BRYAN ROBSON on Man United's FA Cup final win over Brighton in 1983

Gordon Smith’s gilt-edged miss, a cracker from Ray Wilkins and two memorable goals from Man United’s captain marvel… BRYAN ROBSON on his side’s epic FA Cup final win over Brighton 40 years ago as the Red Devils face the Seagulls at Wembley

  • Manchester United beat Brighton in the FA Cup final 40 years ago back in 1983
  • In an epic final, the initial tie was drawn 2-2 before United won the replay 4-0
  • Former United skipper Bryan Robson spoke to Mail Sport reflecting on the clash 

Brighton and Manchester United are set to face off at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday afternoon – 40 years on from their epic clash in the final of the same competition in 1983.

On that occasion, the Seagulls – who were struggling at the bottom of Division One at the time – forced United to a replay after a 2-2 draw in the initial final, before Ron Atkinson’s side won the second game 4-0.

Bryan Robson – who scored twice in the replay – told Mail Sport’s Simon Jones all about United’s triumph that helped them secure their fifth of what has since gone on to become 12 FA Cup titles. 

The first game is renowned for Gordon Smith’s miss but I’ve always seen it as a great save by Gary Bailey. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he stood up well then ran out and spread himself, so his feet trapped the shot. We were all shaking his hand and patting him on the back in the dressing room afterwards because we knew he’d bought us another chance. He was always good at one on ones.

Situations like that for Smith you always have sympathy because it could happen to any of us but if you look back you see how well Gary does.

Bryan Robson (captain and holding the trophy) spoke to Mail Sport about Man United’s FA Cup triumph in 1983 when they beat Brighton in 4-0 in a replay after drawing the first game 2-2

The first game is known for Gordon Smith’s (blue shirt – right) miss in the final minutes of extra time but I’ve always thought it was a great save by Gary Bailey (left) 

We were all sure to give Bailey a pat on the back in the changing room after his stunning stop 

My abiding memory of that first game though was Ray Wilkins scoring.

Ray didn’t score often but when he did they were often spectacular and that was a cracker, curling it inside the left hand post.

He set off to celebrate but once he jumped the second advertising hoarding, I just thought ”forget it, I’m not running after him”. If they’d opened the gates I think he would have just kept on running.

He had such a big smile on his face.

I know he said he was spent for extra time after he’d run so much celebrating but one thing with Ray was, although he was never the quickest, he had stamina.

Ray and I used to room together as kids with England and were great mates. I still miss him today.

Frank Stapleton celebrates after scoring United’s first goal in the initial final to level the tie

Gary Stevens wheels away after equalising for Brighton in the 87th minute to make it 2-2

When it got to the replay, we wanted to start quickly. I’d missed the Milk Cup final earlier in the season, which we lost to Liverpool, so I was determined to win a medal this time.

I got the first goal after a good move down the left and Alan Davies cut it back perfectly to me on the edge of the box and I guided it into the far corner. Norman Whiteside headed us 2-0 up after 30 minutes then, just before half-time, my second came after Frank Stapleton knocked it back across goal and I had a tap in. It was the perfect start.

I remember Steve Foster the Brighton captain had come back for the replay after missing the first game and the United fans were absolutely brutal with him that night. I was friends with Fozzy and he was a great character but United fans were singing ‘Stevie Foster, Stevie Foster, what a difference you have made..’ and he gave them the ‘up yours’ salute, which was funny but a nightmare for him.

Robson (left) with Brighton skipper Steve Foster (right) who came back in for the replay

I have no regrets about letting Arnold Muhren take the penalty despite being on a hat-trick

The tactic then was just to try and keep the ball so that Brighton would become even more disheartened.

When Gary Stevens hauled me back and gave away a penalty, people still ask whether I regret not taking it for my hat-trick. But no I don’t. The focus was on getting that medal. I was confident enough and I’d have had no qualms about taking it. In fact Ray Wilkins picked up the ball and threw it to me, but we’d decided before the game that Arnold Muhren would take the penalties and he never missed in training. It was only afterwards I realised he’d never taken one in a game for us or Ipswich beforehand! Even then I still had chances to score afterwards as it became a very open game as Brighton chased a goal themselves.

It was a Thursday night the replay and the club had booked the Royal Lancaster hotel afterwards to celebrate. My family had come down from the North East but all I remember is I had to cut the party short. Ray, Gary Bailey and myself were joining up with the England squad for the Home Internationals so a car was sent to collect us at 11pm to take us to Burnham Beeches Hotel. But I had that medal for my first major trophy.

Muhren and Robson celebrate what was Robson’s first major trophy in his illustrious career

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