BLETHER: When Manchester United were kicked out of Europe

Dave Sexton

There are certain games of football that just stay in your mind.

I don’t know why, and I’ll just leave the psychoanalysis to experts in that field.

So, watching the Europa League last-32 draw unfold in December, Manchester United came out of the hat paired with French club Saint Etienne.

Quick as a flash, my memory bank went into overdrive the last time the two clubs met . . . 1977 . . . Cup-Winners’ Cup . . . hooliganism . . . Man U kicked out of the competition, then re-instated upon appeal.

Re-instated certainly but they were forced to play their home leg away from Old Trafford.

For the finer detail, I delved into the files.

It was in September 1977 and Uefa weren’t too happy after the English fans went on the rampage in France as the teams drew 1-1 in the first leg of the first round.

They initially booted the Old Trafford outfit out of the competition but re-instated them a few days later after an appeal.

The condition was they had to play their home game three weeks later in early October at least 200km away from their own ground.

There is a school of thought that one of the Glasgow grounds was approached first of all but Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park was the eventual chosen venue.

This was 281 miles away and, in front of 31,000 and the first time a European tie was staged on that ground, Dave Sexton’s side went through, winning 2-0 for a 3-1 aggregate score.

MU lined up — Stepney; Nicholl, Albiston; McIlroy, B Greenhoff, Buchan; Coppell, J Greenhoff, Pearson (McGrath), Macari, Hill.

Stuart Pearson and Steve Coppell were the scorers.

I also noticed in a file that a giant screen was set up at Old Trafford to watch the tie and over 38,000 fans attended.

Porto were next up for Man U in the second round, with the Portuguese side triumphing 6-5 on aggregate.