In Summer 1982 Bob Paisley had announced that he would be retiring as Liverpool manager at the end of the 1982/83 season. It would be an historic season as his players finished on a high. In the League/Milk Cup Liverpool began their defence of the trophy with a tough two leg tie against Ipswich Town. They won the away leg 2-1 at Portman Road thanks two goals by Ian Rush. They won the return game 2-0 at Anfield, goals from Mark Lawrenson and Ronnie Whelan sent Liverpool through 4-1 on aggregate. A narrow 1-0 win over Rotherham was followed by a 2-0 victory over Norwich at Anfield with Lawrenson and David Fairclough on the scoresheet. In the quarter finals Liverpool beat West Ham 2-1, in a repeat of their 1981 Final, thanks to goals by David Hodgson and Graeme Souness. In the semi finals Burnley were beaten 3-0 at Anfield with goals by Souness, a Phil Neal penalty and Hodgson as Liverpool reached the final 3-1 on aggregate.
Their opponents in the final would be Ron Atkinson’s Manchester United team. They had an impressive run to the final beating Southampton, Nottingham Forest and Arsenal 6-3 on aggregate in the semi finals. However they received a huge blow when United and England captain Bryan Robson was ruled out of the final through injury. The two teams had met in a league game at Old Trafford in February 1983, which ended in a 1-1 draw after Kenny Dalglish had cancelled out Arnold Muhren’s strike.
On the 26th March 1983 Bob Paisley lead Liverpool out for the last time at Wembley. Could Liverpool win their third League/Milk Cup in a row or would Manchester United win their first trophy since 1977? Both teams lined up as follows:
Liverpool: Grobbelaar, Neal, Kennedy, Lawrenson, Whelan, Hansen, Dalglish, Lee, Rush, Johnston (Fairclough) Souness (C)
Manchester United: Bailey, Duxbury, Albiston, Moses, Moran (Macari) McQueen, Wilkins (C), Muhren, Stapleton, Whiteside, Coppell
The game began slowly with both teams trying to get on the ball. Remi Moses and Graeme Souness clashed in midfield but then in the 12th minute Manchester United took the lead in their first attack. A long ball by Gordon McQueen was controlled by Norman Whiteside who turned Alan Hansen and fired past Grobbelaar. At 17 he became the youngest ever scorer in a final at Wembley.
Liverpool almost hit back straight away when Whelan fired wide after Rush challenged United goalkeeper Gary Bailey. Following a freekick Graeme Souness drove wide as Liverpool pushed forward and Bailey saved well from Ian Rush. At the other end Frank Stapleton headed a freekick over the bar and Steve Coppell fired straight at Grobbelaar. Manchester United lead 1-0 at half time.
At the start of the second half Ronnie Whelan went close with a header and Alan Kennedy fired a long range shot over the bar. Ian Rush fired across the face of the goal and then with 15 minutes left Liverpool drew level as Kennedy fired a 25 yard shot that bounced past Gary Bailey.
David Fairclough replaced Craig Johnston in the 83rd minute as both teams tried to find a winner before the game went into extra time. Norman Whiteside headed into the side netting after Grobbelaar came for a cross and missed the ball. In injury time came a moment of high controversy and the Liverpool goalkeeper was lucky not to receive a red card after he fouled Gordon McQueen as he ran in on goal. Referee George Courtney booked Grobbelaar as the incident took place nearly 30 yards from goal. It was the last major incident of the match and the game ended 1-1 at full time.
At the start of extra time Kenny Dalglish ran through after a fine run but shot straight at Bailey. Then in the 99 minute Liverpool took the lead. Ronnie Whelan curled a fine shot past Gary Bailey. He had scored two goals in the 1982 Milk Cup Final against Tottenham and now his goal had put Liverpool in the driving seat.
As Manchester United surged forward in a desperate search for an equaliser David Fairclough missed two guilt edged chances after being put clean through on Bailey, firing high and wide both times. Liverpool held on for a 2-1 victory. It had been a gripping final and Manchester United had pushed them all the way to the end. Captain Graeme Souness sent Bob Paisley up to the Royal Box to receive the Milk Cup in a fitting end to his Liverpool career at Wembley.
Liverpool became the first team to win the League Cup three years in a row. Bob Paisley ended the season as a League Champion as Liverpool won the 1982/83 First Division eleven points ahead of Watford.
1983 Shoot Magazine colour feature on the Milk Cup Final
May 1983 Bob Paisley lifts the First Division Championship trophy at Anfield