Six times United had to score away in Europe
Manchester United go to the world-famous San Siro on Thursday at a slight disadvantage, having drawn the first leg of our Europa League tie 1-1 at home.
With AC Milan registering that late away goal, courtesy of Simon Kjaer’s header, the Reds have to at least score in Italy to have any chance of avoiding a last-16 exit, which is something we’ve failed to do in four of our five away meetings with the Rossoneri.
It’s a fairly rare occasion for us to be in – over the years, we have become accustomed to playing second legs at Old Trafford (as a reward for winning our group), or taking a first-leg lead at the Theatre of Dreams, as happened against Inter Milan in 1999 and Arsenal in 2009, among others.
But as these six ties from history prove, drawing in M16 doesn’t necessarily have to result in an early elimination…
3-2 v EVERTON, FAIRS CUP 1964-65
The Reds’ first foray into the old Inter-Cities Fairs Cup got off to a flying start, with Djurgardens of Sweden dispatched 7-2 on aggregate, prior to a 10-1 shellacking of Borussia Dortmund in the following round. United were joined by the European heavyweights of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus at the next stage, played after Christmas, but it was the more familiar faces of Everton who came out of the hat. Harry Catterick’s Toffees had finished third, a point behind United, the previous season and Fred Pickering’s early goal at Old Trafford left Sir Matt Busby’s men with an uphill task to qualify. John Connelly soon equalised, but that was all she wrote in terms of the home leg and qualification for the quarters was ultimately down to Connelly and David Herd goals at Goodison, either side of another Pickering effort.
3-3 v DUKLA PRAGUE, CUP WINNERS' CUP 1982-83
Ron Atkinson’s ‘reward’ for masterminding the FA Cup triumph over Brighton was a first-round draw with Dukla Prague. One of the most famous names in Czechoslovakian football, the army side could boast 11 top-flight titles, plus a European Cup semi-final finish in 1967 and, for half an hour in September 1983, it looked like they would be the team to bring United’s proud home unbeaten European run to an end. Tomas Kriz’s opener stunned Old Trafford and it took an 89th-minute penalty from the late Ray Wilkins to give us hope heading to the Eastern bloc. In Prague, the home side raced into the lead through a Frantisek Stambachr stunner, but a typical Bryan Robson long-ranger and Frank Stapleton’s towering header were enough to see us through, even if Vaclav Danek did deny United a first-ever Cup Winners' Cup away win.
5-4 v DUNDEE UNITED, UEFA CUP 1984-85
The following year saw Atkinson’s men embark on one of United’s most memorable European campaigns, but our next entry is from the less-heralded UEFA Cup run from the following season. Jim McClean’s Dundee United had won their only Scottish title in 1983 and would go on to make the UEFA Cup final later in the decade, and they flexed their muscles in securing a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in the first leg, with the Scottish side twice responding to strikes from Gordon Strachan and Bryan Robson. That trick was repeated at Tannadice two weeks later - Mark Hughes and a Gary McGinnis own goal giving United the lead twice – and the tie was headed to extra time before Arnold Muhren’s strike from the edge of the box was deflected into the back of the net, to give us a 5-4 lead which would not be assailed.
3-1 v MONTPELLIER, CUP WINNERS' CUP 1990-91
United’s pursuit of the Cup Winners' Cup, in our first European campaign for six years after the Heysel ban on English sides, would ultimately be fruitful, but reigning Coupe de France champions Montpellier posed a serious threat to our goal after securing a credible 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the quarter-final first leg. Brian McClair’s slide-in finish from Lee Sharpe’s cutback was the ideal way to start, but Lee Martin’s unfortunate own goal left us needing to score in France, against a side featuring future Red Laurent Blanc, plus Colombia legend Carlos Valderrama. Another early goal, this time a Clayton Blackmore free-kick, spilt by keeper Claude Barrabe, allowed the Reds to set the tempo, and when Steve Bruce converted a second-half penalty, United were well on the way to taking another step on the path to Rotterdam.
4-3 v JUVENTUS, CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 1998-99
One of the greatest European comebacks ever didn’t look quite so difficult prior to Pippo Inzaghi’s quickfire double at the Stadio Delle Alpi, but Antonio Conte’s first-half opener at Old Trafford two weeks earlier had secured a crucial away goal for Marcelo Lippi’s charges, who were seeking to become the first side to make it to four consecutive finals since Real Madrid’s vintage 1950s side. Ryan Giggs’s last-gasp strike gave United hope, but the Old Lady – given their recent European pedigree and the fact we’d never won on Italian soil – would have edged the bookmakers’ odds for the second leg even before their early rally in Turin. That Alex Ferguson's side scored three unanswered goals to book a date with destiny in Barcelona is still one of the most astounding achievements in a season packed full of the bewildering.
3-2 v PORTO, CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2008-09
As reigning European champions, United fans could have been forgiven for thinking we’d been handed the plum tie of the round, especially with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Liverpool on the other side of the draw. That notion had to be re-evaluated after an under-par performance against Porto at Old Trafford, which threatened at times to bring our newly held record of 21 matches unbeaten in the European Cup to a premature end. Cristian Rodriguez capitalised on some ropey defending to open the scoring after four minutes, before Wayne Rooney latched on to a disastrous backpass to equalise. With five minutes to go Carlos Tevez turned home at the near post to seemingly get the off-colour Reds out of jail, only for Mariano Gonzalez to net another away goal in the dying minutes and leave United up against it, with the Dragons having never lost to English opposition on home soil. Fortunately, Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal of the return leg – and what a strike it was - to secure our passage to the last four.