David Moyes's men are placed in a similar situation as 1992 when the 18-year-old midfielder bailed them out.
Manchester United will need a Giggs-like effort from 1992
March 1992. The race for US President between the elder George Bush and Bill Clinton intensifies, Silence of the Lambs wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Windows 3.1 is released.
In football, Manchester United head Division One and look set to win a first league title in 25 years, while their Class of ’92 youth team are tearing up all-comers in the Youth Cup.
United had been knocked out of European competition and the FA Cup. The pressure was on to win a trophy, just as it is now. The only cup trophy left was the League Cup.
Middlesbrough, from England’s northeast, were United’s opponents in the semi-final, a second-division side on their way to promotion.
“It was a hard situation because, as an old ’Boro boy, I wanted my former club to win a major competition for the first time in their history,” said defender Gary Pallister, who had joined United from Middlesbrough for a British record £2.3 million (Dh13.8m) fee in 1989.
As with the current League Cup semi-final between United and Sunderland, the first leg was in the northeast.
A capacity crowd of 25,572, Middlesbrough’s biggest in years at Ayresome Park, saw a goalless draw played out in the first leg.
Over 9,000 away fans travelled to Old Trafford for the second match, but United’s Lee Sharpe scored the first goal of the tie after 30 minutes, shooting low past Stephen Pears.
Middlesbrough refused to bow to United’s reputation and deserved their 50th-minute score when Bernie Slaven equalised from close range.
The momentum carried them forward and with 12 minutes left, most in the 45,875 Old Trafford crowd became increasingly nervous as John Hendrie chipped over United goalkeeper Schmeichel towards an open goal.
“Just as it was bobbling over the line, I managed to hack it away,” Pallister said.
“The ’Boro supporters have reminded me of the incident many times over the years.”
They came close again in the final minute, when Willie Falconer headed toward the United goal. “Then Peter Schmeichel made one of the best saves I’ve ever seen, pushing his header around the post,” Pallister said.
The 90 minutes up, the players reconvened in the Mancunian rain. Writing in the Manchester Evening News, United reporter David Meek wrote: “It rained throughout and the already notorious pitch had the added difficulty of a coating of energy-sapping glue on it.”
The game moved into extra-time. If neither team scored, then a replay was scheduled for Hillsborough – not what United needed with an already-busy fixture list from a 22-team top-flight.
Despite being roared on by their home support, United looked spent, and captain Bryan Robson, the driving force of the side, had a pained expression. Ryan Giggs sported one shin pad and a sock around his ankle.
Giggs, 18, seemed the only United man with any energy. Time and time again, Robson fed him balls.
Some fans had criticised Ferguson for not playing Giggs every week. Now, the decision was paying off.
In the 108th minute, Robson again found Giggs and the youngster struck a volley into the top corner beyond the imperious rivals.
United were on their way to Wembley, where they met Nottingham Forest in the final and won 1-0, thanks to a goal from Brian McClair.
It would prove to be their only trophy of that season as their league challenge faltered.
There are parallels with tonight’s semi-final second leg, though this time, United are trailing by a goal.
Not least that United need vocal support. They may need Giggs, now 40 years old, too.
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