Steve Bruce and Dejan Savicevic.

Thirty years since Reds lifted Super Cup

Friday 19 November 2021 09:02

Friday (19 November) marks the 30th anniversary of Manchester United's only European Super Cup win to date, achieved courtesy of a 1-0 victory over Red Star Belgrade at Old Trafford.

Alex Ferguson's team, as European Cup Winners' Cup holders, were granted the opportunity to play the reigning European Cup champions in a one-off final at home due to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and took full advantage by securing the silverware with a Brian McClair goal.

That does not tell the whole tale as the visitors were outstanding, particularly captain Dejan Savicevic, who was lining up a move to AC Milan and drew admiration and praise from the Reds boss afterwaeds.

Watch full highlights of the 1-0 victory at Old Trafford in 1991.

Thankfully, Peter Schmeichel was in excellent form in the United goal, making several fine stops and, when he was beaten by the previous season's Golden Boot winner Darko Pancev, Clayton Blackmore was on hand to clear off the line.

The Reds should have been ahead early on, after defender Miodrag Belodedici handled inside the box. However, the usually reliable Steve Bruce had his penalty expertly saved by Zvonko Milojevic.

Although Red Star created a number of chances, mostly inspired by Savicevic, the winner arrived in the 67th minute when Neil Webb actually robbed the visiting no.10 and drilled a shot against a post. McClair was following up to supply the decisive finish to the rebound.

Of course, it was poignant that Red Star were the opponents, as they were in the Busby Babes' final game together, back in 1958 before the Munich Air Disaster.

Sir Matt Busby and Sir Bobby Charlton, among the survivors on that terrible night, were among those in attendance at Old Trafford but the crowd was a disappointing 22,110 on a cold November midweek evening, perhaps not befitting such a landmark moment in the club's history.

Indeed, we have failed on three other occasions since then to lift the trophy in the final, in 1999, 2008 and 2017.

Irwin reflects on Super Cup anniversary Video

Irwin reflects on Super Cup anniversary

Denis Irwin discusses how the Reds got our hands on the trophy for the only time in our history...

"They [the former Yugoslavs] have so much talent and always have shown great skills when I was a boy," commented Ferguson to the press, following the victory. "They certainly have the talent and the imagination to do well and I think they are coming good at the right time.

"Most of the football came from Red Star. They strung us out and they deserved more.

"They have players of true quality in Robert Prosinecki, Darko Pancev and especially Dejan Savicevic. Savicevic has that imagination which all the great players have."

United embark on a lap of honour at Old Trafford.

Another piece of silverware helped generate the winning mentality in Ferguson's squad - it was his third major trophy as United boss after winning the FA Cup in 1990 and the European Cup Winners' Cup earlier that year. 

Ryan Giggs excited in a substitute appearance and he would go on to help contribute greatly to the success that would follow at league level, even if the Reds missed out on the old Division One title at the end of that campaign, when hampered by a fixture pile-up and Leeds United's resolve in the run-in. Another trophy did arrive in the shape of the League Cup, with McClair again scoring the only goal (against Nottingham Forest), as the glory days returned to Old Trafford.

For Red Star, their marvellous team was broken up with Pancev a target for United before Eric Cantona was signed. The Macedonian marksman instead joined Inter Milan, cross-city rivals of Savicevic's new club, with the classy Sinisa Mihajlovic and Vladimir Jugovic also going on to enjoy fine careers in Serie A. Robert Prosinecki did not play in the final, with injury to hamper his progress, but he would go on to play for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

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