1977 FA Cup Final: The day United thwarted Liverpool’s treble hopes

Looking ahead to this weekend's Man City vs Man Utd FA Cup final, let's cast our minds back to the 1977 FA Cup Final, which saw United deny rivals Liverpool a shot at the treble. Could history repeat itself in 2023?

The 1976/77 FA Cup was the tournament’s 96th edition with the final being played between two of the biggest teams in world football at the iconic Wembley Stadium. Having already won the league title, Liverpool were eyeing up their second trophy of the season as they faced up against bitter rivals Manchester United.

1977 FA Cup Final: The Background

Paisley and Docherty at 1977 FA Cup final
Photo by Icon Sport

Despite Manchester United finishing 6th in the league that season, 10 points behind their rivals Liverpool, they came into the game confident having reached the final of the competition the previous season, losing the game to second tier side Southampton.

During the run to the final the Red Devils almost had their tournament ruined by Southampton yet again when they faced each other in the fifth round, it took a 2-1 win in a replay to see them progress to the next round where they faced Aston Villa in the quarter-final. Beating the Villains led to a heated tie against rivals Leeds United at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium. Thankfully for the Red Devils goals from Jimmy Greenhoff and Steve Coppell saw them through to the final where they would go onto face treble-chasing Liverpool.

Game overview: Liverpool's “Golden Dream” shattered

The 1977 FA Cup Final took place on 21st May at Wembley Stadium in front of 99,252 spectators. The game was spectacular in nature due to the fierce relations between the two teams and the potential for history making.


Liverpool XI: Ray Clemence, Phil Neal, Joey Jones, Tommy Smith, Ray Kennedy, Emelyn Hughes, Kevin Keegan, Jimmy Case, Steve Heighway, David Johnson, Terry McDermott.

Substitute: Ian Callaghan

Manchester United XI: Alex Stepney, Jimmy Nicholl, Arthur Albiston, Sammy McIlroy, Brian Greenhoff, Martin Buchan, Steve Coppell, Jimmy Greenhoff, Stuart Pearson, Lou Macari, Gordon Hill.

Substitute: David McReery

One of the greatest ever Liverpool goals vs Manchester United?

With there being no goals to show for after a frantic first half of football, the second half did not disappoint with all three goals in the game coming in a four-minute spell. Stuart Pearson opened the scoring in the 51st minute after he latched on to a long ball forward and hit the ball low and hard past Ray Clemence in the Liverpool goal.

Liverpool were back into the game within a matter of minutes as Jimmy Case produced a spectacular half-volley which found its way into the cop corner giving Alex Stepney no chance in between the sticks. The winning goal would come just two minutes later as Lou Macari’s shot, which did look as if it was going wide, struck the chest of Jimmy Greenhoff which caused the ball to loop over the top of the despairing keeper and into the back of the net.

As the full-time whistle was blown, John Motson, who was commentating the game on behalf of the BBC said, “And the golden dream of the treble for Liverpool has been shattered”. Had Liverpool gone on to win the FA Cup they would have been the first team to complete a continental treble having already won the League Title and later lifting the European Cup just days after their heartbreak at Wembley. This feat would later be achieved by the famous Manchester United side of 1999.

History Made: Greenhoffs last brothers to lift an FA Cup together

Tommy Docherty celebrates 1977 FA Cup Final win
ActionPlus / Icon Sport

Brothers Jimmy and Brian Greenhoff became the first brothers to be on the winning team in an FA Cup Final since George and Ted Robledo managed it 25 years previous in 1952 for Newcastle United. The Greenhoffs are, as it stands, the last pair of brothers to have achieved this.

With Liverpool already having the League Title wrapped up this meant that regardless of the result in this game it would ensure that Manchester United would qualify for the European Cup Winners Cup the following season.

The referee for the game was Newcastle-born, Lancashire-based Bob Matthewson. He started his officiating journey in 1966 when he become a linesman. Just two short years later Bob’s stock had risen when he joined the Official Referees List, Bob Matthewson’s big break in officiating came in 1970 when he appointed as the senior linesman for the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Leeds United. He later went on to referee a League Cup semi final between Stoke City and West Ham United and this FA Cup Final in 1977 before moving to America as he joined the North American Soccer League. At that time the Soccer League had the likes of Gordon Banks, Franz Beckenbauer, George Best and most famously, Pele plying their trade so you really can see why this would have been an attractive opportunity for Bob Matthewson. Later in 2009, the film The Damned United graced our television screens with Bob Matthewson being portrayed in the film.

Looking onwards from this final both teams have of course been incredibly successful, with Manchester United picking up an incredibly 47 trophies in all competitions whilst Liverpool have picked up 45 trophies.