The 26th May 1999 will forever hold a dear place in Manchester United history. The Red Devils won the Premier League title by a single point over Arsenal and the FA Cup against Newcastle. It was down to Alex Ferguson’s men to beat Bayern Munich to make history. Current United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was the hero of the day, finishing off the late, great turnaround.
This classic Champions League final put Alex Ferguson’s men in the history books and gave them a claim of being one of England’s greatest ever teams. Join as we reminisce Manchester United’s Classic Treble winning campaign.
On This Day: Manchester United Secure the Treble After Dramatic Win Over Bayern Munich
Manchester United – The Road to the Treble
A new rivalry had formed by the summer of 1998 in the Premier League. Arsenal had secured their first Premier League title under Arsene Wenger – Alex Ferguson wanted revenge. The transfer window set out United’s fierce intent to make a statement and claw the title back from the North London side.
United secured the services of Jaap Stam from PSV Eindhoven for £10.75 million and the Dutchman played a pivotal role throughout the campaign. Swedish midfielder Jesper Blomqvist added depth and additional quality throughout after he joined from Parma. The final major signing was none other than Dwight Yorke, who joined from Aston Villa for £12.6 million. The Trinidad striker finished the season as the Golden Boot winner with 18 league goals.
After going without a trophy the season prior, Manchester United started the 98/99 season in poor fashion. They drew against Leicester City and West Ham United in their opening fixtures before a 3-0 defeat away to Arsenal a few weeks later.
It seemed as though another unsuccessful season was on the cards.
By the time Christmas arrived United were lingering in fourth position in the table. But as so often happened in the 90’s, the second half of the season was rampant. The treble winners remained unbeaten in the league from the 19th December and cantered to the title. 79 points was all it took to beat Arsene Wenger’s men.
Key moments of the season included an emphatic 8-1 victory away at Nottingham Forest. This game is in United folklore as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored four goals in ten minutes off the bench after the potent partnership of Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke scored twice each.
The FA Cup Run
United’s FA Cup run was certainly a challenge and was very nearly cut short. After beating Middlesbrough 3-1 in the third round, the fourth saw rivals Liverpool come to Old Trafford.
Michael Owen put Gerard Houllier’s men in front after just two minutes with a fine header to finish off a slick move. It wasn’t until the 88th minute that United equalised. Dwight Yorke finished off a set-piece move after strike partner headed a ball across from a Ryan Giggs free-kick.
“Fergie Time” typified the era of Sir Alex’s reign. It was the scene of the winner. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fired United into the fifth round and the Treble dream remained alive.
Wins over Fulham and Chelsea saw United meet rivals Arsenal in the semi-finals. After a goalless draw in the first leg, the second leg provided fireworks. Ryan Giggs’s magic solo goal took United to Wembley after a David Beckham opener and a Dennis Bergkamp stunner took the game to extra time.
In the final, the Red Devils breezed past Newcastle United after goals from Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes. Two out of three trophies were secured.
Only the illustrious Champions League remained.
The Road to Barcelona
If the FA Cup route was viewed as tough, then the Champions League group would terrify fans. Manchester United were drawn in the ‘group of death’ alongside Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Brondby.
Remarkably, United were unbeaten in the group stage. They twice beat Brondby, 6-2 and 5-0. They then drew the other four games – each game against Bayern and Barcelona. This saw them qualify in second place.
The quarter-final saw a tough two-legged tie against Italian giants Inter Milan. A Dwight Yorke double in the home leg and a 1-1 draw in Milan sent Fergie’s men to a semi-final tie with another Italian club – Juventus.
A last gasp equaliser from Ryan Giggs meant United had hope in Turin. Only a slim hope, with Juve’s away goal meaning United had to win.
The second leg was an instant Champions League classic. Roy Keane produced his crowning performance as United triumphed 3-2. Keane was instrumental in the play. He was the catalyst for the comeback after Juventus took a 2-0 lead. He scored the first goal in the comeback and was all over the pitch throughout, though a yellow card meant he would miss the final. As Wes Brown recalled: “He went into Terminator mode.”
Keane famously controlled the midfield and outplayed Juventus’ famous midfield of Didier Deschamps and Edgar Davids. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke finished the comeback and United would once again meet Bayern Munich – for the treble.
The Champions League Final – On This Day
Both first-choice midfielders Roy Keane and Paul Scholes were suspended. Ferguson opted for David Beckham to play in midfield with Nicky Butt. Ryan Giggs played on the right-wing with Blomqvist on the left. In Keane’s absence, Peter Schmeichel captained the side in Barcelona.
The manager Alex Ferguson was typically motivating in the pre-match talk, saying to his players: “The cup is only six feet away from you. If you lose, you can’t even touch it.”
55,000 United fans swarmed the streets of Barcelona in the days running up to the final, with more joining ticketless. Barcelona was a sea of red and the festivities already began. The only thing left to do was down to the players.
The game started in the worst possible fashion. Bayern took the lead on six minutes after Mario Basler curled a free-kick into the bottom corner.
Though United dominated possession, they could not find an opening and Bayern were dangerous on the counter for the remainder of the first half. It looked as though the midfield suspensions would cost United.
The second half saw Bayern assert their dominance. Mehmet Scholl and Carsten Jancker hit the post and bar respectively, narrowly missing the chance to secure the game. Peter Schmeichel made a string of saves to stop the German’s running away with it.
Seeing his team being dismantled, Alex Ferguson changed the game by bringing on Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The fourth official’s board glared. Three minutes of injury time left to salvage an equaliser. As this happened, United won a corner. David Beckham swung the ball in and, after a scramble, the substitute Sheringham lashed the ball in the bottom left-hand corner to level/
Famously, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer remarked: “When Teddy scored, I thought, yes! I’m going to play 40 minutes of a Champions League Final!”
Less than thirty seconds after the equaliser, United won another corner. Beckham once again swung the cross in, finding Sheringham. He flicked it to Solskjaer – and the rest is history.
Alex Ferguson was knighted in the aftermath of the final and the achievements of 1999 are still spoken of to this day. Ferguson described it as the “greatest moment of my life” as he had taken Manchester United from mid-table obscurity to serial domestic winners and European Champions in 13 years. 500,000 fans lined the streets of Manchester to celebrate with the stars who had won it all. Twenty-one years ago on this day – history was made.
All members of the treble-winning side have gone down in Manchester United folklore as legends of the club. Match-winner Solskjaer is now at the helm, reminding players, fans, and the press every day – through his presence – of the club’s finest hour.
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