tidy up. Hulme and Darren Lyons forced saves from Schmeichel without giving the Dane much more than practice while Kelly's goal survived a near shot from Phelan and a dart by Hughes.
Cantona was the next to be frustrated, the ball being whisked off his feet when three yards out; Denis Irwin fired into a crowd from 15 yards to hit the unwitting Kelly's legs.
The breakthrough came in the 79th minute, giving young Gillespie a memorable night. He once again made room for himself on the right, cut in and what was intended, probably, as a centre, flew into goal off the brave Kelly's gloves.
Ferguson said of his newcomer: 'The boy was due for a game and with Giggs and Kanchelskis injured it was a good opportunity. He scores goals, but his strong point is crossing the ball and he is normally better than that, but he did tire. But it was a good debut, he made a goal and scored a goal.'
Walsh said: 'They were different class in the first 10 minutes. Better teams than us will come here and get a bigger mauling. We rolled up our sleeves and gave the supporters something to shout about, but the second goal was a disappointment, the young full-back missed a chance to clear.'
Manchester United: Schmeichel; Parker, Irwin (Blackmore, 80), Bruce, Sharpe, Pallister, Cantona, Phelan, McClair (Robson, 80), Hughes, Gillespie.
Bury: Kelly; Kearney, Stanislaus, Daws, Gardner, Knill, Lyons, Sonner (Stevens, h/t), Hulme, Mauge, Ward. Substitute not used: Wilson.
Referee: P Danson (Leicester).
Scarborough spirit, page 27
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies