6 times the group stage had Old Trafford rocking!
Manchester United's home Champions League campaign kicks off on Wednesday, with Villarreal visiting the Theatre of Dreams in Group F.
With fans back for continental clashes at Old Trafford for the first time in over 18 months, we thought we’d take a look back at six times United had the ground rocking in the competition…
2-2 v BARCELONA (1994)
Ten years on from one of the stadium's greatest-ever European nights, United and Barca served up another classic in what was our first group-stage involvement. Only 40,000 were in attendance due to European restrictions, but they made the roar of a crowd double the size when Mark Hughes nodded us into the lead after 20 minutes. Johan Cruyff's side had made the final just months previously and showed their class, with Romario and Jose Mari Bakero netting to put our unbeaten continental home record under severe threat. Lee Sharpe saved the day 10 minutes from time, though, subtly backheeling Roy Keane's cross beyond the diving Carles Busquets.
3-2 v JUVENTUS (1997)
Having twice been humbled by Marcello Lippi’s Bianconeri the previous season, the Reds finally came of age in Europe against the Old Lady, on a night best remembered for Ryan Giggs’s slaloming clincher. The Serie A champions took a first-minute lead through Alessandro Del Piero, as the Italians threatened to cause United more pain, but Teddy Sheringham’s header – set up by tour-de-force Giggs – restored parity and, when Didier Deschamps was sent off for a second booking, the home side grasped the opportunity. Paul Scholes bundled his way through to make it 2-1 and then Giggs had his moment. Zinedine Zidane scored a late consolation, but Alex Ferguson’s men had finally scratched that black-and-white itch.
3-3 v BARCELONA (1998)
The Catalans were many experts’ pre-season pick to win the competition, but those predictions were made to look foolish in a rampant opening half-hour at the Theatre of Dreams, with Giggs and Scholes netting for United who, unusually for a home game, were clad in all-white. The Spanish champions rallied after the break though, as formality turned to thriller. Sonny Anderson thrashed home from just inside the box, before Giovanni converted from the spot after a Jaap Stam foul on Rivaldo. David Beckham curled in an outrageous free-kick from 25 yards, but further drama was to come. Nicky Butt diverted a goalbound effort away with his hand and was sent off, leaving Luis Enrique to slot home from the spot and complete the scoring in an all-time classic which would go on to be repeated at the Nou Camp two months later.
6-2 v FENERBAHCE (2004)
The greatest debut in United history? Wayne Rooney’s Reds bow, delayed by a month due to injury, was much anticipated but even those who had watched the 18-year-old’s age-defying performances at Euro 2004 couldn’t have expected this. All three goals were brilliant, scored from outside the area: a left-footed strike into the roof of the net, a right-foot rifler and a whipped free-kick. The Reds won 6-2, with Giggs, Ruud van Nistelrooy and David Bellion also on the scoresheet, but the headlines were all one man’s.
3-2 v CELTIC (2006)
An expectant Old Trafford certainly got their money’s worth from this 'Battle of Britain' clash, even if all five goals were compressed into a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 26-minute spell either side of half-time. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink gave the Glaswegians the lead, before a Louis Saha double – the first from the spot – turned the score on its head. Shunsuke Nakamura curled home a free-kick to make it 2-2 at half-time, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer popped up at the back post, two minutes after the interval, to win it. Celtic would have their revenge in the reverse fixture – Nakamura again – but United did enough to qualify and would eventually progress to the semi-final.
2-1 v SPORTING (2007)
Comeback victories get the crowd roaring, last-minute wins from behind are even better and three points secured in that manner through absolutely brilliant goals… well, they’re just special. Cristiano Ronaldo struck from a free-kick out wide in added time to drive a dagger through his former club’s heart, after Carlos Tevez had levelled Abel’s early goal. The set-piece ensured United finished top of our group, helping clear the path for our eventual run to the Moscow final. And we all know what happened there…