It doesn’t get any better than this was the abiding view after that incredible night in Barcelona. But the newly-knighted Sir Alex Ferguson, never one for resting on his laurels, issued a public challenge to his players: ‘prove you are still hungry’.
If there was one player whose lust for glory was never questioned, it was Roy Keane, even when negotiations over a new contract rumbled on until December. By the end of September, comfortable wins over Leeds and Newcastle at home, a win at Highbury and a 3-2 victory at Anfield (remember their two own goals? Arf!) suggested the will to win was still burning bright.
Despite the departure of Peter Schmeichel, Mark Bosnich was regarded as decent cover, but the boss wasn’t convinced, so he tried out Italian Massimo Taibi. Hmm. A 5-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge and a 4-1 defeat at Spurs suggested the juggernaut may have a flat tyre.
Thankfully, by the time Keano signed on the dotted line in December, we were back on track. Even a difficult 10 days in Brazil for FIFA’s World Club Championship couldn’t affect our league form. Although we trailed our old friends Leeds at the turn of the year, one defeat in four months saw them overhauled, and a 1-0 win at Elland Road was sweeter than ever. A 7-1 crushing of West Ham was preceded by a 4-0 battering of Bradford, peaking with that unbelievable Scholes volley, then four more at home to Sunderland and away at Boro.
On the day the title was sealed at Southampton, even Phil Neville scored. United finished 18 points ahead of the field, scoring 97 goals. Still hungry and devouring all-comers.
Points tally: 91
Nearest challenger: Arsenal (73 points)
Most appearances: Jaap Stam (33)