Saturday 24th January 1998
Manchester United v Walsall is the biggest match I have seen since I started supporting Walsall in 1990.
We have had played some high profile teams in cup competitions such as West Ham, Fulham, Leeds, Sheff Utd and Stoke but no one compares with Manchester United.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. At the age of 13 it is difficult to wake yourself up for school let alone a Saturday morning. On FA Cup matchdays it was always a ritual to wake up early, have a cuppa, some breakfast, read the cup previews in the paper and get ready 5 hours before kick-off. Why? I dont know but you can never question football fans rituals!
On the way to the game I remember hearing the expected line up for Manchester United and thinking to myself Viveash and Mountfield will keep Cole and Solskjaer quiet – only in teenage years do you think your own team can beat anyone!
United’s team that day contained the likes of Schmeichel, Neville, Irwin, Berg, Beckham, McClair, Cole, Solskjaer, Scholes. Although some of the United side that day were just starting their football careers, you only need to see what some of the above have achieved in football to know Little Walsall from Division 2 had very little chance, especially at Old Trafford where United hasnt lost a cup match since 1980.
Walsall found themselves behind on 9 minutes. A well worked build up led to Andy Cole firing past Jimmy Walker from the edge of the area. United found themselves two up just before half time.
HT Manchester United 2-0 Walsall
Walsall managed to hang on in the contest thanks mainly to Jimmy Walker’s heroics. Jimmy Walker’s save from one Andy Cole shot is probably up there with my all time favourite Jimmy Walker saves. However two goals in 2 minutes killed off Walsall’s resistance as Andy Cole and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer both adding to their tally.
One of the highlights of me supporting Walsall is THAT goal by Roger Boli. I can still see him rising now to loop a header over the Great Dane, Peter Schmeichel. All of us in the Walsall end, celebrated that goal like we had won the cup, let alone find ourselves 4-1 down. Not many teams scored at Old Trafford and for the smallest man on the pitch to score with his head past the greatest keeper of our time….extraodinary.
The celebrations were muted just 2 minutes later though as Ronny Johnsen scored to make it 5-1.
After the match Walsall manager Jan Sorensen said ‘Matches like this come every 20 years or so,’ Jan Sorensen, and we could have dug graves in front of our goal and kicked the ball away or we could enjoy it. We decided to give it a go. At least the boys gave themselves a chance.’
FT Manchester United 5-1 Walsall
I dont care that we were thumped by one of the greatest teams in English history, it was the fact we gave it a go and didnt sit back. Walsall did themselves proud that day and eventhough Jan Sorensen was hopeless in the league, he gave us some great cup runs. Sometime in my lifetime I hope I get to see Walsall beat Arsenal,Chelsea, Man City, Man U or Liverpool – so I dont have a 5-1 drubbing as a highlight of my time supporting Walsall.