This Week – 38 Years Ago

A double-header against Manchester United in 1984-85 gave Everton the perfect opportunity to build on their win at Anfield and really make a statement

David Hardman 28/10/2022 19comments  |  Jump to last


Last week, I indulged myself by talking at length about 1999. This week I’ll indulge everyone else by going back to 1984-85.

After the improvement in league form in the calendar year of 1984, reaching two cup finals and winning their first trophy since 1970, Everton were expected to take this momentum into the new season. As is the way with Everton, and I suppose football in general, it wasn’t that simple. Not initially anyway. They lost their first 2 league games of 84-85 and made hard work of University College Dublin in the first round of the Cup Winners Cup.

By then, their league form had picked up, but there was still no indication of what was to come. When Manchester United arrived on 27 October 1984, Everton had won only 2 league games at Goodison – thankfully, an impressive return of 4 wins from 6 away matches in the league made up for this – the last of these seeing Everton win at Anfield for the first time since their last Championship season.

A tough win behind the Iron Curtain, away to Inter Bratislava, followed in mid-week, and then Everton played Manchester United twice in the space of a few days – although they weren’t the force they would become 10 years later, the Manchester United of the '80s were no duffers, regularly in the title mix (and regularly falling away to finish 4th) and one of the best cup sides in the country (as Everton would unfortunately find out 7 months later).

Coming to Goodison Park, Ron Atkinson’s men had been beaten just once in their first 16 competitive matches so far that season. While winning at Anfield was no small feat at the time (or now), Liverpool were on an unusually poor run. Therefore, the in-form Manchester United could be considered a more thorough test. If Everton could beat them, it would send a further message to the watching footballing world.

The Game

Everton didn’t beat Manchester United... they annihilated them. Kevin Sheedy’s opener indicated that this was going to be a special day, when he beat fellow Irish international Kevin Moran in the air and looped in a powerful and accurate header from almost 18 yards out, a move that left both players prostrate for some moments after the net bulged. This goal showed that Sheedy had strength, tenacity and guts to match his undoubted skill.

The second goal was more of a typical Sheedy effort, an empathic left footed finish after being put through by Adrian Heath.

And Heath then got on the score sheet himself with the only scrappy goal of the day. Heath battled with Manchester United’s defence when the ball was played in from the right – by now, their back 4 had been run ragged, and they could only half-heartedly scramble it back out wide. The ball immediately came back in again and Heath was left with a tap-in.

And in the second half, Everton’s 4th goal also came from the right – Gary Stevens with an effort that most wingers or strikers would be proud of. He picked up the ball mid-way in United’s half, showed a good bit of skill to wrong-foot his nearest man, continued to carry the ball, then from just outside the box, drilled an unstoppable low shot beyond Gary Bailey’s despairing dive. Both this goal and Sheedy’s second, the ball could not have been any closer to the post as it hit the side netting – finishing to absolute perfection.

The rout was completed when Everton were awarded a free-kick out wide on the left, which Graeme Sharp headed in with the deftest of flicks. Not sure if he was aiming for the far corner or flicking it on for a team-mate to tap in at the far post, but it doesn’t matter – you aim for the far post and good things happen. And good things happened for Everton all afternoon, the scoreline could have been even higher, and at the end of the afternoon the team were up to 2nd behind leaders Arsenal, and had to be taken seriously as genuine title contenders.

Just 3 days later, they travelled to Old Trafford for the 3rd Round of the League Cup. United’s pride had obviously been injured and it was thought they would double their efforts to get “revenge“ for their humbling at Goodison. And they did take the lead, with Alan Brazil deflecting a shot past Southall. Sharp equalised from the penalty spot after Heath was brought down, making it 1-1 at half-time.

And, going into the last 10 minutes, it looked like it would stay that way and be settled in a replay (League Cup replays – remember those?!). Until Peter Reid’s cross was headed over his own stranded goalkeeper and into the net by John Gidman. A lucky break for Everton, but not much more of a fluke than the deflection that had given United the lead in the first place.

So, after thrashing them in the league, Everton had now knocked United out of a cup at Old Trafford, which took some doing.

Incredibly, in 9½ months between 27 October 1984 and 10 August 1985, Everton and Manchester United played each other on 5 occasions. Manchester United won only one of these matches – unfortunately it turned out to be the one that mattered the most. They still had the clutch gene even back then.


It’s 1984-85. No epilogue needed.

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Reader Comments (19)

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Brian Murray
1 Posted 29/10/2022 at 23:38:11
I hardly missed an away game them days. Ready for world domination until taken from us off the pitch.

The fast one touch football was unreal, especially before Inchy’s injury. Slightly more direct after that but still a joy.

Derek Thomas
2 Posted 30/10/2022 at 07:16:41
That 5-0 is a good way...the last time the team put two complete half's - for want of a better phrase - 'total football' together on the same day.
I can still see Sheedy crashing it in.
Tony Abrahams
3 Posted 30/10/2022 at 07:27:54
The Sunderland game, which was much later on in the same season, was the finest exhibition of football I ever witnessed at Goodison Park, Derek.

People still rave about Bracewell's pass, but Andy Gray's first was my personal favourite, even though his second was a much harder technique and one of the finest headed goals I've ever seen.

Brian Williams
4 Posted 30/10/2022 at 07:37:53
That Man Utd 5-0 game was a dream come true, made all the better by bumping into Gary Stevens in a certain Wirral nightclub that same night.
Strangely, he wasn't half as excited as I was. ;-))
Danny O’Neill
5 Posted 30/10/2022 at 13:53:31
Oh you've only gone and done it, David.

What a day. What a result. What a team.

Kevin Sheedy heading the ball. Actually heading a ball and getting a temporary injury in doing so. His second a sublime finish.

I'll stop about Kevin Sheedy. What a simple but lovely through ball from Adrian Heath. I often wonder how good Adrian Heath could have been had it not been for that injury caused by that shithouse tackle by Marwood.

The trademark Gary Stevens daisy cutter pile driver and then Graeme Sharp's deft flick on at the near post.

I know we get frustrated with delivery, but get it right and it's a glancing header either aimed to go in the net or be there for the follow up. Hit them too deep and most centre backs will eat them up. If you watch the footage, if Sharp's flick doesn't go in I think Heath is waiting for the tap in.

Oh what a day and a result. Champions in waiting.

Richard Lyons
6 Posted 30/10/2022 at 14:36:24
Fantastic stuff, thank you! Both games featured here:

Tony Dunn
7 Posted 30/10/2022 at 22:07:39
As a regular match goer in them days, it was probably the best 10 days of Everton football I've personally witnessed.

Sharpy’s goal at Mordor, hitch hiked to iron curtain Bratislava. Back in time for the 5 nil, then murder in Manchester on the following Tuesday. Great days

Paul Birmingham
8 Posted 30/10/2022 at 23:32:25
Halcyon Days, those were the days, the best days and hopefully a similar era in the near future for Everton.

Life then was so different, but it was Everton, home, away and preseason tours. And so it was for many decades afterwards, when the bright lights of success had gone out.

Great memories, but now is the time.

Get the shooting practice in this week at Finch Farm and the same performance as v Palace would be welcome.

Hope eternal.

Don Alexander
9 Posted 31/10/2022 at 01:39:55
Thanks to Richard at (#6) for the enjoyable clip he presents but if you allow YouTube to continue the clip, a number of other EFC games from the fabulous mid-80s follow-on.

One of them features a new signing of ours called Ian Atkins.

Ian Atkins – "my arse"!

I'd forgotten about him but boy, even when we were very good did we still sign some utter duffers.

Plus ça change!

Danny O’Neill
10 Posted 31/10/2022 at 10:47:46
Some of these early Howard Kendall signings, Don.

Ian Wilson.

Dave Abrahams
11 Posted 31/10/2022 at 11:13:58
Danny (10),

Sorry but Howard made some poor signings. Ian Wilson wasn't one of them; he was signed by Colin Harvey.

Danny O’Neill
12 Posted 31/10/2022 at 11:18:30
Oh, I didn't mean to insinuate that Ian Wilson was a Howard Kendall signing Dave.

An afterthought without context. Joined the Champions in 1987. I think that may have been our only serious addition to the squad, which says it all.

Dave Abrahams
13 Posted 31/10/2022 at 11:40:10
Danny (12), fair enough, I apologise.
Danny O’Neill
14 Posted 31/10/2022 at 11:47:00
Take that apology back, Dave. No need. I should read before I post.

It's why I spend so much time racing to get my edits in!!

I hope you're well and we meet up soon.

Peter Mills
15 Posted 01/11/2022 at 09:28:02
Don, that's a bit harsh on Ian Atkins. Hardly the greatest player to grace Goodison, but he made a squad contribution in the 84-85 season.
Dave Cashen
16 Posted 01/11/2022 at 12:37:44
One of the great, great days, but I always feel there is a depressing aspect to looking back at it.

If, as the crowd reluctantly left the ground that day, you conducted a survey asking who is the biggest club – Man United or Everton? You'd have been hard-pushed to find anyone saying it was the Mancs.

We may be one of the oldest and finest football institutions in the world, but while others were building and planning, we were being run like a fucking market stall.

Still, spilt milk and all that.

I've been looking at the progress down at Bramley-Moore Dock. It's becoming to look remarkably like a brand-new dawn.

Trevor Powell
17 Posted 01/11/2022 at 13:03:39
One of my favourite comments from Howard Kendall involved Man Utd, who had started the 85-86 season with 12 consecutive victories. This led to the pundits claiming it was a one-horse race for the title.

United started to fade and, with Everton, Liverpool and West Ham all in the chase-down, the Blues took on the leaders at home on Boxing Day. United were well beaten and Kendall was interviewed on BBC Radio's Sports Report!

He was ebullient over the win and the display of the Blues. Asked whether he thought we could catch United in the league, Kendall replied,"If we can play them every week!"

Understated Class Remark!

ps: United came fourth in that one-horse race!

Nick Page
18 Posted 01/11/2022 at 14:18:47
I remember that, Trevor. The media used to absolutely love Man Utd like they do with Liverpool now. Hard to explain. Won a few cups but did fuck-all else.
Tom Edwards
19 Posted 01/11/2022 at 17:06:51
I went to every game that season (and for more than a dozen more seasons).

I remember it was the first time we were mentioned on TV as possible Champions. The reporter's words were 'and what price Everton for the title?' The rest is, of course, history. How lucky we all were to be a part of it.

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