Man Utd v Derby – The day of the Hillsborough Disaster

On the day of the Hillsborough Disaster, Manchester United played Derby Country in a division one match at Old Trafford. The match ended with the visitors winning 0-2.

As a part of my documentary about the Hillsborough disaster which unfolded as this game was taking place, I am asking fans of all clubs to contribute with their thoughts & recollections of that awful day. Many people think that the disaster was ‘a Liverpool thing’ but the truth of the matter is that it could have happened to any team at that time.

Maybe you were at this match or following it on the television or radio? Maybe you had been to Hillsborough previously, and have a story to tell about that?

Spurs & Leeds fans have told their stories about crushing in the ’81 and ’87 semi-finals at Hillsborough, and I have already heard from a Man Utd fan who had a terrible experience at the ground in a league game. Some Coventry fans may have been at this game and the 1981 semi-final in which Spurs fans were crushed, thankfully, not fatally.

Whatever you have to say, I’d be grateful if you could leave a reply with your thoughts – please just scroll down for the reply box.

Thanks in advance for your input. Please follow me on Twitter @HillsboroughDoc and/or like the Facebook page to keep up-to-date.

11 thoughts on “Man Utd v Derby – The day of the Hillsborough Disaster

  1. 9th November 1985 – Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester United.

    I left Manchester Piccadilly on the football special train , getting to Sheffield 2 & 1/2 hours before kickoff.

    We were escorted by police on the 15 minute walk to Hillsborough, which was wasn’t letting people in when we got there.

    We had the full Leppings Lane end for our supporters.

    When the one door was eventually opened that we had to enter through there was a massage surge forward to try and get in …. no police or stewards were controlling it and there was huge unrest with the fans.

    The game was a 48000 sell out … the annoyance of the fans got worse as kick off approached and still hundreds hadn’t got in the ground. There were no additional gates opened to help out (I don’t remember seeing additional gates)

    Despite hundreds being outside the ground, there was no attempt to put the kick off back say ½ an hour to let everyone in safely.

    We (my mate & I) eventually got into the ground at 3.15pm, 15 mins after ko …. it was quite clear there was far too many crammed into the pens directly behind the goal ; I remember a young boy crying as he couldn’t see and was getting pushed around. There was no control allowing how many into the pens, so the pen I was in was clearly too full. (Yes there was lateral fences)

    I don’t remember seeing any police helping the situation (or stewards) … we were left to our own devices.

    We couldn’t move to get to the toilet or a drink at half time.

    After the game (which we lost) we were held in these same crammed pens for what seemed like an age before being escorted back to the train stn. The experience was so bad (incl the train service that took 3 hours to get back to Manchester) I vowed never to go to Hillsborough again. (semi , league or cup game)

    When I watched in Horror, the scenes unfold in your semi final on Grandstand with my dad, I said but for ‘the grace of god’ that could have been us and it was an accident waiting to happen.

    Whilst there are rivalries between our clubs, no one wants to see deaths at football … be it Heysel, Munich or Hillsborough they are desperately sad parts of our football clubs history and all fans should respect that people lost sons, brothers, husbands, friends and in our case players. When Shankly said ‘football is more than a game’ ; in this case he got it wrong … football is a game to be played passionately, supported furvourantly, but not worth losing lives over.

    I hope the families of the dead get justice for the 96 who died.

  2. Thanks for sharing that, David. So many stories of over-crowding & crushing in those central Leppings Lane pens. Spurs in ’81, Leeds in ’87 and now Man Utd in ’85. The writing was on the wall, but nobody was reading it.

  3. Reflecting on 15th April 1989 I went to a football match on the 15th April 1989. No it wasn’t Hillsborough, but it purely because of a twist of fate that I wasn’t there. I am a Red….. Always have been and always will be….. 15th April 1989, I went to Villa Park to watch the other FA cup semi final between Everton and Norwich! Why? My boyfriend and his mates had been let down with their lift! My Dad went beserk…. What you going to watch that lot for when Liverpool are playing in Sheffield? Well…. we set off for Villa Park…. It was a beautifully sunny day and we all had hope in our hearts that the results of the day would lead to a repeat of the 1986 FA cup Final and another League and FA Cup double for The Reds! I was on a promise of a Cup Final ticket if that happened, because Davie Bleas already said that he couldn’t bear to watch Everton get stuffed by the Reds again! We got to Villa Park. We had tickets for The Holt End. We had travelled with Sammy and John. John was with Arthur and I and Sammy had a seat in the stands – as it turned out very close to a well known ITV sports presenter! Being vertically challenged like I am, once in our places as I was nearest to the floor, I bent down and found a fiver on the floor. 22 years ago, a fiver was a fiver, and most probably covered our petrol money there and back ha ha! From our place we could see the score board at the opposite end of the ground advising that the start of the other game had been delayed for some or other reason…… To be honest, I can’t remember the score that day, only that Everton won. What had happened at Hillsborough started filtering through as we walked back to the car although rumours of fatalities had started spreading during the Everton game from people who had little radios with them. We met Sammy back at the car….. he told us that the well known ITV pundit had been muttering something about “trouble causing Scousers Again!” and “A Pitch Invasion!” The journey home was subdued as we thought about our mates from the pub who had gone to Hillsborough to see the game. It was much later on TV that we saw some of our mates carrying advertising hoardings across the Hillsborough Pitch carrying the injured and the dead. Thinking back and reading articles at the time….. It was purely by chance that Everton’s game wasn’t played at that neutral venue or I may have gone to watch The Reds there myself! Being less than 5’ tall… I wouldn’t have stood a chance! There but for the Grace of God go I…… I will never forget that day, apart from the Everton score, I remember it as if it was yesterday! Thinking about the day makes me come out in goose bumps and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I think about the victims often not only on 15th April – although I knew none of them personally, I feel like I did! They will live forever in my mind!



  4. After watching the news tonight I am now reading your page here after I searched “Man Utd Hillsborough 1989” because I remember being there not long before the Semi Final in 1989. I went to see Utd there as a 19 year old on 11 Feb 1989 (just looked back at the past fixture lists to get the exact date). I remember McClair scoring twice in a 2-0 victory.
    We were in the Leppings Lane end and had a real struggle getting through the tunnel onto the terraces. In fact people were on their knees crawling through our legs to get through the tunnel. When we got onto the terrace the push continued but we managed to get to the front against the fence. We were literally being carried forward with the wave of people just like the ebb and flow of a tide. I remember that there was a corner section to the left of the Leppings Lane end that was being kept empty in order to keep the fans segregated. I can’t recall exactly what we were singing but it it was along the lines of “…We can’t breath…open up the corner” well, that was the message we were trying to convey.
    After a while the police formed a double line of officers in the corner section and then did open it up. By now people were starting to clamber up the wall above the tunnel with the aid of fans above. When fans started filling up the corner section they were dancing around joyfully in a “look, I’ve got space” type of way.
    The pushing eased a bit but we stayed at the front for the whole match. All that day and on the way home we were all saying what a farce it was and how easy someone could have been hurt that day,
    That was 11 February, 2 months before that tragic day in April.

    1. I was at the Sheff Wed v United game at Hillsborough in ’85 (my post is above) … i swore after my experience that day I would never stand on the Leppings Lane end ever again.

      What happened to the ’96’ could have been any of us ….. I am glad that the truth about the disaster has finally come out and hope they get the justice they deserve and can finally RIP.

    2. Darren, I was also at that game in Feb ’89 and recall vividly the overcrowding onthe terrace. United were on a good run of form and I reckon took about 20 thousand to Shef that day. I managed to get in the open corner bit but only after getting crushed for seemed like ages. I was not all that surprised to hear what had happended later that year at the semi final and remember thinking that could have been us…. Never understood why Old Trafford was’nt used for semi finals back in those days, especially Liverpool v forest – afterall it was used for the re-match…..(???)
      Matty (Blackley reds)

  5. I found this website as I searched for the date of the Manchester United v Sheffield Wednesday game in 1989. I can echo the comments of the United fan above because I can vividly recall the chaos in the central pens of the Leppings Lane end as kick off approached. We arrived at the ground early and went into one of the middle pens behind the goal. As I recall the tunnel seemed to guide you towards those 2 pens rather than take you to the pens on the left or right hand side. Everything was fine until the crowd started to filter in as kick off approached. The crush became unbearable and I fought my way (with great difficulty) back towards the top of the terrace as I noticed the pen at the side had loads of space. Of course these were the days when football fans were treated like sheep and all classed as potential hooligans particularly if you followed a big club away from home.

    I was at Old Trafford on the day of the disaster and I heard the news during the game. My first thought was back to my recent trip there and my first thought was “There but for the grace of God”. I think any away fan that visited that ground in those days will know what a nightmare it was.

    I’m glad that the truth is emerging after 23 years. 96 people went to watch a game of football and never came home. It could have happened to any of us form any club.
    I hope the findings help provide a step towards closure for a lot of people.

    Hope you don’t mind me sharing my views.

  6. I went to Hillsborough on the 11th Feb 1989 with my 14 year old brother to see Utd take on Wednesday. Utd were on a decent run at the time and I can remember there were thousands of us that turned up for the game. I think the attendance that day was nearly 35,000 and it seemed that half the fans were reds in the ground that day as we were everywhere. I can remember vividly the terrible crush in the Leppings Lane as you came out of the tunnel onto the terrace and couldn’t believe how packed the terrace was and we had got in quite early. We made our way down to the front right next to the fence and remained there for the duration of the game, we can both be clearly seen on the MOTD footage celebrating McClairs second goal. I can’t remember the police that day but I can remember utd fans climbing into the adjacent pens to get some space.
    My brother and I also went to the Derby game, and instead of standing on the Stretford end we stood in the terracing at the front of the main stand right next to the players tunnel. We were both gutted that day as like many reds we felt we had a good Mark Hughes goal disallowed in the quarter final against Forest and it should of been Utd playing Liverpool in the semi final that day and not playing the season out to ever decreasing crowds. About 5-10 mins after the game had started there was a bloke stood behind us with a radio stuck to his ear, and he said that the game at Hillsborough had been stopped due to some crowd trouble. Within seconds due to numerous fans doing the same thing (listening to their radios) the chants soon started “you scouse bastards” and “all hate scousers clap your hands” etc. When the semi final was called off the chants continued. However at half time there was a stadium announcement, informing everybody that the semi final at Hillsborough had been called off and I’m sure stated there were fans with serious injuries and deaths. The chanting stopped and was replaced by a really audible murmur. After the game we got back on the bus and the radio was on and by now the death toll was rising and we were all in total shock, and hardly a word was said on the way home. The last vivid memory was when we both walked in through the back door at home and saw my mum in tears. I just think she was imagining that there were mothers like her up and down the country whose sons and daughters had gone to watch a football match and were never going to come home.

  7. I also went to this Sheff Wed v Man Utd game at Hillsborough on 11th Feb 1989. I can confirm that all of the reports above are true. I would like to add that there was a complete lack of Police organisation outside of Leppings Lane. I can remember the Police were very agitated and were shouting even using bad language towards the fans outside. We were treated no better than cattle. Before the game the crowd congestion outside the Leppings lane turnstiles became unbearable. It was chaos and I lost my friend outside, we got seperated during the crush. I managed to get in through the turnstiles and fortunately for me I had purchased a ticket for the stand above Leppings Lane. 5 mins after arriving at my seat my friend also joined me. He was pretty shaken to at the crush and lack of Police control outside of the ground. We then sat down and looked below at the Leppings lane terrace. We both said at the same time. Thank God we are not down there. The Leppings lane terrace was split into four sections and it was obvious to the eye that the two middle sections directly behind the goal were severely over crowded. At Approx 2.50pm United fans were climbing the side fences of these sections to jump over to the sections to the left and the right which were far less populated. The United fans seemed to take it upon themselves to free themselves and even out the crowd congestion across the four pens. There was a large Manchester United following that Saturday afternoon(approx 20,000) as United were on a good run of form. I would believe that this was the last big crowd following to attend the Leppings lane end prior to the disaster. I can remember returning home that night and telling my Dad ” How they hold Semi- Finals there I will never Know, The Police are Useless”. Then two months later I watched the footage of the disaster live on Grandstand. I was telling people this is what its like there. The only difference that day was that the Gate was opened by the Police, the poor souls who lost their lives in the middle two sections did not have a chance. I would like to know if there is CCTV footage of this Man Utd game as this would highlight the true incompetence of the Police at this ground prior to April 15th 1989. This was an accident waiting to happen and it could have happened to any one of us.

  8. I can only fully concur with the comments made my fans attending matches at Hillsborough. I too, was at the Sheffield Wednesday v Man Utd game on 11th February 1989. I am a United supporter and was staying with a mate who was at Sheffield University. We got to the ground early and enetered the Leppings Lane terrace at about 2pm.
    By 2.15pm the pen was so full that my feet were no longer actually touching the ground. My mate was now several feet away from me. As the crushing got worse (and the pens to each side were still empty at this stage) my mate and I somehow managed to inch our way over the the left hand side of the pen and precariously scaled the fence, which other fans were doing as well, to reach the safety of the emptier pen to the left.
    From there we managed to find a corner with a decent view of the game. What struck me however, was the lack of stewarding or police control and can remember commenting to my friend that it was much safer and better organised at Old Trafford.
    I remembered those words just a few weeks later as the events of 15th April 1989 unfolded.
    I then wondered how the powers that be could possibly consider the stadium along with the lack of stewarding/police activity safe for an FA Cup semi final.

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