Paul Parker On Man United's Dramatic Win Over Sheffield Wednesday 30 Years On

The last gasp 2-1 victory put United in pole position to clinch their first Premier League title
11:00, 10 Apr 2023

On this day 30 years ago, the seeds of the very first Premier League dynasty were sewn. Manchester United rallied from 1-0 down to beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 at Old Trafford on 10th April 1993. It is a result from which they would never look back, going on to lift the Premier League trophy the following month.

The victory was United’s first top tier crown in 26 years. After missing out by a whisker to Leeds United the year before in the final season of the old First Division, finally the Red Devils had vindication.


The Sportsman sat down with Manchester United’s right back that day, Paul Parker. The England international would go on to lift further honours at Old Trafford, but this first league championship holds a special place in his heart. 

You were pipped to the post by Leeds United for the First Division title in 1991-92. Was that disappointment palpable around the club when the following season dawned?

At the time I was a novice in competing to win leagues when I arrived at Old Trafford. But I will say it was something that may have happened after every season or at times when they knew it was impossible for them to win the league. 

For quite a few of the players, what happened was a bigger version of what it had been in previous seasons, and for the fans even moreso. But the best team always wins the league, it's a fact. Leeds came out the best. Leeds had a great Easter while we had quite a poor Easter. 

But off the back of that, it made a difference to a lot of players how they were going to approach the next season. When we got into the same circumstances as the previous season, we dealt with it better. We had a few times when we hit a little bit of a bad time and we knew how to get through it. How to get over a poor defeat and then to react in the next game. And I think you only ever get that by actually being there. You learn to handle circumstances and I think we all did that In that following season.

Was there a point in the following season, 1992-93, where the mood shifted and you looked at each other and went “this is our title”?

We didn't really talk like that. It wasn't as if we were kind of sitting around a table and discussing it. The thing about it, and they seem to complain about it in today's world, which I still can't get my head around, is that if you're successful you get more games. That's the bit that done us the previous season, we had a lot of games in a short space of time. You can blame fixture congestion, but it's called success. That's what it's called. That's what happens but we knew how to deal with it at certain times.

The bonus the second time around was that we had Eric Cantona. We found another key to undo another lock. We had another idea, we could expand on things. The boss called Eric a new dimension. Eric was a threat as much with the ball as he was without the ball. Because when he was without the ball, everyone was wondering where he was. 

Eric gave us somebody who could run with the ball from deep areas. He gave us someone who was really strong in the air, even though Sparky was good in the air, Eric gave us a different presence. What he'd done more than anything, he lifted a team. He made such a difference.


Ahead of what was a crucial game at Old Trafford against Sheffield Wednesday, did Sir Alex Ferguson say anything different or special to the team? Or was it business as usual?

No it wasn't, we'd got ourselves into a good position. I think the game before we had just been away to Carrow Road and we'd won 3-1. We scored three incredible goals in that game. Team goals. Norwich were spending all their time putting their arms up for offsides. If you look they weren't offside, they were just holding bad lines

We'd just come off the back of that sort of game. At home to Sheffield Wednesday was a big game in certain ways. Wednesday are a big club, we're playing them at home. Expectations are high after having a great result prior to that. But it's not going our way. 

So the boss made a great tactical decision. Knowing that we needed two goals, you had to make a substitution. He took off Paul Parker. Tactically that was a great idea because Manchester United came out and scored two goals and then bang. That completely changed the whole complexion of everything.

To rewind slightly, there was a big flashpoint in that game. Paul Ince brought down Chris Waddle in the box, giving away a penalty. What were your thoughts as you watched Waddle hit the deck?

Is John Sheridan going to miss because he's a Manc? He's a Stretford boy so you’re hoping going to do you a favour. The answer is no. He did it properly. It's a nice day, everything's right and primed. It’s a full house. It's the same as anybody. Back in my QPR days coming back to Old Trafford, in the same position as Sheffield Wednesday, you aim to become the party poopers. If you haven't got that in your head then there's something wrong.

The way it turned out everyone will always talk about the added time, I think about seven minutes. Which really they wouldn't in today's game, because it's part and parcel with the amount of time that people try to waste. Whereas we always tried to play the time and keep going. But the added time, was it legit? Of course it was because the referee said it was. 

Then you get that little bit of the rub of the green. The second one was the deflection. A Pallister cross hits somebody then it falls straight on the head of the one man you want. You put the ball into an area of a 1000 bodies who are carrying knives and guns, Steve Bruce is the one person who would go in there. That tells you it’s going to be your time. 

When Bruce scores that second goal, the roar that goes up from the home fans inside Old Trafford is deafening. Where does that in terms of the loudest reactions you’ve heard at a game?

I'd have to say it is the biggest one. I didn't really realise, I didn't really understand it. What it was about winning the league. I was brought up in that era where the FA Cup was the biggest game, because it was always the last game of the season. It was that moment which everyone was waiting for, where you knew everyone was watching. If you win it you're remembered forever. 

But I never understood until then what a league title meant and how much a league title gets burnt into people's heads. The FA Cup goes into the memory, but not as much as winning a league title for Manchester United, Manchester United had their years of winning FA Cups and so I kind of got to know Manchester United as winning FA Cups. 

But then all of a sudden, people started saying “You're joining to win the league”. No, I joined Manchester United because of my Dad from when he came across from Jamaica, he knew George Best and Bobby Charlton. And because it was Manchester United. I joined what I believed was the biggest club in the country. And it wasn't the biggest club to me because if it had been about winning the league, it would have been Liverpool. But United had that glamour and swagger about it. Which for me is still there.

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One moment that stands out from the Wednesday game is when Sir Alex Ferguson runs onto the pitch in celebration after Bruce’s second goal. Not the sort of outpouring of emotion we usually associate with him. What was it like to see Sir Alex so emotional?

I think we were laughing. I think we were laughing at him! It’s something you never believed that he would ever do. But I think he feels like that every time. Even after he's retired, when United, it’s been few and far between, but when they have done something good, he feels something. When it hasn't been that way, obviously he feels a negative side of it, 

But you could see how much it meant to him because he wanted it badly for himself, for the football club because he was in love with the football club. But I think he wanted it more for Sir Matt Busby as well. Being around him in a dress room, it was all about Sir Matt. I think when he talks about league titles, I think you'll always talk about that first one more because Sir Matt was there to see that one. Something he hadn't seen for so long, from being the last person to do it, to actually seeing someone who he believed in and trusted in Sir Alex grabbing that one. That made a big difference to him as well.

Did you ever get the chance to meet Sir Matt?

Yeah, I met him. Can I remember what was said or would I have been in awe? I think it would definitely have been the latter. I would have been in awe, I wouldn’t have said a lot. I was still getting over the fact of where I was. After playing for Fulham and QPR, you could put the two clubs together and it might just fill one portion of the stadium, I don't mean that in fans, I just mean everything else that went with it as a football club. 

United even then was a machine, everything about it off the pitch was just as important on the pitch. It was built off the back of The Cliff amalgamating with Old Trafford, When Sir Alex retired, the club lost that way. It had lost that balance.

Finally, where does winning that first Premier League title in 1993 rank in terms of your career achievements?

I would say that playing in the (1990) World Cup, that World Cup semi final was immense. That was something so unexpected, the bonus was I played six out of seven games. It was great. That still plays a major part in my life 

With United, winning that first title is my biggest achievement. Yeah, but being involved everyone who I was involved with, we have to remember we play just as many games as what they're playing now. But our squad was about maybe 40% smaller than what they are now. That’s the difference.

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