Everton v Manchester United: Six classic Goodison Park battles

Ahead of what could be a final trip to the famous old ground, Andy Mitten recalls United's best and worst visits to the blue half of Merseyside

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Roy Keane celebrate with the Premier League trophy after the match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park in May 2003. Getty Images
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Goodison Park is one of the great English football grounds. It is England’s Wrigley Field, a historic sports venue sitting on an irregular block close to the city centre. A map of the area around Goodison Park from 1900 is almost unchanged. Dozens of dense, terraced streets pack tightly around St Luke’s church and the football ground on Goodison Road.

Sunday is likely to be Manchester United’s final game at the stadium, since Everton are set to move into a stunning new home on the banks of the Mersey. United fans, as ever, will fill their allocation in the Bullens Road stand. They’ll also remember some of the best and worst memories of seeing their team at Goodison.

Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1

April 4, 1979

United had drawn 2-2 at Maine Road in the first semi-final, setting up a return at Goodison. When Jimmy Greenhoff is asked about his tie-winning goal, he usually bursts into a huge smile.

“That was the best goal I ever scored for United,” he said. “It was the most important and it really meant a lot to the supporters.

“Everyone thought that we’d blown our chance to beat Liverpool. The papers did and I’m convinced that some of the players did. We’d been dead on our feet and nobody gave us a chance.

United had to pick themselves up for the midweek return match.

Recalling the goal, Greenhoff said: "Mickey Thomas got the ball on the left with 12 minutes to go. He crossed it towards me. I had a quick look to see that Emlyn Hughes was out of position; he was probably frightened to death of Steve Coppell. The ball came over, it seemed to take an age. It bounced. I swear I had time to think: ‘Do I head it? Do I bring it down on my chest? Do I volley it? One eye was on the ball, one on their goalkeeper Ray Clemence. Ray moved forward and so I lunged forward and headed past him. Ray coming out had made my mind up for me.”

The United fans in the Park End went wild.

“I ran to them to celebrate and I carried on celebrating. I ended up by one of the television cameras near the halfway line. I had the most stupid face in front of that camera. The referee ran over and said, ‘Calm down, calm down’. I couldn’t. I’m sure that every United fan at Goodison that day has thanked me since.”

United had to hang on another 12 minutes.

“It seemed so much longer,” said Greenhoff. “I was convinced that the clock didn’t move. It seemed to stay at two minutes to nine for ages. I would look at it three or four times a minute urging it to change. We survived.”

United would play other semis at Goodison, notably a 2-2 draw against Liverpool in 1985. United won the replay … and the final against Everton.

Everton 0 Manchester United 1

December 1, 1990

The cold and mist of Merseyside meant there were few takers among the 4,500 travelling Reds for the ‘Highbury massacre’ t-shirts being sold outside the away end. The shirts, which had been knocked up in no time by Manchester grafters, celebrated United’s 6-2 demolition of Arsenal less than three days earlier. Star of the shirt was hat-trick hero Lee Sharpe, 20 years old and wheeling away from the North Bank, arms open in celebration, looking like the coolest man in the world in United’s acid blue away top.

Good looking, fashionable and personable, Sharpe was the first pop star footballer of the Premiership age and was as popular with hardcore Reds as the thousands of teenage girls who would join his fan club.

His popularity was enhanced further when he scored the game’s only goal in the Goodison cold. As he celebrated, Sharpe did a little shimmy, dancing back and forward in what became known as ‘The Sharpey Shuffle’. The United end loved it, but boss Sir Alex Ferguson didn't share their appreciation.

“We were all well pleased when we got back on the bus,” recalled Sharpe. “Three good away points and we were looking forward to getting back to Manchester for a night out. We waited as the manager had a drink with the Everton manager. While there, he saw my celebration on television. He came back on the coach, stormed up to where I was sitting and roared, ‘Who the ... hell do you think you are?’.

“I’m not saying that the manager didn’t have a point. He’s a great football manager, but I’ve thought about it since and I wouldn’t have changed my celebration. I’d scored a goal, why shouldn’t I have gone mental with the people who paid my wages?

“I wouldn’t have done it if we were losing and I still can’t understand why the manager had a problem with it. It’s like he didn’t want me to have a personality. Something was lost between me and the manager that day.”

Everton 1 Manchester United 2

May 11, 2003

A 2-1 win thanks to David Beckham and Ruud Van Nistelrooy and another league title. It was, however, to be Beckham’s last United game. The Reds' league form since the turn of 2003 was P18 W15 D3 L0 as the team finished five points ahead of Arsenal.

It sounds simple, but Everton had performed well and went into the game needing a win to clinch a place in the Uefa Cup. When they went ahead through Kevin Campbell, that looked probable. But Beckham’s free-kick and Van Nistlerooy’s penalty, his 25th goal of the season as he was the league’s highest goalscorer, brought another win for a side who had clinched the title the previous week.

“We feel like losers and it is bitterly disappointing not to make Europe,” said Everton boss David Moyes as United’s players danced around a glitter-strewn pitch in front of the travelling fans.

A year later, United won 4-3 at Goodison in a classic where Ferguson’s side, playing glorious football, went 3-0 up within 29 minutes (Saha 2, Van Nistlerooy). Everton scored three to make it 3-3 on 75 minutes. After 89 minutes, Van Nistelrooy glanced a Cristiano Ronaldo cross in to make it 4-3. Everton’s young substitute Wayne Rooney missed a fine chance to make it 4-4. Within months, Rooney would be a United player.

He returned to Goodison many times, with a 2005 FA Cup fifth-round triumph at a febrile Goodison notable. Two months after that, a Duncan Ferguson header saw Everton get a rare (at least then) win against United en route to finishing fourth. Gary Neville and Paul Scholes were sent off that day. It’s seldom dull at Goodison.

Everton 2 Manchester United 4

April 28, 2007

A classic, as United battled from 2-0 down to win 4-2. But that’s only half the story. United were missing Cristiano Ronaldo and as Ferguson’s team went 2-0 down, title rivals Chelsea were winning at Bolton. Had the scores stayed the same, Chelsea would have gone level on points with United at the top.

Former Evertonian (and lifelong Everton fan) Rooney was getting booed and it was still 2-0 to Everton after an hour. That’s when United started to click. John O’Shea, a specialist in scoring in Liverpool that year, made it 1-2. An own goal from former United player Phil Neville made it 2-2. On 79 minutes, Rooney got the ball. A United fan simply said ‘destiny’ to his mate as Rooney set himself up, shooting into the bottom corner. Chris Eagles made it 4-2 on 90, Ferguson heard that Chelsea hadn’t won and signalled the result to his players. United were five points clear, with three games to play.

Everton 2 Manchester United 0

April 20, 2014

April 2014 was awful for Manchester United. David Moyes’ side went out of the Champions League in Munich, shaking the thin ice he was on following 3-0 home defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool.

United went to Moyes’ old club Everton, where a fan was dressed as the grim reaper to herald the manager’s demise. United lost 2-0 as the hosts completed a double over United for the first time since 1969. Everton, in fifth, were 12 points clear of the visitors and home fans taunted their former manager Moyes amid a vicious, euphoric atmosphere.

Defeat at Goodison confirmed that United would miss out on Champions League football for the first time since 1995. It wasn’t good enough and with that United’s first manager in the post-Ferguson era lost his job.

Everton 4 Manchester United 0

April 21, 2019

In United’s worst run since 1981, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side suffered a sixth, and most damning, defeat in eight games, a 4-0 drubbing.

“We have got to apologise to the fans,” Solskjaer said after the humiliation. “We let the club down.

“They beat us on all the basics. That performance is difficult to describe because it is so bad. It’s not a surprise to hear that Everton ran more than us.”.

United were conceding too many goals and had gone 11 games without a clean sheet after their heaviest defeat to Everton since 1984.

Updated: November 26, 2023, 11:29 AM