By James Crump – @TheJamesCrump
Today, we jump back to May 1992 with Liverpool facing Sunderland in the FA Cup final. Despite league and European dominance, Liverpool had only four FA Cup titles before this day. Would they win, or would Souness’ men crumble under the pressure?
On May 9, 1992, Liverpool faced Sunderland at Wembley in the FA Cup final. Mark Wright captained Liverpool that day, and the team featured legends such as Ian Rush, Bruce Grobbelaar, Jan Molby and a young local lad called Steven McManaman.
The fixture was Sunderland’s first FA cup final since they won the competition in 1972 and they became the first second division side to feature in the final since Queens Park Rangers a decade earlier.
Souness had been recovering from a heart operation he underwent in April so Ronnie Moran, who had managed Liverpool to victory in the semi-final, lead the players out on to the field.
Despite the two clubs’ relative standings, Sunderland were the better team in the first half. They nullified Liverpool’s attack and should have scored through John Byrne, who somehow managed to miss from six yards out. Liverpool had their own chances in the first half, but Michael Thomas couldn’t compose himself to keep his effort under the crossbar, meaning the two teams went into the break level pegging.
Liverpool started the second half stronger and broke the deadlock two minutes into the second half. After some great work down the right wing by McManaman, Thomas atoned for his earlier miss by converting Macca’s delicate dink with a scorching half-volley. Other Liverpool FA Cup final goals are more easily remembered, but not many match the quality of Thomas’ strike.
Liverpool found confidence through the goal and started to impose their dominance on proceedings. Their hard work reaped rewards as Rush scored his fifth Fa Cup final goal, which still stands as a record today.
The Welshman’s chance was easy, but the build up play was superb, with Dean Saunders (in his last year with the club) releasing Thomas into the box. He couldn’t get a shot on goal, but the ball fell nicely for the man most likely to score – Rush. He side-footed it into the bottom corner, all but sealing the victory for Liverpool.
The remaining half-an-hour was easy for Liverpool with the only moment of note being Ray Houghton attempting to lob Sunderland’s keeper, Tony Norman. It was a nice attempt, but something Xabi Alonso and Mohamed Salah would perfect 20-odd years later.
20-year-old McManaman was named man of the match, putting in the kind of performance Liverpool fans became accustomed to until his departure to Real Madrid in 1999. Academy stars bringing their best performances to FA Cup finals has been a theme at Liverpool with both Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard performing memorably in the two subsequent FA cup triumphs.
The Black Cats troubled Liverpool, but at the end of the day the trophy was to return to Anfield. In total, the Anfield club have seven FA cups, with their last win coming in 2006 – most remembered for Steven Gerrard’s sensational 90th minute piledriver, ensuring the match went into extra-time. I may or may not have chucked a milk bottle Haribo at the screen in celebration!
Liverpool may not have won a FA Cup in a while, but with the u18s team winning the Youth Ccup just two weeks ago, maybe another academy starlet will create the magic to provide victory in the near future.