Manchester United's 20 Most Memorable Goals of the Past 20 Years

Jonathan Beever@@jonathanbeeverCorrespondent IIIDecember 21, 2012

Manchester United's 20 Most Memorable Goals of the Past 20 Years

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    It was almost 20 years ago that Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United won the Premier League for the first time, and so began a relentless domination of English football that lasts to this very day.

    Over those years, the Red Devils have secured numerous honours including 12 Premiership titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two UEFA Champions Leagues, one Intercontinental Cup and one FIFA World Club Cup.

    Along the way, some great goals have been scored. Defining goals, beautiful goals, majestic goals and downright sexy goals—goals that will remain etched in a fan’s memory for eternity.

    From gritty, crucial match winners to sheer football poetry in motion, Manchester United has produced some memorable moments over the past two decades.

    Let's take a look at them...

    Do you agree or disagree with the choices? Let me know your thoughts below or hit me up on Twitter @jonathanbeever.

Michael Owen vs. Manchester City Premier League 2009-10

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    In one of the most entertaining derbies ever, the final result read 4-3 to Manchester United.

    Michael Owen scored the winner deep into stoppage time to break Manchester City fans' hearts.

    The game had ebbed and flowed with Manchester United taking the lead on three separate occasions, only for Manchester City to pull the scores level each time.

    Owen scored the winner six minutes into stoppage time to unleash a tide of raw emotion among United fans as they enjoyed the bragging rights once again.

    Roy Keane's goal to win 2-3 in the dramatic 1993-94 Maine Road derby came close to earning its place here, but just missed out.

Denis Irwin vs. Wimbledon FA Cup 5th Round 1993-94

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    Denis Irwin's fantastic finish against Wimbledon in the 1993-94 FA Cup fifth round was the culmination of one of Manchester United's best ever team goals.

    The team move, which contained 14 passes before Irwin received the ball from Paul Ince, illustrated how accomplished the 1993-94 side had become.

    The Old Trafford outfit went on to achieve the first League and Cup double in the club's history, and only a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa in the League Cup Final prevented them from securing a domestic treble.

    The fluid movement and incisive passing seen in this goal became typical of a team that some would argue was Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest ever.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær vs. Liverpool FA Cup 4th Round 1998-99

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    When Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored to win 2-1 against Liverpool in the 1998-99 FA Cup fourth round, it became the pivotal point of Manchester United's treble-winning season.

    United looked to be facing defeat up until 88 minutes when a David Beckham free-kick found Andy Cole, whose cushioned header gifted Dwight Yorke with a close range equaliser.

    An acute relief descended on Old Trafford, but that was nothing to compare with the ecstatic celebrations which followed.

    Deep into stoppage time, Solskjær received the ball, wrong-footed Liverpool's defence and struck his 90th minute winner to send the United fans into raptures of euphoria.

Andy Cole vs. Tottenham Hotspur Premier League 1998-99

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    Manchester United needed to win the final league game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur to ensure the Premiership trophy would return to Old Trafford. 

    The atmosphere was tense, the fans were nervous wrecks and United went one-nil down. David Beckham drew level with a lovely strike on 43 minutes into the top corner of Spurs' goal, but United need a second.

    An inspired substitution by Sir Alex Ferguson saw Andy Cole introduced to the action.

    What happened next seemed to occur in slow-motion: a perfectly weighted lob from six yards by Cole, over the advancing Ian Walker and into the back of the net.

    The crowd went wild.

Andy Cole vs. Barcelona UEFA Champions League 1998-99

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    This beautifully executed goal was the first sign of the devastating partnership that was developing between Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole.

    In the cauldron atmosphere of Camp Nou, Yorke and Cole exchanged the ball seamlessly, shredding the Barcelona defence wide open.

    Cole finished the move ruthlessly to make the score 2-1 to Manchester United in the group stages of the 1998-99 UEFA Champions League.

    The telepathic understanding between Yorke and Cole would be fundamental to the unprecedented success Manchester United would enjoy that year. 

Andy Cole vs. Juventus UEFA Champions League Semi Final 1998-99

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    Andy Cole scored the winner against Juventus to take Manchester United through to the 1998-99 UEFA Champions League Final in dramatic fashion.

    At the Stadio delle Alpi, Juventus had gone two goals ahead in a game that Manchester United needed to win in order to progress.

    On foreign soil, against the fantastic Italian side and looking dead and buried, Manchester United managed to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in its history.

    The game ended 2-3 to Manchester United: Full steam ahead, Barcelona...

Roy Keane vs. Juventus UEFA Champions League Semifinal 1998-99

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    The 1998-99 UEFA Champions League Semifinal against Juventus at the Stadio delle Alpi stadium produced the embodiment of the perfect captain's goal.

    As mentioned in the previous slide, Manchester United was trailing 2-0 against a very strong Juventus side.

    United looked destined to once again fail in European competition until its captain, Roy Keane, almost single-handedly resuscitated a slowing heart rate that looked ready to flatline.

    The domineering midfield general rose sternly to meet a corner delivered by David Beckham and headed into the Juventus goal.

    There was little celebration from Keane, just a determined punch of the air and a rallying cry to his teammates. It was the lifeline United needed.

Paul Scholes vs. Barcelona UEFA Champions League Semifinal 2007-08

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    Manchester United had succeeded in securing a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou against Barcelona in the first leg of the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League Semifinal.

    The second leg at Old Trafford was a very cagey affair with Michael Carrick admirably protecting a United defence that was missing the domineering Serbian Nemanja Vidic.

    The match needed just one moment of magic—cue Paul Scholes.

    Manchester United's legendary midfielder picked the ball up in the centre of the park and then smacked it with such velocity from 25 yards that it rocketed into the top corner of the Barcelona net passed an outstretched Victor Valdés. 

    United progressed to the final where they beat Chelsea to lift the prestigious trophy for a third time.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy vs. Fulham Premier League 2002-03

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    After receiving the ball on the halfway line and wriggling out of a challenge from Fulham midfielder Sylvain Legwinski, Ruud van Nistelrooy embarked on a powerful, yet intricate, run past various defenders before slotting home past Maik Taylor.

    It was a fantastic individual goal that proved van Nistelrooy was not just a goal poacher, but a player that could create his own opportunities to score.

    A truly memorable goal from a truly memorable Manchester United striker.

Éric Cantona vs. Sunderland Premier League 1996-97

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    Éric Cantona's goal against Sunderland in December 1996 was sheer poetry in motion.

    What's even more memorable about this goal though was Cantona's muted yet charismatic celebration—slowly turning with his shoulders back, ready to accept the adulation of his audience.

    Upon receiving the ball in the middle of the park, Cantona expertly created space for himself, despite being surrounded by three Sunderland players.

    Éric the King then interchanged with Brian McClair before chipping the ball delicately over the goalkeeper, floating it perfectly into the top corner of the goal.

    A wonderfully sublime goal that will be talked about by United fans for many years to come—it had the brilliance of Cantona stamped all over it. 

Ronaldo vs. Arsenal UEFA Champions League Semifinal 2008-09

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    In nine devastating seconds, Manchester United had executed a counterattack that was so destructive, Arsenal never recovered.

    The UEFA Champions League Semifinal second leg at the Emirates Stadium was lit up by what was possibly United's best ever example of how to turn defence to attack in the blink of an eye.

    A header out of United's box fell to Ronaldo, who quickly brought Park Ji-Sung into play with a deft back heel. Park moved the ball wide to Wayne Rooney, who waited for the perfect moment to slide a cross-field pass into Ronaldo, who slotted home with ease.

    A superb team goal.

Paul Scholes vs. Aston Villa Premier League 2006-07

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    Paul Scholes' volley against Aston Villa in 2006 was simply breathtaking.

    Following a corner, the ball was dropping from high after taking a deflection off a Villa defender's head. It was falling to Scholes who was stood 26 yards from goal.

    One simple swipe of his right leg connected perfectly with the ball, which bulleted towards the goal, hitting the underside of the crossbar on its way.

    It was spectacular. It was Paul Scholes.

Wayne Rooney vs. Newcastle Premier League 2004-05

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    In Wayne Rooney's first season at Old Trafford, he came with a very big reputation. Any concerns that he may sink under the pressure of expectation was quickly dispelled with this unbelievable volley against Newcastle.

    Rooney had seemingly been having a conversation with the referee while live play was occurring around him. From the corner of his eye he spotted a high ball coming his way. Rooney moved towards it and smashed the ball from 25 yards into the back of the net.

    A number of superlatives could be used to describe this wondergoal, but it was the sheer ferocity of the strike that makes it stick in the memory.

Ronaldo vs. Portsmouth Premier League 2007-08

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    For weeks after the game, all the talk was about Ronaldo's free kick.

    It flew like an exocet missile past a dumbfounded David James who remained firmly rooted to the ground. James had no choice but to watch and admire.

    Sir Alex Ferguson suggested it was the best free-kick he had ever seen, and studio pundits looked flabergasted by its technique and baffled by its denial of the laws of physics.

    From 28 yards, Ronaldo stepped back, composed himself and then hit the ball over the defensive wall with such power it seemed impossible that it would remain on target.

    Seemingly laser-guided, at the very last second the ball took an unfeasible dip to land remarkably, unbelievably into the back of the net.


Steve Bruce vs. Sheffield Wednesday Premier League 1992-93

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    The turning point in Manchester United's modern history could be traced back to Steve Bruce's header against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993.

    United was desperate for the points in order to secure its first League championship in 26 years.

    The game was deep into stoppage time, when United's captain Bruce landed a sweet header to score a landmark goal in the story of the Red Devils.

    The dramatic winner, scored in the 97th minute, also gave birth to rival fans' embittered criticism of the added time United is alleged to receive as a competitive advantage.

    This eventually became known as "Fergie time" (via

Eric Cantona vs. Liverpool FA Cup Final 1995-96

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    An FA Cup Final between the two biggest rivals in English football is always going to be a tense affair.The sense of occasion was overwhelming, but the match itself was quite the reverse.

    It was dogged and tense with neither side willing to take a gamble—the stake was too high.

    A moment of magic was needed, and it arrived in the form of Manchester United's talisman, Éric Cantona.

    In a display of superb technique, he somehow managed to manoeuvre his body in such a way that would seem unnatural to a mere human being. Then, through a crowd of players, he struck the ball with an assured control that only he was capable of.

    Éric the King had won the FA Cup.

Wayne Rooney vs. Manchester City Premier League 2010-11

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    Just sheer brilliance. Wayne Rooney's spectacular overhead kick is an image that will remain with fans for generations.

    The Manchester derby was finely balanced at 1-1, when from the right, Nani crossed in a ball that split Manchester City's two defenders and gave Rooney the opportunity to make an attempt at the ultimate spectacular goal.

    The overhead kick is revered among football fans and when Rooney shaped his body, connected with the ball and saw it fly cleanly into the net, he etched himself into United folklore.

    The very fact it was against United's bitter rival made the spectacle even more potent.

David Beckham vs. Wimbledon Premier League 1996-97

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    This goal announced David Beckham had arrived.

    He had come through Manchester United's academy, had been on loan at Preston and had now replaced terrace-favourite Andrei Kanchelskis—all eyes were on him.

    Then one sunny afternoon at Selhurst Park, Beckham scored a phenomenal goal that remains one of the most revered goals in Premiership history.

    From the halfway line, some 50 yards from goal, Beckham spotted goalkeeper Neil Sullivan was off his line and smacked a shot high in the air that eventually settled underneath the crossbar.

    It had never been seen in England before—Beckham was here to educate us.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vs. Bayern Munich UEFA Champions League Final 1998-99

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    What can be said about this goal that has not already been said?

    Very nearly the winner of 20 memorable goals, the commentary that ran alongside the video footage still rings in Manchester United fans' ears nearly 14 years on.

    For many, it still feels surreal. It still brings out goose pimples in fans every time they see or even hear this immortal goal being scored.

    The goal brought Manchester United an unprecedented treble of trophies, and is perhaps the pinnacle moment in the history of the world famous club.

Ryan Giggs vs. Arsenal FA Cup Semifinal Replay 1998-99

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    So, for the winner.

    This goal represents the moment that many Manchester United fans felt something historic was about to occur at the club.

    The game itself had everything: players sent off, disallowed goals and penalty saves. It has gone down in many people's books as the greatest game of football in United's history.

    So, it felt apt that perhaps the greatest goal in United's history was scored in this game.

    Ryan Giggs' superb dribble around floundering Arsenal defenders and then the rocket shot into the top corner of the net was the springboard with which Manchester United went on to win an historic treble for the first time in top-level European football history.

    It was the most memorable goal of the past 20 years.