It might be over 13 years ago now, but it’s hard to forget that Alan Curbishley was involved in one of the most controversial incidents in the history of the Premier League. Curbishley was manager of the West Ham United side who beat all the odds in 2007 to score a victory at Old Trafford over Manchester United outfit who were already champions and The Hammers stayed up as a result at the expense of Sheffield United.
What should have been a fairytale was dogged in scandal and accusations as not only was then Blades boss Neil Warnock unhappy with his Man United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson for selecting what he deemed a weakened team. But, then there was also the involvement of Carlos Tevez – who netted the winner that day – who was later found to be illegally owned by a third party leading to West Ham paying a multi-million pound settlement to relegated Sheffield United in March 2009.
Of course, the whole affair came up on our ‘From The Horse’s Mouth’ podcast with Ruby Walsh and Paddy Power as Curbishley joined us as a star guest on this week’s edition. Alan believed Warnock had his own questions to answer in Sheffield United’s relegation and he was quick to point out that Warnock had himself fielded an under strength side at Old Trafford late in the season.
“Neil Warnock was very critical of Alex Ferguson’s team selection from that day, but he also forgot a couple of things – which I’ve pointed out to him since. Firstly, Liverpool went to Fulham in the second from last game, and Rafa Benítez made 10 changes. They got beat one-nil by Fulham, which gave Fulham a big boost and the result probably kept them up. Sheffield United beat West Ham 3-0 at Bramall Lane a few weeks earlier and they were 10 points clear of us at the time,” said Curbishley.
“Secondly, we both had games in the midweek that followed. We had Chelsea at home, and they had Man United away. We played Chelsea and were defeated 4-1.”
Neil made five or six changes to go to Old Trafford and got beat.
The reason why Warnock did so became clear on Saturday, as they met another rival for the drop.
“Then, on the following Saturday, Sheffield United went to Charlton – which was a relegation battle – and Neil played his strongest team. I think he forgot that he’d played a weakened side at Old Trafford on the Tuesday. So, it’s swings and roundabouts,” according to Curbs.
“The team that Alex put out against us was a massively strong side. At half-time the Stretford End was singing, ‘send them down, send them down, send them down,’ because there was a history between West Ham and Man United, as West Ham beat Man United last game of the season and Blackburn won the title in 1995.”
It was The Hammers who got the result at the end of the day though, and they were sure to enjoy it as Manchester United were due to lift the Premier League trophy.
“The West Ham players and fans apparently celebrated over the top a little bit. The Man United boys remember that, and Fergie certainly did. At the end of the day, our result didn’t matter too much at Old Trafford because of the result between Sheffield United and Wigan,” said the former Hammers boss.
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