While many of us may know 4 May as ‘Star Wars Day’, this date has also given us plenty of action and adventure in the world of football. It may not involve baby Yoda or cute little Ewoks, but it does have plenty of meaning for plenty of clubs.
Mixed fortunes for Manchester United and Arsenal, another classic involving Newcastle and Liverpool and some spectacular midfield birthdays, 4 May is steeped in history both good and bad.
Without further ado, let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
1949 – A Dark Day in Italian Football
On 4 May 1949, a plane crash killed almost the entire squad of Serie A’s all-conquering champions, Il Grande Torino.
Among them was English coach Leslie Lievesley, who had survived three previous air crashes.
This is the story of the Superga disaster: https://t.co/FfNuIp9MCC pic.twitter.com/7UXUSY5FX2
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 8, 2019
Football has had its fair share of dark days and 4 May 1949 is perhaps one of the most tragic. On this day 71 years ago, the entire Torino squad – known as Il Grande Torino – were on a plane that crashed into a wall behind the Basilica of Superga – a church on the outskirts of Turin.
31 people died including almost of the Torino players, as well as their English coach Leslie Lievesley. Torino were crowned champions at the end of the 1948/49 Serie A season to commemorate the tragic events that had unfolded and 500,000 people paid their respects at the funeral to those who lost their lives.
2002 – Arsenal Paint London Red in FA Cup Final
Beating your rivals is always a great feeling, but doing so to lift a trophy is perhaps the sweetest victory of all.
In the 2002 FA Cup final, Arsenal came up against London foes Chelsea in Cardiff, while also sitting just one win away from a Premier League title in their next match four days later against Manchester United.
Two second-half goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg put Chelsea to the sword and saw the Gunners win yet another FA Cup under the tutelage of Arsène Wenger. Arsenal would go on to beat United in the league to secure a famous domestic double.
2003 – Mark Viduka Gifts Manchester United the Premier League Title
On this day in 2003: Leeds United beat Arsenal to save themselves from relegation and hand Manchester United the title! ?? pic.twitter.com/lO2RIog4gj
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 4, 2020
Arsenal may have enjoyed 4 May 2002, but a year later it would prove to be a heartbreaking day for the north London club.
Following a long slog of a league season, vying for the title with Manchester United throughout, the Gunners eventually surrendered their Premier League trophy to the Red Devils. Leeds United – who would avoid relegation with an emphatic win at Highbury – beat Arsenal 3-2 following a last-minute beauty from Mark Viduka, handing the title to the Red Devils in the process.
The Australian forward may never have played for United, but he sure is loved at Old Trafford for that moment.
2008 – Real Madrid Win a 31st La Liga Crown
Real Madrid are all too familiar with La Liga title celebrations, but 2008 remained a special season for Los Blancos as they won the trophy a remarkable 18 points ahead of rivals Barcelona. In fact, their closest competitors were Villarreal, who fell short of silverware by just eight points.
A narrow 2-1 win over Osasuna was the clinching result with three games of the season remaining, with two dramatic late goals in as many minutes from Arjen Robben and Gonzalo Higuaín seeing off the plucky underdogs – who had only taken the lead in the 84th minute.
It was an important title win for Bernd Schuster during his debut season in the Bernabéu dugout, but unfortunately for the German he would only last until December of next season before being replaced.
That’s Real Madrid for you, eh?
2011 – Manuel Neuer Helps Out Manchester United
?? #OTD in 2011
Manchester United advanced to the Champions League final with a 4-1 second leg win over Schalke. Goals from Anderson (2), Darron Gibson and Antonio Valencia
? Manuel Neuer committed two errors directly leading to United goals pic.twitter.com/4hoslEDBBQ
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 4, 2020
Despite Manuel Neuer comfortably being one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers, the German didn’t showcase his best in the Champions League semi-final in 2011.
Having already won the first leg 2-0, the Red Devils just needed to avoid an unlikely upset against surprise semi-finalists Schalke in the second leg at Old Trafford. Various mistakes from Neuer helped United to a comfortable 4-1 victory, with Anderson of all people bagging a brace.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side would fall short of glory in the final three weeks later against Barcelona, losing 3-1 to a Lionel Messi masterclass at Wembley.
2016 – Manchester City Flop in Europe Yet Again
Kevin De Bruyne may have glistened at the Bernabéu in the Champions League earlier this season, but 2016 was a very different story for the Belgian and his teammates.
As City pursued a first Champions League trophy – a competition that has haunted them in recent years – they knew they were one step away from a first final in 2016. Following a goalless draw at the Etihad in the first leg, the Sky Blues knew that an away goal could be pivotal against an all-conquering Real Madrid side in the Spanish capital.
Such a goal didn’t arrive, however, and it was Los Blancos who found themselves in another European final courtesy of a Fernando own goal, with the game finishing 1-0.
2017 – Marcus Rashford Carries United…Again
While the Red Devils would have much preferred to be playing in the Champions League, United certainly wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to add to their trophy cabinet in the Europa League.
Following a fairly straightforward route into the the semi-finals, United came up against Spanish outfit Celta Vigo. José Mourinho’s men headed to the Balaidos as strong favourites, but thoroughly underwhelmed with a narrow 1-0 victory.
Marcus Rashford’s only goal of the game proved to be decisive as United headed into the final after drawing the second leg at Old Trafford 1-1. The Red Devils would go on to beat Ajax 2-0 in the final in Stockholm.
2018 – Brighton Topple Manchester United to Secure Top-Flight Status
Where would we be without goal-line technology these days? Well, Brighton might be in the Championship.
Pascal Gross’ header was awarded via GLT after being only a matter of inches over the line, subsequently securing a 1-0 win for the Seagulls over United and another season in the Premier League.
The result moved Brighton eight points clear of Southampton and avoided a late relegation battle for Chris Hughton’s side.
2019 – More Newcastle vs Liverpool Chaos
Let’s face it, this clash was still quite some way off the Liverpool-Newcastle 4-3 thriller at Anfield in 1996, but it was still bloody exciting, and only added to the Divock Origi fairytale for the Reds.
Having twice led and twice been pegged back by the Magpies, the Reds’ chances of taking the title race to the final day of the season were slipping away, but – you guessed it – Origi stepped up in dramatic fashion when Liverpool needed a hero.
The Belgian found the back of the net with four minutes of normal time remaining to salvage three points at St. James’ Park, although Liverpool would of course still fail to get their hands on a first Premier League title.
2020 – Cesc Fabregas and Fernandinho Celebrate Their Birthdays
There haven’t been too many better central-midfielders in Premier League history than Fabrégas and Fernandinho, who celebrate their birthdays today – turning 33 and 35 respectively.
Both have aged like fine wines and are still showcasing some of their best football in their 30s, while also boasting vast trophy cabinets which include Premier League titles, FA Cup trophies and League Cups, as well as plenty of international glory for Fabrégas in particular.