Could there have been a second United Treble?
Wayne Rooney’s UTD Podcast charts the many highs of our all-time leading goalscorer’s Manchester United career, but there is one moment when the 35-year-old looks back at what might have been.
The 2007/08 season was undoubtedly one of the best in the history of the club, with United lifting the Premier League trophy, plus, the Champions League at the end of the season.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side missed out on the opportunity to match the still unique achievement of our 1999 Treble-winning heroes, losing 1-0 in the FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford to a Portsmouth side who went on to win the trophy at Wembley.
That defeat still rankles with Wayne, who jokingly suggests Sir Alex’s selection of Rio Ferdinand, and not him, to play in goal after substitute keeper Tomasz Kuszczak’s sending off, was a huge error of judgement, as Sulley Muntari tucked away a late penalty for the only goal of the game.
“We should have had it,” Rooney ruminates. “Still to this day I think of that Portsmouth game here and to this day, I think the biggest mistake the manager made was not putting me in goal! Honestly, have you seen Rio’s dive [for the penalty]?
“I used to practise after training, when I’d finished all my stuff, and I’d go with the goalie coach and the keepers and I’d go in goal. I’d practise kicking with the keepers, practise saving.
“I was just energetic! I had too much energy. I always remember saying that if the keeper gets sent off any time, you have to put me in, but I think he was worried that I probably wouldn’t have saved it, so that we’d be 1-0 down and he’d need me to try and score.
“Why Rio? Probably because he was the biggest!”
While podcast co-host David May, part of the Treble-winning squad, is happy that he and his team-mates can still boast about their unique season, Wayne remembers the cup defeat being a bone of contention in the dressing room at the time. The disappointment of defeat is felt even more sharply considering our path to cup success could have been relatively straightforward, at least compared to that marathon 1998/99 campaign.
In fact, he says that Sir Alex gave the players the silent treatment for at least a fortnight afterwards, although, in the end, claiming a 17th league title and the biggest club trophy of all, probably placated the great man.
“After that game, I think Portsmouth played Middlesbrough [actually West Brom] and Cardiff in the semi-final and final.
“I remember the boss, he didn’t speak a word for two weeks to us! He knew that was the chance of doing the Treble again [gone].”