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On This Day in Football: Hansen delivers immortal words, Life begins at the Emirates



The date is 19 August 1995 and a young Manchester United side has travelled to Villa Park to play Aston Villa in the opening day of the new Premier League season.

Alex Ferguson has named Phil Neville, 18, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, all 20, in his starting line-up. On the subs bench sit David Beckham and John O’Kane, both 20. Even with so many young faces in the squad, few could have predicted the battering that Villa would deliver United.

Ian Taylor (14′), Mark Draper (27′) and Dwight Yorke (36′) scored in the first half to hand Ferguson a 3-1 opening day defeat. United’s only consolation coming from a Beckham goal late in the second half.

This prompted Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen to say “You can’t win anything with kids”. United’s average squad age was 26 years and 137 days if you include players who played 10 games or more over the course of that season. Fergie’s Fledglings won the Premier League and the FA Cup come the end of the season and Hansen’s unfortunate remark became sempiternal.

Life begins at the Emirates

On 19 August 2006, Arsenal played the first official match at their brand new Emirates Stadium in the Premier League opener against Aston Villa.

Arsenal moved to the Emirates from their historic Highbury stadium. A little over 60,000 fans were present for the housewarming party. But Villa’s Olof Mellberg put a dampener on the day’s proceedings by heading home from a corner in the 53rd minute.

The very young Theo Walcott came on in the 73rd minute and after 11 minutes, put in a cross into the box that was tucked in by Gilberto Silva making it 1-1 and salvaging a draw for the Gunners.

Stepney’s bizarre injury

On 19 August 1975, Manchester United played Birmingham City away from home in the old English First Division. Sammy Mcllroy scored twice to give Tommy Docherty’s men a comfortable 2-0 victory. But the only thing fans remember from that day is the bizarre injury that United goalkeeper Alex Stepney sustained in the middle of the game.

Stepney was known to be a ‘talker’ on the pitch. The former Chelsea keeper dislocated his jaw shouting deafening instructions at his defenders. Stepney had to be taken off the field, and with no substitute goalkeeper on the bench, had to be replaced by midfielder Brian Greenhoff who remarkably managed to keep a clean sheet.