When United arrived in Turin, Alex Ferguson told anyone who would listen that his team would score against Juventus - a deliberate tactic to instil belief in his players and put his opponents on the back foot.
In the dressing room, as his side prepared for the cauldron of the Stadio Delle Alpi, he urged his troops to play with freedom:
“It doesn’t matter if Juventus score because after drawing one-one in the first leg, just one away goal puts the ball back in our court.”
Ferguson wasn’t reckoning on the Italians - buoyed by a dominant first-half display at Old Trafford - going two goals up inside 11 minutes. The 3-1 aggregate deficit was made all the more formidable by the fact that the Bianconeri had not been eliminated from European competition since 1993.
The second of Pippo Inzaghi’s double took a fortuitous deflection of Jaap Stam to loop over a helpless Peter Schmeichel.
But Ferguson was riled by Inzaghi’s first, after after six minutes; Zinedine Zidane played a short corner and whipped in a cross for the Juve striker, who all-too-easily guided the ball over the line from four yards.
How we got ready for battle Gallery
30 rarely-seen images of United preparing for that iconic 1999 semi-final at Juventus.
If Juve’s players were oblivious to it, they soon wouldnt be. After 24 minutes, Roy Keane leapt highest in the penalty area to glance a header inside the far post from David Beckham’s corner. The skipper wasted no time celebrating, sprinting back into position, ready to go again.
From joy to despair: minutes later, Nicky Butt’s loose pass gave Zidane possession and Keane, stretching to reach the ball, clipped the Frenchman and collected a yellow card that ruled him out of the final.
That the Irishman’s performance never wavered is testimony to his character. Ferguson said it was an honour to be associated with Keane, adding:
“Far from inhibiting him, it inspired him. It was a truly selfless contribution and everyone responded.”
Arguably Keane’s most important work - not just scoring, but hauling United back into contention with rhythmic, aggressive passing - had already been done.
Juventus weren’t totally blunted, as Stam - excellent once settled after the early goals - cleared Antonio Conte’s looping header off the line, but United had the momentum. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were blisteringly irresistible up front and the pair soon combined for United’s second.
Cole received Beckham’s knockdown from Gary Neville’s searching ball forward and the Reds’ striker arced an exquisite cross to Yorke, whose diving header found the bottom corner of the net. Juventus were shell-shocked.
From absolute command at 3-1 up to 3-3 on aggregate - with United’s two away goals to the Italians’ one giving them the advantage - all inside 23 minutes.
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“The Juventus crowd, every man, woman and child, rose to applaud United off the pitch. No wonder they clapped until their hands were sore. This was one of England’s - never mind United’s - best performances in Europe. Ever.”
“This is a fantastic night for us,”said Ferguson.
“But what happened to Keane and Scholes is a tragedy. All i can say is that the only two players guaranteed a place [in the FA Cup final] are Scholes and Keane.”Keane, naturally, wasn’t teary-eyed.
“I’m hurting but I’m not going to ponder on it. The most important thing is that we’re in the final - Manchester United is bigger than any one individual.”
“We have the strength to carry on, I know that.”
Highlights: Juventus 2 United 3 in 1999Video
“a captain’s goal”- couldn’t have been more apt as Keane hauled United back into the game. And for a player as team-oriented as the Irishman, this engrossing display of self-sacrifice, in the face of a booking that ruled him out of the final, represented a curious blend of both the zenith and nadir of his playing career.