Five of our best trips to the Netherlands
Manchester United are preparing to take on AZ Alkmaar on Thursday, which will be our 10th competitive game on Dutch soil.
Over the years, the Reds have faced four different clubs from the Netherlands, while we also enjoyed one of our most famous European nights in the country in 1991.
Here are a few of the more memorable clashes from yesteryear which have taken place in the Netherlands…
Willem II 1-1 United (1963)
Our first-ever meeting with a Dutch side came against Willem II in the European Cup Winners' Cup. At the time, Willem’s players were still part-time and the match was held at Feyenoord's De Kuip stadium, rather than the Tricolores' usual ground in Tilburg. Despite this, a United team containing Bill Foulkes, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law failed to grab the victory that many had anticipated ahead of the match. It was David Herd who registered our only goal of the game after Frits Louer had given Willem the lead. A 6-1 victory at Old Trafford a few weeks later, courtesy of goals from Law (3), Charlton, Phil Chisnall and Maurice Setters, ensured that we did ultimately progress to the next round.
Ron Atkinson’s United were held to a goalless draw by a rugged and well-organised PSV defence in this UEFA Cup first-leg tie. Despite the brilliance of Bryan Robson in central midfield, the Reds were held to a stalemate in the Netherlands, with our best efforts coming courtesy of a Jesper Olsen volley and a Gordon Strachan lob. The return leg in Manchester, two weeks later, also proved to be a similarly tight affair and, once again, there were no goals in 90 minutes, ensuring extra-time. Thankfully, it was Strachan who managed to net the only goal of the tie, two minutes into extra-time, ensuring we booked a meeting with Scottish side Dundee United in the third round.
United 2-1 Barcelona (1991)
The final of the European Cup-Winners’ Cup, when the Reds famously overcame Barcelona, was held in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam. The Catalans, managed by legendary Dutchman Johan Cruyff, had a star-studded team containing the likes of Ronald Koeman and Michael Laudrup, but it was one of their former employees who came back to haunt them. Mark Hughes had left United in 1986 to join Barcelona, before returning to Old Trafford two years later after a relatively unsuccessful spell in La Liga. The Welshman’s brace put us two-up to render Koeman's late strike a consolation, earning the Reds our first European trophy in 23 years. It was also Alex Ferguson’s second piece of silverware, at the start of perhaps the greatest decade in the club's history.
Six years later, the Reds were back at the De Kuip, this time to take on the stadium’s regular inhabitants. Feyenoord had finished second in the Eredivisie the previous season and were regarded as an extremely tough opponent - their 2-0 victory over Juventus in this Champions League group was testament to that. Yet, against United, the Rotterdam outfit were soundly beaten in the fourth match of the group, thanks to Andy Cole’s hat-trick. Igor Korneev did grab a late strike for Feyenoord, but it ultimately proved insignificant. United also won the meeting at Old Trafford and finished top of Group B to qualify for the quarter-finals, where we would ultimately lose out to Monaco.
Our first game in the Europa League since its rebranding was an enjoyable occasion for the Reds. Sir Alex’s men had endured an uncharacteristically poor Champions League campaign, finishing third in Group C after three draws and a damaging defeat to Basel. The meeting with Ajax was our first in 35 years and, after a nervous opening half, Ashley Young put us on our way, when he netted in the 59th minute. Javier Hernandez then scored, with just five minutes remaining, to give us a two-goal lead ahead of the return meeting at Old Trafford. We lost that game 2-1 but still qualified for the next round. We have, of course, met Ajax since that double header in 2012, when we overcame the Amsterdam outfit three seasons ago in the final of the Europa League in Stockholm.
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