Jesper Blomqvist.

Treble Icons: Jesper Blomqvist

Trebles can only be won with incredible squad depth and, in Jesper Blomqvist, Sir Alex Ferguson boasted a top-class option to Ryan Giggs and David Beckham on the flanks – one that would ultimately prove crucial to Manchester United’s historic 1998/99 season.

The Swede made 38 appearances in his first season at the club – just three less than Giggs – proving himself as an important contributor, especially away in Europe, when he was often preferred for his tactical nous and defensive discipline.
 
Blomqvist famously started the legendary Champions League final against Bayern Munich in Barcelona, taking up a position on the left wing, with Ryan Giggs on the right and David Beckham and Nicky Butt patrolling central midfield. 
Jesper Blomqvist on the pitch at the Nou Camp in 1999.
Jesper joins in the celebrations after United clinch the Treble at the Nou Camp.
Sadly, due to subsequent injury problems, that epic encounter would prove to be our then no.15’s final game for the club. But Jesper will get a chance to reprise his role during the Treble Reunion match on 26 May, two decades down the line, on what is sure to be an emotional and celebratory evening at Old Trafford.
 
Tickets for the game are available to buy here, with all proceeds going to the Manchester United Foundation.

THE NIGHT THE TREBLE WAS WON

Jesper recalls a stressful build-up to the game, with Ferguson having told him three weeks before the match that he would be starting, due to the suspensions of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.

Due to injuries in the weeks leading up to the match, Blomqvist was not able to play much, which left him feeling nervous as the big night approached.

“I should have been enjoying the occasion,” he revealed in Glory Glory! Man United in the ­’90s: the Players’ Stories. “My parents had flown to Spain on Concorde, but I was not relaxed because I felt too much pressure. I didn’t sleep very well the night before.

“I don't remember much,” Blomqvist later revealed. “It was high tension. Afterwards it was joy. I lost my medal on the pitch jumping around and I had to start looking for it. I was scared but I found it in the end!”
BLOMQVIST'S IMPACT ON THE 1998/99 SEASON
 
The Scandinavian wide man played 38 times, including 29 starts, scoring once, with the Official Yearbook for the season assessing that the Swede
“offered much-needed balance”
, particularly in the absence of Giggs – whose injury woes during the final months of the preceding season had cost United the title, according to Ferguson.
 
Having previously played against United in 1994 for IFK Gothenburg – when he gave future colleague David May a torrid evening in a 3-1 defeat for the Reds – Blomqvist had been a target for the club since 1996.
 
He eventually signed from Parma in the summer of 1998 and hit excellent form through the autumn, with strong performances against Everton – against whom he scored his only United goal – Brondby and Southampton.
 
He became a regular as the season progressed and, from mid-April, started seven consecutive matches, beginning with the FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal. That run also included the superb 3-2 win against Juventus in Turin.
 
Frustratingly, a foot problem meant he could not take part in the final weeks of the campaign leading up to the Champions League final, with Ferguson keen to wrap him up in cotton wool to ensure he was available for the big denouement to the season, given the Reds’ suspension issues.

Blomqvist's counter-attack classicVideo

BLOMQVIST'S BEST MOMENTS

Jesper’s highlight was surely his only goal for the club, against Everton. It came via a typically rapid United break, with Keane winning the ball deep in United’s half and unleashing Beckham, who clipped a ball over from the right to the onrunning Swede. 
 
Everton goalkeeper Thomas Myhre made a smart save to deny Blomqvist’s shot, but as the ball looped up, the United winger craned his neck to power an accurate header over the goalline.
 
Blomqvist also excelled in the famous win over Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final replay. He started the match and, although he was replaced before Ryan Giggs’ dramatic extra-time winner, United really should have been out of sight before Arsenal equalised through Dennis Bergkamp.
 
Throughout, Blomqvist was a vital resource for Ferguson, who relied on the Swede often in difficult away games, and when Ryan Giggs was unavailable.
 
WHAT SIR ALEX SAID
 
“The Treble was a seeming impossibility that became a reality but, looking back, I am sure that it would have remained just a plain impossibility had we not shaken off commercial caution and bought Stam, Yorke and Blomqvist.”
Jesper Blomqvist against Everton.
Blomqvist bursts away from the Everton midfield in one of his outstanding performances for United.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE TREBLE?
 
After terrible difficulties with injuries, which meant his three-year United contract expired without him playing another game for the Reds after the 1999 Champions League final, Blomqvist joined Everton in 2001.
 
His form under Walter Smith earned him a Sweden recall, before he moved to Charlton, where knee problems severely affected his ambitions. He returned to Sweden to play for Djurgardens in 2003, but more knee complications forced him to retire from the game, aged 31, in 2005.
Thanks to United fan and Old Trafford season-ticket holder Stanley Chow for his illustrated portrait of Jesper Blomqvist.
 
To see more of his ‘Treble Winners’ collection, visit www.thestanleychowprintshop.com.
 
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