The latest team in our Premier League Greatest series is the 1998/99 Manchester United squad. Full to the brim of players we now regard as legends of the game, they Sir Alex Ferguson delivered the most successful season in the history of one of world football’s biggest clubs.
Story of the season
The 1998/99 season started like most other seasons did for Manchester United, they came into the league season expecting to win silverware. Unlike many of the previous 7 seasons though, United came into the season not as champions but rather, as a side looking to get back on top following losing the title battle to Arsenal a year earlier.
To do so, they made a host of new signings in the summer, spending over £10m each on two separate players – Dwight Yorke of Aston Villa (£12.6m) and Jaap Stam from PSV Eindhoven (£10.75m).
As well as that pair, they also added Jesper Blomqvist from from Parma, John O’Shea from Waterford Bohemians, Bojan Djordjic from Brommapojkarna and Russell Best from Notts County.
The Premier League season didn’t get off to the greatest of starts in all truth as United failed to win either of their opening two games – but they didn’t lose them either. United drew with both Leicester City and West Ham United, coming into week three of the Premier League season in 11th place.
Then, a couple of convincing wins against Charlton and Coventry gave some semblance of progress, before United went to Arsenal got battered 3-0 at Highbury. It was the first of three losses United would suffer in the league all season – all three of which came before Christmas.
On Boxing Day 1998, Manchester United sat in fifth position in the league having just endured a four game run without a win.
They faced Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford on December 26 and the stadium was packed to the rafters in the late December chill to see a Ronny Johnsen inspired 3-0 win, setting in motion a run that would see United remain unbeaten for the rest of the season.
United did eventually lift the trophy but it went right down to the wire with Arsenal pushing them all the way. United finished with 22 wins, 14 draws and three losses in total – the only difference between them and Arsenal was that Arsenal had one less draw and one more loss. The fine margins that win a title eh?
Of course, there was more to this Manchester United team than the Premier League title they hauled in – they also won two other trophies in this season, hence why they’re always on the list of the greatest teams in English football history.
In the FA Cup, United faced a whole host of impressive teams – needing a replay to beat two of them. On their way to the final United overcame Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Fulham, Chelsea after a replay in round six and Arsenal after a replay in the semi-final. Then, they went on to the final to face Newcastle – also known as my team…
Annoyingly, United never really needed to get out of third gear and dominated the Mags in the final to lift the FA Cup trophy, sealing their second piece of silverware in the season. Then, they went on to the Camp Nou to face Bayern Munich for the pinnacle of all club football trophies – the Champions League.
In the group phase of the competition, United had actually shared a group with Bayern Munich meaning they had already played each other twice. On both of those occasions, the spoils had been shared.
In the group stages as a whole, Bayern got the better of United finishing top of the group by a single point, but it was United who would have the last laugh. The final, which looked to be getting away from United as they trailed by a goal in injury time, saw an absolute miracle occur in Espana.
From a corner kick, United managed to pull the game level through Teddy Sheringham in the first minute of injury time. Then, two minutes later, again from a corner, United pulled off the comeback of all comebacks as Ole Gunnar Solksjaer prodded turned home a Sheringham header to win the game for Manchester United.
United became the first English team to lift the trophy in 15 years, following in the steps of Liverpool who lifted the trophy in 1984. Also, the date of the victory came on the day of Sir Matt Busby’s 90th birthday, a very fitting way to honour the great man.
All-in-all, Manchester United captured all of the three biggest honours on offer for an English football club in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League. An incredible season by all at Old Trafford.
The Manchester United Treble winning team
Now, as a 22-year-old lad, I sadly don’t remember this team playing but from research, I have managed to find the the usual starting 11 that Sir Alex Ferguson used throughout the 98/99 season. Here it is:
Obviously there were other players heavily involved in the team that season, most notably the rest of the fabled ‘Class of 92’. It’s also worth noting that Wes Brown was a part of this squad as an 18-year-old kid – I don’t know if that has surprised you as much as it did me…
Away from the class of 92, strikers Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole had an incredible season, scoring 29 goals in 51 appearances across all competitions. Meanwhile, his strike partner Cole managed 24 goals in his 50 appearances – 53 goals between the pair of them is incredible going.
If you add the goals scored by Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, the number rockets up to 76 goals. To have 76 goals from JUST your striker in one season in frankly incredible. Mind you, I’m not sure there have been many better striker lineups in history than this one…
Moving back through the team, the ever solid Roy Keane in the middle of the park solidified the team while Ronny Johnsen and Jaap Stam at the back provided strength and stability.
An incredible football team built by the greatest manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, was only ever likely to produce one thing – trophies… and boy did they.
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