Hall of Fame: The Stars of Old Trafford

Hall of Fame Manchester United

Like the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’, we take a look at some of the greats, privileged enough to pull on a United shirt and walk through the Old Trafford doors.

3. Mark Hughes

Appearances: 473

Goals: 163

Signed from: Signed school boy forms with United

When Sir Alex Ferguson decided to bring Mark Hughes back from Barcelona in 1988, it was the beginning of a change in the fortunes of Manchester United. Hughes would go on to score some vital goals, helping to secure United’s first league title in 26 years.

Signed by Manchester United on school boy forms, Mark Hughes would grow up at the club and make his debut in a League cup game away at Oxford United in 1983. Trying to get into a side including Frank Stapleton and Norman Whiteside, would prove an interesting challenge for Hughes. One which the young Welsh forward relished. So much so that then United manager, Ron Atkinson, decided that none of them should miss out and plumped to play all three of them. Whiteside would drop back into midfield to enable Hughes to slot in up top with Stapleton.

Hughes would start to flourish in a United side who were struggling for league form, but devastating in the cup competitions, winning the FA Cup in both 1983 and 85. The 85 final was a game which will be remembered for the extra time winner by Norman Whiteside, and what a finish it was. But it was the ball which set Whiteside away down the right, by a certain Mark Hughes, which must take some plaudits. A ball with the outside of his foot, curled through the gap of centre back and left full back, into space and onto the run of the marauding Whiteside. United would lift the cup, 1-0.

The following season and with United embarking on a ten game winning streak to start the season, Hughes had notched a dozen goals by Christmas. Barcelona had noticed this and decided to make a move for the Welshman. Hughes would take a United sabbatical, heading off to Catalonia for a couple of seasons before returning under a new manager. This time Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson paid a then club record fee for Hughes, around £1.9 million, in the May of 1988. Good business as twelve months and sixteen goals later, Hughes was named the PFA Player of the Year. The first Manchester United player to have ever held the honour.

United, still struggling to find any league form, would ebb and flow towards another FA cup final in 1990. Hughes had scored the goal in the third round, away at Nottingham Forest, which as the rumours were, saved Ferguson from the sack. Hughes would go on to score two goals in the Final, against Crystal Palace, rescuing United in extra time and force a replay which United would go on to win.

Hughes was becoming a bit of a lucky omen in regards to finals. Just twelve months later and a meeting against old club, Barcelona, Hughes would again score twice in Rotterdam, to secure a 2-1 victory over Johan Cruyff’s side, in the European Cup Winners Cup.

The league form was still getting under the skin of the players at United, but going into the 90’s saw a 6th and then a second place finish, behind rivals Leeds United,  which saw United inching ever closer. The inception of the Premier League and an introduction of a certain Frenchman was the making of this new era for United. Hughes, a scorer of both vital and spectacular goals, was the spearhead of this United side. And when I say spectacular, I mean amazing finishes. Hughes would score volleys, over head kicks and put his head in where most would not even dangle a leg. Cantona would sit in behind Hughes, pulling into pockets of space, constantly buzzing to make things happen. Hughes would go on to score sixteen goals that season. And then, finally, it happened. A League title to add to Hughes many cup medals. A first for the Red Devil’s in 26 seasons.

The following season would see Hughes go one better. United steam rolled the league and with Hughes contributing to 22 goals, only money bags Blackburn Rovers came anywhere close. United lifted a second consecutive title in 1994. More was to follow for Hughes as again he scored in the final of the FA cup. This time swatting aside bogey side, Chelsea. A Premier League and Cup double. They may not have even got to the final if it wasn’t for Hughes himself. United, trailing to Oldham Athletic during extra time in the Semi Final and with just 30 seconds remaining, Hughes volleyed a Brian McClair flick on past the helpless keeper to force a replay.

United were getting stronger but for Hughes, the 1994/95 season would be his last at Old Trafford. A disappointing finale to an amazing career at United, despite the number ten notching a dozen goals. With Eric Cantona being suspended mid season for his “kung fu kick ” on a spectator, United would go on to surrender both the Premier League and FA Cup final to Blackburn Rovers and Everton, respectively. This despite United splashing £7m for Andy Cole from Newcastle United that season. Hughes would find himself on his way to London, and Chelsea. Part of the clear out involving other high profile players, Andrei Kanchelskis and Paul Ince.

Hughes would go on to manage at Manchester City but despite this, is still revered by the Stratford Enders. He was unplayable at times. I remember Peter Schmeichel kicking the ball out of his hands and it coming down with snow on it. Hughes, with centre back all over him, killed it dead on his thigh and swept it out wide to Ryan Giggs, on the left. One of the greatest forwards with his back to goal that I had ever seen.

The next member of the Manunited.uk Hall of Fame.

” Hughes, onside with a chance for another one here, maybe not now….yes there is ! A fantastic goal by Hughes ” – Commentary from the winning goal in the 1991 European Cup Winners Cup Final

Hugshie! , Hugshie!

Honours

Manchester United:

Premier League: 1992–93, 1993–94
FA Cup: 1984–85, 1989–90, 1993–94
Football League Cup: 1991–92
FA Charity Shield: 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1990–91
UEFA Super Cup: 1991

Individual: 

PFA Young Player of the Year: 1984–85
PFA Players’ Player of the Year: 1988–89, 1990–91
Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year: 1990–91
Inducted into English Football Hall of Fame
BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year: 2002

About the Author

John McNicoll
Southern Red and Football enthusiast.