Why I thought Teddy was the two-goal hero in 1999
The most famous goal in Manchester United's history. I was there and yet I wrongly identified the scorer, for several minutes, thinking Teddy Sheringham had claimed his second goal at the Nou Camp until somebody kindly corrected me on the matter.
The reason for this was the sheer state of pandemonium high above the goal in Barcelona. As the clock ticked down and Bayern Munich looked to be on the way to winning the Champions League, I don’t think I’ve ever yearned for a goal more. I’ll be honest. Anything from this game would have been a bonus having already secured a third Double in five years.
Having supported United throughout the 1980s, I never think I am greedy for success. My wish here was, having made a trip utilising planes, trains and automobiles, I craved the explosion of joy that a goal for the Reds would bring. That would satisfy me, the club lifting the trophy for the first time since I was born. I was just in dreamland.
I travelled with four friends and we had gone from Eurostar to Paris, stayed over in the capital and flown to Perpignan early in the morning. We then hired a car to drive into Spain and arrived in plenty of time to spend the day in Catalunya, soaking up the sun and mixing with the thousands of Reds. ‘Taking over, taking over, taking over Barcelona’.I’ve been fortunate enough to watch United in Champions League finals in Moscow, Rome and London since but this one, my first, will always feel extra special. Arriving in the ground just as the late Montserrat Caballe belted out her famous hit, originally recorded with Freddie Mercury, and gazing at this incredible sea of supporters in one of the best stadia in the world.
When Mario Basler’s free-kick nestled in the net in front of us, it felt to me like I was the first person to respond by shouting: ‘United, United, United’ – as was the general rallying cry whenever we suffered a setback. I’m sure I wasn’t but I was just feeling so optimistic about the whole occasion and determined to, at least in my mind, pass on some positive vibes!
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This was a time to cherish and enjoy. At one point, as we were all stood on our seats watching the players (sorry Barcelona), I noticed a little lad was unable to properly see from the aisle so I said to his father, I’d step down and let him get a better view to take it all in.And that’s when the enormity of the achievement hit me. ‘Forever and ever, we’ll follow the boys of Man United, the Busby babes.’ I felt so emotional when that anthem belted out from the stands. This was it, fulfilment – something the club had been chasing since 1968. We’d conquered Europe again and won the lot.
I was only 26 at the time but it felt like I was right to take a step back, let others live this moment while I thought about just what it meant - to me, my father and every other United fan on the planet. It will never get better than this. Nothing in football could ever top this most dramatic of comebacks.
Thankfully, it didn’t take long for that feeling of fulfilment to fade with more challenges emerging. Yes, it was a shame to miss out on the homecoming in Manchester as we stayed for a few days on the coast near Barcelona but, kicking a ball around on the beach the day after, I was still feeling on top of the world. This was perhaps surprising because we hadn’t been able to book a hotel so we’d had to grab only a few hours’ sleep in the car the night before!I’ve seen those two goals hundreds of times since. Every time, without fail, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I have a physical reaction to it. It still feels almost surreal to know I was there watching it all unfold in front of my eyes. At least, I've got to clearly see Ole get the final touch. What a feeling, what a night!
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.
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