How we secured the Treble, 20 years ago today
Manchester United defeated Bayern Munich 2-1 on this day, 26 May, in 1999, but that scoreline does not even begin to tell the story of one of our most famous matches of all time.
The Reds had already secured the Premier League title and FA Cup ahead of travelling to Barcelona on Concorde, with Bayern chasing their own Treble after coming out on top domestically in Germany.
The bigger picture was the fact United had not won the European Cup since the days of Sir Matt Busby in 1968 and had only reached the semi-finals in the competition's present format as the Champions League.
Much to his chagrin, Alex Ferguson's team had so far come up short on the continent, despite dominating at home by winning the Double for the first time in our history in 1994 and repeating the feat in 1996.
Manchester United 2-1 Bayern MunichVideo
With a third Double in the bag, could we go one step further at the Nou Camp? It would have been Sir Matt's 90th birthday, after all, so maybe it was fate. Appropriately, the team contained a fair sprinkling of homegrown talent - Gary Neville, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt all started - in the same way the '68 side had, with George Best, Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, John Aston and company.
It was the 63rd game of a taxing campaign and the FA Cup final at Wembley had been staged on the previous weekend. Yet the Reds were going strong deep into stoppage time, when the chips were down, and everything seemed to be slipping away.
And all this with a reshuffled team due to the suspension of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane. Consequently, Ryan Giggs played on the right with Beckham switched to the middle alongside Butt, and Jesper Blomqvist operating on his favoured left flank.
United did not play well, that is almost universally accepted, and fell behind after only six minutes. Mario Basler's free-kick deceived Peter Schmeichel and Bayern clearly deserved to be ahead at the interval with Oliver Kahn barely extended in their goal.
The United boss provided a rousing speech in the dressing room but Peter Schmeichel needed to keep out Carsten Jancker before a clean opportunity was passed up by the Reds when Blomqvist could not convert from inside the box.
“There was a cross from David Beckham and I was very close to the goal but I misjudged it a little bit and had to throw myself,” said the Swede.
“I hit it over the bar. Maybe we’d have lost the game if it had gone in, so I’m happy with the way it went in the end!”
Despite the introduction of Sheringham for Blomqvist and our dire need for a goal, Bayern looked the likelier scorers. Stefan Effenberg had a couple of efforts, as did Mehmet Scholl, who hit a post. An overhead kick by Jancker bounced back off the bar as fortune was smiling on the Reds when we needed it most.
With the 90 minutes up, Schmeichel went up for a Beckham corner in desperation but actually challenged for the set-piece. In the ensuing panic, the Bavarians failed to clear the lines properly and Giggs hit a right-foot volley that was diverted into the net by Sheringham for the equaliser.
“I definitely knew it wasn’t offside,” said Sheringham.
“As Giggsy struck the ball from there, and it was coming past me, I can remember the Bayern defender coming off the line past me and pushing up, putting his hand up in the air for offside.
”When Giggsy actually struck it, I knew I was onside because he was by the post. As I struck it, and scored, I had to glance over my shoulder to make sure the linesman hadn’t got it wrong as well. I didn’t want to see him with his flag up. I saw the flag was down and that was it. I was off to celebrate after scoring the equaliser.
Bayern were deflated and conceded another corner soon afterwards. Again, Beckham played it into a perfect area and Sheringham rose to meet it, this time heading the ball on for Solskjaer to prod home and spark scenes of sheer jubilation among the huge ranks of United fans behind the goal.
Treble Tales: On A Knife EdgeVideo
“You’re fresh, they’re tired,” explained Solskjaer.
“That was one of my strengths as well to know that I can come on and make a difference. Teddy wins this ball. I think Kuffour loses me because he’s looking at the ball. He’s ball watching. I’m lucky enough to guide it in.”
'Who put the ball in the Germans' net? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer'. The crowd were euphoric.
The party had just started in the Catalan capital. As the famous commentary line from ITV's Clive Tyldesley said, it did indeed feel like United had reached the promised land.Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.