Reliving the Finest Moments of Manchester United's 1998-99 Treble
The greatest teams don’t just dominate domestically, they win the top European trophies too. So, it would be safe to say that the 1998-99 Manchester United team is the greatest team in the English club's history.
May 26, 2020, marked the 21st anniversary of the historic treble and the Red Devils only losing three games in the Premier League while remaining unbeaten throughout all of their Champions League and FA Cup matches.
Ole's goal in the Champions League final might be the greatest single moment in the history of United football and the current United manager inspires every academy fledgling rising up the ranks. Let us take a look at their incredible 10-day journey in May 1999, which was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride.
In the summer of 1998, Sir Alex Ferguson strengthened the squad with the additions of Jesper Blomqvist, Dutch centre-back Jaap Stam and Aston Villa striker Dwight Yorke, while old warhorse Gary Pallister returned to Middlesbrough after nine years for £2.5 million and Brian McClair returned to Motherwell on a free transfer. They faced tough competition from the defending champions, Arsenal, throughout the season and were fighting neck and neck till the final day, in what was one of the greatest moments in English football.
Manchester United lost just three games the entire season; away losses to Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday and a loss against Middlesbrough F.C at Old Trafford.
One of the most memorable matches of the season was the 8-1 away win over Nottingham Forest, which still remains the greatest away win by a United side. This match witnessed our very own baby-faced assassin, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, smash 4 goals in 14 minutes that ripped apart the opposition after coming on as a substitute for the Red Devils.
The Gunners were on the verge of defending the championship, but the 1-0 loss to Leeds in their penultimate match of the season put them on the backseat. The Red Devils were one point ahead of the Gunners going into the final day. Arsenal won their last match against Aston Villa, and it all came down to the wire. Arsenal and United fans were bouncing off the walls and were desperately waiting for the United vs Tottenham fixture at Old Trafford.
Arsenal fans were ecstatic as Tottenham went in front through Les Ferdinand's goal and sent chills down the spine of every United supporter. But a brilliant equaliser from David Beckham and Andrew Cole's final onslaught scripted an epic comeback at Old Trafford on the final day to secure their fifth league championship in seven seasons to establish their dominance as the greatest English side in the Premier League history.
Manchester United had a relatively smooth FA Cup journey and were unbeaten throughout the competition. The first leg quarterfinal against Chelsea ended in a draw, but scored two away goals in the second leg to march through the semifinals. Dwight Yorke scored in each half to secure a comfortable 2-0 victory. Not surprisingly, Arsenal were their semi-final opponent, who did not let the Red Devils breathe a sigh of relief all throughout the season. A controversial off-side decision by the linesman ruled out a goal from Roy Keane and the first leg ended in a goalless draw.
The second leg of the semi final went down as one of the greatest FA cup matches ever played. David Beckham opened the scoring for Red Devils with a beauty, but Dennis Bergkamp equalised halfway through the second half, deflecting off Jaap Stam into the bottom right corner.
Nicolas Anelka netted past Peter Schmiechel soon after, but the linesman pulled up his flag before he even scored the goal. Roy Keane was sent off after receiving his second yellow card of the match, leaving Manchester United with 10 men on the pitch. Peter Schmiechel saved a crucial penalty to take the match to extra time. In the second half of extra time, Ryan Joseph Giggs, one of the greatest left-wingers in the history of Manchester United football, cashed in on a Patrick Vieira error and danced past 4 defenders to score past Seaman into the roof of the Arsenal net.
Giggs removed his shirt and the whole stadium erupted in joy.
The Red Devils went on to win the match 2-1 at Villa Park and this victory proved to be the perfect motivation for their final match Premier League match against Tottenham to grab hold of the silverware for the fifth time in seven seasons.
Watch - Manchester United 2-1 Tottenham Premier League Highlights
6 days after the Premier League victory, Manchester United faced Newcastle United in the FA Cup final at the old Wembley Stadium. Teddy Sheringham came on as a substitute for Roy Keane and scored a goal within two minutes to put the Red Devils ahead early in the match. Then a Paul Scholes screamer after the first half ensured a comfortable 2-0 victory for United to win their 10th FA Cup.
Watch - Arsenal vs Manchester United FA Cup Semi Final Highlights
A treble which seemed elusive at the start of the season now looked inevitable and dramatically brought the treble one step closer to glorious reality.
The Champions League will always provide us with moments of brilliance to remember, but in terms of drama, competition, and excitement, the 1998-99 season has been one of the greatest.
Manchester United became the first English team to win Europe's biggest competition since 1984 and still remains one of the greatest moments in English football. The Red Devils remained unbeaten throughout the competition, despite having competed in a group with Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Brøndby. They had to face two Italian giants in the knockout stages, but emerged victorious to set a date with Bayern Munich in the final at Camp Nou.
Just four days after knocking down Newcastle United in the FA Cup final, they had to travel miles for the all important clash against the Bavarian giants. The two sides had played each other earlier in the group stage, with both the legs ending in a draw.
Captain Roy Keane and Paul Scholes could not play the final due to suspension and David Beckham joined Nicky Butt in the central midfield to control the possession in the middle of the pitch. Ronny Johnsen viciously fouled Bayern striker Jancker just outside the area, and Basler put the ball past Peter Schmiechel into the net with a beautiful low free-kick to open the scoring for Bayern in the sixth minute.
The German outfit were in an ultra attacking mode at the start of the second half and provided no room for error. With the game drifting away from United, Alex Ferguson brought in Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to up the ante in the final moments of the game. Both of them did not disappoint with two goals against the momentum of the game to script a historic comeback. The entire Bayern camp was filled with despair. The Schmiechel cartwheel after the second goal was surely one of the highlights of the game and the United fans at Camp Nou roared like a lion.
Manchester United fans were on cloud nine after defeating Bayern Munich in the final to complete a historic treble, the first Premier League club to do so. These 10 intriguing days were filled with ecstasy, collywobbles, and jubilation and will be etched in their memory for a long time.
© 2020 Viraj Shah