Treble Icons: Henning Berg
Henning Berg was one of the unsung heroes of the Treble campaign for Manchester United, coming up trumps when it was needed most.
The former Blackburn Rovers defender did, unfortunately, suffer from injuries but emerged as a stout partner for Jaap Stam and a regular contributor, particularly in Europe.
Unfortunately, knee-ligament damage sustained in the Champions League semi-final first leg with Juventus ruled him out of the incredible climax, and denied him the chance to perform at the Nou Camp against Bayern Munich, when he may well have started, allowing Ronny Johnsen to move into midfield.
The Norwegian will, at least get a chance, to feature against Bayern in the Treble Reunion clash on 26 May, 20 years after that fateful night in Barcelona.
Tickets for the showdown are still available to buy, with all proceeds going to the Manchester United Foundation.
"Unfortunately, it wasn't the best time to get injured with all those games coming up!" Berg told us. "I wouldn't have played in all of them, I know, but maybe a few of the semi-finals and finals.
"Either way, the important thing was that the team won. I am not saying it was fate, but you can get the sense that something like that played a part, especially when you consider that it was on Sir Matt Busby’s birthday. If you look at the final and analyse it, you have to ask how we could win it when you see the chances they had and missed. Suddenly, we scored two late goals and it was unbelievable.
"I would be lying to say it was the same as if I’d been playing, but I was still absolutely delighted, of course, and I felt privileged to be part of that team.”
BERG'S PART IN THE 1998/99 SEASON
The Scandinavian played 29 times, 21 as a starter, and would have featured more extensively had he been available more often. He did not score but defending was very clearly his remit and he did this effectively whenever called upon by Alex Ferguson.
A title-winner with Blackburn, he joined United in 1997 and began the Treble campaign as a substitute, coming on in the 2-2 draw with Leicester City in the Premier League. He was promoted to the XI for the goalless draw at West Ham United in the next fixture and was regularly involved afterwards.
By being part of a stretch of six out of seven clean sheets in matches he was selected for, between late January and mid-March, it was clear he was hitting top form at the right time.
His most valuable contributions came against Inter Milan in the Champions League quarter-finals, before sustaining the knee injury in the last four against Juventus.
"Even if I hadn’t played many of the Premier League games, the manager felt that I was more suited to play in Europe and in the big games," he said. "And those two games against Inter were where I did some decisive things for the team that were easy for others to see and remember."
It is straightforward to recall Berg's best moments for the season - as they both came against Inter Milan. A goalline clearance denied Francesco Colonnese a crucial away goal in the first leg at Old Trafford and he was our saviour again in the San Siro, when Chilean hitman Ivan Zamorano seemed certain to score.
"I had to stretch and try to get a touch on the ball," the centre-back recalled. "It was gamble because it is very possible to score an own goal from those positions but I knew, if I didn’t get anything on it, then he would have scored. I just concentrated on touching it, getting something on it that would take the ball away from him and I was lucky enough to do so. It was a good interception and I was surprised that I connected the way I did because it was the right connection."
EXPERT INSIGHT AND OPINION
Sir Alex Ferguson...
"He made two of the best goalline clearances I have ever seen in my life in the year we won the Champions League.
"It was incredible really. Henning was always a good pro and he could defend the penalty area really well."
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE TREBLE?
The first player to win the Premier League with two clubs battled back from injury to gain a first-team spot when fellow countryman Ronny Johnsen was sidelined in the 1999/2000 term.
United won the Premier League by a huge 18 points ahead of second-placed Arsenal, and Berg played 37 games in all competitions, including both legs against Real Madrid in a classic Champions League quarter-final contest.
In September 2000, he rejoined Blackburn - initially on loan - and won the League Cup with Graeme Souness's men in his second season with the Ewood Park club.
However, he ended his career in Scotland, by spending a campaign with Rangers in 2003/04.
Thanks to United fan and Old Trafford season-ticket holder Stanley Chow for his illustrated portrait of Henning Berg.
To see more of his ‘Treble Winners’ collection, visit www.thestanleychowprintshop.com.
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