For those of us ‘of a certain age’, the 1982/83 season was extraordinary, mainly due to our glorious run to the FA Cup final.
It is fitting that, 35 years later, Manchester United visit the Amex for the first top-flight meeting at home since then. That season saw our first victory against The Reds, at the tenth time of asking.
In November 1982, United came to the Goldstone with our respective league positions almost identical to this campaign. United were third on goal difference, behind Liverpool and West Ham United. Albion were 14th, on the back of an unbeaten home record.
Manager Mike Bailey had built the side based on an ultra-defensive approach and this did not endear him to the fans. Compared to the promotions seasons just a few years before, the crowds were dismal. Earlier in the season, just 9,845 saw the game against Birmingham City and despite the decent results, the club needed a lift.
It came in the form of Peter Ward, who returned to the Seagulls on loan for four months. His presence put 5,000 on the gate for his first appearance in two years, almost to the day, against West Ham United.
He starred in that game and hopes were high for the visit of Manchester United.
Bailey chose Graham Moseley in goal, behind a back four of Gary Stevens, Sammy Nelson, Steve Foster and Steve Gatting. In midfield, Tony Grealish and Neil McNab did the hard work, with Gerry Ryan and Gordon Smith providing the creative spark. Wardy was joined up front by Michael Robinson, with Gilles Stille on the bench. United fielded a strong team, with future Albion manager Steve Coppell in the line-up.
The lure of Manchester United wasn’t enough to continue the revival in attendances, with just under 18,500 coming through the turnstiles.
They saw an even first half, but no goals, as Bailey’s strategy continued to work.
In the second half, Albion stepped up a gear and it was that man Ward who broke the deadlock.
His goal turned out to be the only one of the game and it lifted us to 12th in the table.
That win remains our only victory against Manchester United in 18 encounters, stretching back to an FA Cup tie in 1909.
A win on Friday night will ensure our safety this season and calm the nerves ahead of the final two games.