Looking back on Bradford City’s Premier League adventure, 20 years ago.
By Jason McKeown
Manchester United 4 Bradford City 0
26 December, 1999
Boxing day – and a trip to Old Trafford. This was a pinch-yourself-moment for Bradford City. A marker of just how far the club had risen. Four years earlier on Boxing Day, the Bantams were away to York City in the third tier. Now here they were, lining up against Manchester United in front of 55,188 people.
Not surprisingly, such a glamour occasion caught the imagination of City supporters. The away allocation was snapped up quicker than every other away fixture that season. In fact, the club attempted to host a live beam-back of the match at Valley Parade. Alas, a technical fault with the rented big screen – which had been positioned on the pitch – meant pay-on-the-day fans had to be turned away. Those who had booked tickets in advance were allowed in, but had to make do with watching the game on TV monitors within the Valley Parade concourses.
And it was so close to being a truly memorable result for City. For 75 minutes, they produced a commendable rear-guard action that was edging them towards a surprise point. Paul Jewell opted for a 4-5-1 that was intent on restricting Manchester United chances. Aside from an early Lee Mills effort that inched wide of goal, the European Champions dominated. But City were organised and defended magnificently.
David Wetherall and Andrew O’Brien were outstanding at the back, Stuart McCall was terrific as midfield anchor. The wide players, Lee Sharpe and Jamie Lawrence, did a great job protecting the full backs Andy Myers and Wayne Jacobs. And when United did get through, Matt Clarke made a string of superb saves.
As the clock ticked towards an improbable goalless draw, the true gulf between the two clubs was shown when Sir Alex Ferguson took off Paul Scholes and Teddy Sheringham, replacing them with the prolific Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke. “We were doing alright until the two reserves came on,” Jewell later quipped. The freshness of two strikers who were dominating English and Champions League football proved telling.
With 15 minutes to go United finally broke through when Quinton Fortune netted. From there, the floodgates opened. Yorke grabbed the second, Cole struck a third, and then Roy Keane added a fourth. The final score of 4-0 seemed a very plausible outcome before kick off. But with City on the brink of achieving a famous draw, the emphatic scoreline was hard to take.
Still, this was not the sort of afternoon that was going to determine City’s relegation fate. United were storming their way to a second successive Premier League title, and only dropped eight points at home all season. Their squad of international talent was operating on another level.
Ultimately, City’s ambition was to ensure they got to return to Old Trafford the following season.
City: Clarke, Halle, Wetherall, O’Brien, Myers (Blake 80), Sharpe, Lawrence (Beagrie 55), McCall, Redfearn (Saunders 80), Windass, Mills
Categories: Premier League Years