United in April 1997 - the date Sheriff were founded
Manchester United travel to Moldova to face Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday evening, the first time the two sides have ever met.
Our hosts have only existed for little more than 25 years, having been founded on 4 April 1997, and yet are slowly becoming a well-known club across Europe.
Sheriff emerged as shock giant-killers last year, when they defeated eventual 2021/22 Champions League winners Real Madrid in the group stage, and will certainly put up a stern test for Erik ten Hag’s Reds on Thursday.
As our hosts continue to build their own history, we took a look back at our own to take a snapshot of what was happening at United on the date Sheriff were formed…
United 2 Derby County 3
5 April 1997: A home game against the Rams was first up for us after the March international break...
BACK IN THE DAY
Sheriff were founded on Friday 4 April 1997, just one day before the Reds’ surprise 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Derby County.
Eric Cantona and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer both got on the scoresheet, and United remained top of the Premier League table, with the match most memorable for an incredible solo strike by Derby debutant Paulo Wanchope.
At this point in the season, the Reds were aiming for a second consecutive title, having won the Premier League the season prior.
COMMUNITY SHIELD SUCCESS
As 1995/96 Double winners, the Reds faced Premier League runners-up Newcastle in the 1996 Charity Shield at Wembley.
Alex Ferguson’s side continued our rich domestic form into the start of the new season, emphatically defeating the north-east side 4-0.
First-half goals from Eric Cantona and Nicky Butt were added to by late strikes from David Beckham and Roy Keane to get the 1996/97 season off to the best possible start.
Ferguson also used this fixture as an opportunity to give debuts to summer signings Jordi Cruyff and Karel Poborsky.
CONSECUTIVE PREMIER LEAGUE TITLES
The Reds had occupied top spot in the league since the end of January and, after that defeat to Derby, Ferguson’s side went unbeaten in the remaining six league fixtures.
Such form ensured that United remained at the summit until the season’s conclusion, ultimately retaining the Premier League title with a lead of seven points over runners-up Newcastle.
This success was our fourth since the inception of the Premier League, and the second time Ferguson’s side had retained it in back-to-back campaigns, slowly cementing this United team – which would go on to win the historic Treble in 1999 – as icons.
Just five days after the inception of Sheriff Tiraspol, United were away to Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.
The Reds had overcome Portuguese giants Porto in the quarters, across two legs, to set up a clash with the reigning Bundesliga champions.
Unfortunately, the Reds were knocked out at this stage by the German side, losing both legs 1-0, and Dortmund would eventually go on to win the 1996/97 competition.
Why the Sheriff game is being played in ChisinauArticle
Our Europa League clash on Thursday takes place at the Zimbru Stadium, which is not the Moldovan side's home ground.
Fast forward to today, and the prospect of United’s first-ever meeting with Sheriff on Thursday, and both clubs have the opportunity of adding further accolades to their history books this season.
United continue the 2022/23 Europa League campaign in search of our second success in the competition, while Sheriff look to add another scalp to those which they have defeated on the European stage.
What’s more, Sheriff represent the first Moldovan side the Reds have faced, making Thursday’s clash all the more intriguing.
As he looks for his maiden European win as United manager, Ten Hag will no doubt want to bring a positive result back to Manchester this week.