Manchester United’s Champions League triumph in 1999 in stoppage time against Bayern Munich remains one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest accomplishments till date. It was a testament to his ‘fight till the end’ attitude which gave European football’s highest honour to the Red Devils in dramatic fashion.
United came into the final after registering a remarkable victory against Juventus in the semi-finals by overcoming a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. Despite boosting a side full of football heavyweights like David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Garry Neville, Peter Schmeichel and Andy Cole, they were helpless on the night of the final for most of the encounter.
Fielding his perfect starting XI, Ferguson started cautiously assessing Bayern’s game at first. The Bavarians played a high line, keeping possession bringing numerous attacks in the first half. The German club struck with Mario Basler’s early free kick and dominated thereafter.
United were fading away and failed to create any clear-cut opportunities. Basler almost doubled Bayern’s lead when his long-range effort hit the top of the crossbar, but luckily for United, they were still in the game. Another goal would have ended all hopes.
Ferguson introduced Teddy Sheringham in the 67th minute, and with nine minutes remaining, United’s current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær came to the rescue. The game was on the verge of reaching its zenith. with both sides tirelessly aiming at each other’s goals.
Solskjær had an immediate impact as he almost levelled for the Red Devils before Carsten Janker hit the United crossbar with an acrobatic overhead kick. So near, yet so far for Bayern.
The 90 minutes were up and United found a new rhythm to their game. A corner was awarded in stoppage time, and it was cleared by Bayern’s defence. It reached as far as Ryan Giggs, who attempted a shot that found Sheringham perfectly placed in position to divert the ball inside the post.
Scores were now levelled. Bayern were rattled beyond their senses as they had dictated the game for 90 minutes but were now level on score. The fight for glory was in full swing in those three minutes of stoppage time, as United earned yet another corner. It was now or never. Beckham stepped up and delivered an inch perfect cross into the boss.
Sheringham rose to glide the ball at the back of the net but it ricocheted off his head to find substitute Solskjær at the right spot, who spontaneously struck the ball into the back of the net.
United had pulled off a miracle, and complete pandemonium ensued in the stadium.
"This is the greatest moment of my life and I'm struggling to take it all in," Sir Alex said after the game. "I haven't said anything to my players yet. I've just hugged and kissed them. I've slobbered all over them."
One of the greatest teams in the modern era, United had a successful 1998/99 campaign as they went on to win the treble – Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup — for the first time under Ferguson. It was a sign of better times. It was Fergie time.
Feature image courtesy: AFP