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Remembering Manchester United’s treble-winning campaign

Alex Ferguson with the European Cup
27 May 1999: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson shows off the European Cup on his return to Manchester after victory in the UEFA Champions League final over Bayern Munich. Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Manchester United’s treble-winning campaign as they faced Bayern Munich on May 26 in the 1999 Champions League final.

Manchester United are still the only club in England to complete a Premier League, FA Cup, and European Cup treble, something they’ve achieved exactly 20 years ago in arguably the most dramatic finish of a Champions League final.

The Red Devils started the season with a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield final and opened the Premier League campaign with two draws, against Leicester City and West Ham United.

Nothing really implied that United are going to reach such a big achievement in the first half of the season, as they won only nine of the first 20 games in the Premier League. The turning point was the 3-2 defeat to Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on December 19, which saw them fall down in fourth on the league table.

It turned out to be United’s last defeat in the 1998-99 campaign in all competitions, as they went on to win nine of the first 10 league games in the new year.

In the FA Cup, Sir Alex Ferguson’s boys were on the brink of a fifth-round defeat against Liverpool, when Dwight Yorke equalized in the 88th minute and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer netted the winner two minutes later.

They were also a bit lucky against Arsenal in the semi-finals, as Peter Schmeichel saved Dennis Bergkamp’s penalty kick in the dying moments of the game, to send the match into extra-time.

Ryan Giggs stole the show there, as the Welshman scored the greatest goal of his career to book United’s place into the FA Cup final against Newcastle.

Sheringham and Scholes scored one each at Wembley, securing a domestic double for Manchester United. There was only one game left for the Red Devils – the Champions League final vs Bayern Munich at Camp Nou.

1999 Champions League final

Manchester United reached their third European final without suffering a single defeat in the 1998-99 Champions League campaign. They started the campaign in the Second qualifying round, winning 2-0 on aggregate against LSK Lodz to book their place in the group stage.

The Red Devils were placed in Group D, alongside Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Brondby. They finished the group stage in second, noting two wins against the Danish side (6-2 and 5-0) and four draws against Barcelona (3-3 and 3-3) and Bayern (2-2 and 1-1).

In the knockout stage, United beat Inter in the quarter-finals (3-1 on aggregate) and produced a stunning comeback at Juventus, getting back from 2-0 down, to win the game 3-2 and qualify for the Champions League final.

Barcelona and Camp Nou hosted the big game, as Manchester United and Bayern Munich went head-to-head for the third time in the 1998-99 campaign. The Red Devils were without first-choice central midfielders Keane and Scholes, as both were suspended after receiving a second yellow card in the semi-final against Juventus.

Mario Basler’s free-kick after six minutes opened the scoring, crushing United’s dreams for a historic treble. The Bavarians were the better opponent during the most period of the game, as Mehmed Scholl hit the post, while Carsten Jancker only found the crossbar.

As the final went to injury time, referee Pierluigi Collina indicated that three minutes would be played, and that’s when the madness had started. United won a corner in the first minute of the injury time, which Beckham took and goalkeeper Schmeichel went up front for.

Bayern’s defense managed to partially clear the ball before being played back to Giggs, who sent a low volley into the path of Sheringham. Cool as he was in front of the goal, Teddy Sheringham put it low inside the post to save United’s treble dreams.

But the game didn’t finish there, as United won another corner in the very last moments of the game. David Beckham whipped in a perfect cross, which landed on Sheringham’s head, who noded it to Ole Gunnar Solskajer.

The Norwegian striker, Sir Alex Ferguson’s super sub, only toe-poked the ball to send it behind Oliver Kahn and win the Champions League for Manchester United. The Red Devils became Champions of Europe, Champions of England and Winners of the FA Cup.