Man Utd fans recall crucial FA Cup third-round win v Nottingham Forest in 1990 under Alex Ferguson when Mark Robins scored the winner

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And little wonder. The team that travelled to the City Ground on 7 January was without a win in eight games, and United had failed to score in six of those matches. To make matters worse, a desperate injury crisis meant several players were unavailable. Most notably, club captain and talisman Bryan Robson. But also summer signings Paul Ince and Neil Webb, plus Colin Gibson, Mal Donaghy, Lee Sharpe and Danny Wallace.

Brian Clough’s Forest were knockout football specialists, just months away from retaining the League Cup. In the FA Cup, they’d reached the semis for two consecutive seasons, and eliminated United at the quarter-final stage the previous March.

The media sensed blood. ‘Fergie the flop!’ ran a Daily Express headline. ‘The Scottish Cup, which Aberdeen won four times out of five between 1982 and 1986, helped make Alex Ferguson’s reputation as a manager,’ sniped The Guardian. ‘Now the FA Cup could be the final blow to his career at Old Trafford.’ Discontent had been brewing in the stands, too. 

“It was grim,” remembers home-and-away fan Anthony Murphy. 

“The ‘Fergie out’ chants kicked off at the Crystal Palace match on 9 December, when he dropped Mark Hughes. That’s when the crowd snapped. It gained momentum at Villa Park on Boxing Day.

“I wasn’t one of the chanters but, to be perfectly honest, if United had lost to Forest and Ferguson had been sacked, I wouldn’t have been bothered. It had been three-and-a-bit years, and pretty dreadful… easily the worst period I can recall watching United.”

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