Let's party like it's 1999!
The stadium may be different – all strobe lighting, booming PA system and remarkable steeped stands – but Juventus away was the setting for one of the defining performances of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
At the Stadio delle Alpi in 1999, the Reds looked down and out at 2-0 behind early on (3-1 on aggregate). Serie A sides simply didn’t surrender such strong advantages, certainly not on their home patch. Yet United roared back to win 3-2 and spark a chain of events that culminated in the unforgettable Treble.
While only a flight of steps remains from the old ground in the truly modern Allianz Stadium, in the away corner of the ground there seemed to be a semblance of something else from that heady April night. For the travelling Reds, unflinching in their backing for the team, did appear to be partying like it was 1999 all over again. In the first half, ‘The United Calypso’ was sung with gusto and the end was bouncing as, somehow, the Juve crowd were relatively quiet in comparison, despite their vast numerical superiority.
Juventus are one of the favourites to land the trophy and rightly so. Yet, despite the 1-0 reverse at Old Trafford, there was fresh belief a positive result could be attained, against the odds in many pundits’ opinion. Everyone associated with United knows we do belong on this stage.
The homage to 1999 continued as the second half unfolded. The two chants reserved for Roy Keane, the captain who performed so well that night (despite knowing he would miss the final through suspension) were given an airing. Perhaps the fact he has two songs confirms the adulation the Irishman always earned. Then came ‘Oh what a night’, a direct reference to the final and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s goal in injury time, when every Red’s wildest dreams were realised at the end of a season that will celebrated as long as the sport of football is played.
And then came what looked a killer blow. A real dagger through the heart as it came from our former favourite Cristiano Ronaldo. There is no disputing it was a world-class finish from a world-class talent and his gesture to the away fans by way of apology afterwards was really of no consolation.
The United fans did not deserve such a fate and it was always going to be an uphill struggle to get back into the game after that flash of genius from somebody who gave us such joy when we conquered Europe in 2008.
For a spell, the Red voices were drowned out as Juve enjoyed looking to make the game safe by chasing a second goal. Yet the noise started again as we entered the closing stages, hope resurfaced that something could be done to retrieve the situation.
The Allianz Stadium held its breath after Paul Pogba was flattened on the edge of the box. Would Ashley Young or Juan Mata take the responsibility? We know the Spanish substitute is a set-piece specialist and he came up trumps when we needed it most. A new hero for this latest trip to Turin.
The away fans erupted - there is always that little delay when they are at the other end of the stadium before the eruption. What a moment and one to remember for those who travelled to Italy. One that would already have made the excursion, and all the expense, worthwhile.
What was to follow was sheer delirium. A Young ball into the box and panic ensued in the much-revered Juventus backline. Wojciech Szczesny is on the deck and the ball is in the back of the net. Leonardo Bonucci was perhaps guilty of the final touch, the own goal that secured the Reds' victory.
Now all you could hear was United. 'Forever and ever, we'll follow the boys' plus 'We'll keep the red flag flying high' - and they will. And it's for occasions like this. It wasn't quite the monumental comeback of the Treble year but it felt like close to it. United are back? For now, let's just party like it's 1999.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.