1909 FA CUP FINAL
MANCHESTER UNITED 1(1) BOLTON WANDERERS 0(0)
24 APRIL 1909, THE CRYSTAL PALACE, LONDON
THE FA CUP was regarded as the country's premier competition, allowing-the best team on the day the victors' spoils, and this was the first time in their history that Manchester United had reached the final.
The games played on the way had produced some fine victories over some of the top teams in the land, together with one episode of luck against Burnley. Bristol City were their opponents and for some of the fans, and especially some of the newspaper correspondents, the match was a straight battle between Charlie Roberts and Billy Wedlock. Wedlock was the man preferred by the England selectors and the game was seen as a chance to prove who was the rightful first choice international.
United had had a difficult 1908-09 season, looking a mere shadow of the team that had won the championship the season before. They finished well off the pace in 13th place, five positions lower than their Cup final opponents. The teams had played each other twice a few weeks before the final, with Bristol winning 1-0, followed by a 0-0 draw.
PHOTO: Charlie Roberts leads out the United team followed by George Stacey.
United began their Cup final preparations by taking up residence in the Royal Forest Hotel, Chingford. From there, on the day of the match, the travelling party took the train into London, had lunch and made their way out to the Crystal Palace by bus.
As United and Bristol City both normally played in red shirts, they both changed colours. Bristol chose blue while United took to the field wearing white shirts with a red V. These shirts had been purchased from Billy Meredith's sports shop in Manchester and were presented to the players by the music-hall star George Robey. Charlie’s shirts can be seen on exhibition at the Manchester United Museum.
United kicked off and they started well, quickly putting pressure on the Bristol defence in the first ten minutes. They carried on in that vein and when Harold Halse fired a shot against the bar from a cross by Meredith, Clay, the Bristol goalkeeper, was powerless. Sandy Turnbull, reacting quickest to the loose ball, put away the rebound. 1t was 1-0 to United with 22 minutes on the clock. Turnbull had been a major injury doubt before the match and was nursing a heavily bandaged thigh. Team captain Charlie Roberts felt so confident of Turnbull's striking prowess that he declared he wanted Turnbull in the team, despite the injury, as he could still be a match-winner. Roberts's opinion was vindicated by that goal, but it was United's Welsh Wizard who caused the Bristol defence all sorts of problems.
Meredith, in particular, played beautiful football: his clever forward work, rare control of the ball, sure passes and long shots into goal gave the deadliness to his side's attack. Fifty Years of FA Cup Finals, 1932
Despite the best efforts of both sets of players, the game became very scrappy with few real goalmouth chances. Tempers frayed towards the end and the referee warned United's players for time wasting. Vince Hayes went off injured with a broken rib, but United reorganised and the ten men managed to hold on to claim a first FA Cup final victory.
For the large number of Mancunians in the crowd, it was time to celebrate. Charlie Roberts walked up the steps to receive the FA Cup from Lord Charles Beresford. Then it was on to a dinner at the Crystal Palace followed by a night out at the Alhambra music hall.
Manchester United (secretary-manager J.E. Mangnall): Moger, Stacey, Hayes, Duckworth, Roberts, Bell, Meredith, Halse, J. Turnbull, A.. Turnbull, Wall Scorer: A. Turnbull (22)
Bristol City (secretary-manager H. Thickett): Clay, Annan, Cottle, Hanlin, Wedlock, Spear, Staniforth, Hardy, Gilligan, Burton, Hilton