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1996 FA Cup Final: Spice Boys vs. The Class of ‘92

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In the wake of Manchester United and Liverpool’s clash tomorrow in the FA Cup, we have decided to talk about perhaps their most important game in the competition and one that is highly regarded as the key turning point for one of the most talented generations of both clubs: Liverpool’s Spice Boys and Manchester United’s Class of ’92.

There are certain moments in the history of every group of players that can be defined by a certain game. It is a very interesting thing to analyze in football because it is fascinating how one specific game can make such a monumental difference in the way some players can grow and develop throughout the years. 1996’s FA Cup final between Manchester United and Liverpool is a prime example of that.

It was 1996 and even though Manchester United had already proven to be a very successful team under Sir Alex Ferguson’s leadership, the previous season they lost the league title to Blackburn and the Scotsman decided to sell some of their veterans to make way for talented young players such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, among others. This was the legendary Class of ’92. On the other hand, Liverpool’s standards had decline when the nineties arrived and the times of the English Premier League were proving to be difficult for them, but their recent crop of young players, guided by manager Roy Evans, were starting to bring back hope to Anfield, with players such as Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp or Robie Fowler being some of the most prominent prospects of English football at the time.

It was a big game for both generations of talented young players. It wasn’t only the fact that it was a clash between lifelong rivals, but it was also a way to define their careers. The FA Cup was a big trophy back in those days and winning it could be a statement of sorts for the winner. It was McManaman, Fowler, Ian Rush and John Barnes against Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and David Beckham. It was a clash for the ages and it was highlighted by the fact that the Liverpool players, living up to their reputation as party boys, showed up in fancy Armani suits in total white, which has become something infamous of sorts in the folklore of English football.

It was a very drab match, very tactical and with both teams not willing to give an inch, which is something that a lot of people have defined as boring, but, even now, it is very interesting to analyze. And in a very competitive and tight game, it was Eric Cantona who scored the winning goal, leading Manchester United to a historic double in the 1995/96 season. This was a big moment for both the Class of ’92 and for the Spice Boys of Liverpool. The former would go on to become one of the best teams in the history of English football, winning a lot of trophies, and the latter would end up viewed as underachievers, a crop of talented players that didn’t live up to their potential.

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