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Any Opportunity To Play Manchester United Is Absolutely Fabulous - David Kilpatrick

23 September 2019

Former Chairman David Kilpatrick reflects on a Dale’s last trip to Old Trafford in 1986…

On Thursday 9th January 1986, Dale visited Old Trafford to take on holders Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup.

The tie was originally scheduled for the previous Saturday, but a failure of the undersoil heating at the Theatre of Dreams meant it was postponed until the following Tuesday.

Remarkably the heating system still wasn’t working that night, so Vic Halom’s side had the surreal experience of playing the match on a Thursday evening, primarily because the FA were worried about fixture congestion should Dale force a replay.

Chairman at the time, David Kilpatrick, recalls his memories of that tie 33 years ago.

“Failed under soil heating was not the sort of thing you expect from a premier, Premier League club, but that’s what happened and we ended up playing the game on the Thursday.

“These days, there are some Europa League games played on a Thursday, but generally speaking, back then, Thursday was never considered as a day to play football, never mind a cup game!

“Ahead of the Thursday game, there was a pitch inspection on the Wednesday evening. At the time, I happened to be quite friendly with the ref that was going to do the inspection, so he said ‘would you like to come down to Old Trafford on the Wednesday evening?’ I, of course, said yes. They did a temperature check at 9.15pm to make sure that the undersoil heating system was working, and it was.

“It was interesting to walk out into the middle of Old Trafford with the floodlights on at 9 o’clock at night when there was not a soul in the place. It was like being in some sort of empty cathedral. For a football anorak, it was interesting – I enjoyed that.”

Rochdale earned their third round tie against Manchester United with a round two replay win over Scunthorpe United. 

The side had drawn with the Iron at the Old Show Ground and already knew that a victory at Spotland would secure passage to Old Trafford.

“The draw was made after the Scunthorpe game so when we were on our way back, we knew that if we won the replay, then we would be at Old Trafford. That was quite a good journey back on the team coach, I can tell you!”

Manchester United, who had the likes of Mark Hughes, Paul McGrath, Frank Stapleton and Gordon Strachan, amongst their ranks won the match 2-0. Stapleton opened the scoring early on, while Ron Atkinson’s men clinched the tie eight minutes from time when Clayton Blackmore’s cross from the right was swept into the Stretford End goal by Hughes.

“We certainly didn’t disgrace ourselves on the night and everyone associated with the club had a great time. We took an awful lot of people down to Old Trafford, which was great to see. It was just one of those things – it was just great to be involved in a match at Old Trafford, you can’t get much better than that.”

And Mr Kilpatrick is delighted that Dale have drawn United in the Carabao Cup 33 years on.

“Apart from drawing Tottenham, over the last few years whenever we get into these situations, with the greatest of respect, we haven’t had that big tie, so it’s great that we’ve drawn Manchester United away. I believe it’s the best draw we could get. In terms of a massive, one off game, for me, drawing Manchester United is unbeatable.

“If you’re not in the Premier League, any opportunity to play Manchester United is absolutely fabulous!”


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