Manchester United: Barcelona 99 and 10 Greatest Moments of the Ferguson Era

Terry CarrollContributor IIISeptember 22, 2011

Manchester United: Barcelona 99 and 10 Greatest Moments of the Ferguson Era

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    In 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson at last matched the achievement of his mentor and illustrious predecessor, Sir Matt Busby by winning the European Champions League in Barcelona.

    Few Manchester United fans will ever forget this moment when Solskjaer scored. It's one of those "I remember where I was when..." experiences.

    There have been a multitude of special moments in Fergie's 25-year reign. Each of you will treasure your own and can replay them in your mind.

    Here, we set forth a selection for you to relive. Once again the choice was daunting and once again they are not in any particular order. Some are significant for their impact at the time; some marked a turning point, or were the culmination of a long-term effort. Please add your own in the comments section.

    The 'next 10' that didn't make it were:

    Beating Porto 4-0 in the 1997 ECL semi-final

    Beating Roma 7-1 in the 2007 ECL quarter-final

    Beating Arsenal 3-1 in the 2008 ECL semi-final

    Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2

    Manchester United 6 Arsenal 1 on the way to winning the 2000 EPL by 18 points

    Rooney's goal against City 2011

    Rooney's hat-trick on debut against Fenerbahce 2004

    Manchester United 1 Barcelona 0 in 2008 - Paul Scholes' goal

    Solskjaer's four goals in 10 minutes off the bench against Forest in 1999

    United's 5-2 comeback to beat Spurs and win the EPL in 2009

    So here's Barcelona 1999 and the next 10 best moments in Sir Alex Ferguson's reign...

Barcelona 99

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    George Best had left the stadium before the end with Bayern winning 1-0...

    I can't watch this video without a tear in the eye. The only seat I could get for the Barcelona Final was on my sofa at home. My wife came in with three minutes to go and asked how the match was going...I couldn't answer her...I was so down...

    Five minutes later, I was running round the house like a screaming banshee, bellowing "we've done it, we've done it" at the top of my voice.

    There wasn't been a moment like it since 1968. We, the United fans had lived through the bad years, the dominance of Liverpool, the slide into the Second Division and all the other disappointments. Now Fergie had changed all that forever.

    The extraordinary thing is how Bayern let it slip away. At 1-0 they were still trying to score. At 1-1 the German heads went down but, with seconds to go, Oliver Kahn sent the ball upfield when it was crying out for someone to take it into the corner and play 'keep-ball.'

    Teddy Sheringham came off the bench to give us hope and then the greatest 'supersub' ever made all our dreams a reality.

    Nothing ever, for the rest of our lives, can erase that sublime moment...

No. 19

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    Nothing sums up Sir Alex Ferguson's achievements better than winning the 19th title, to 'knock Liverpool of their perch.'

    When Sir Alex set that goal all those years ago, who would have dreamed that it would literally come true, under the same manager?

    It is an extraordinary success that will never be matched: 12 titles in the last 18 years. And already United have their best start ever, scoring goals for fun.

    OK, it would have been nice to win the title at Old Trafford, but at least we get more tickets at Blackburn than many places.

    Blackburn scoring first started us thinking we may have to beat Blackpool in the last match to be sure (which we did), but Wayne's penalty settled everything and the celebrations began.

ECL Final 2008: Van Der Saar's Save

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    My goodness, how many times do you have to go through the wringer to be a United fan?

    True, they've won more than anyone in England, but 36 years ago they were in the old Second Division having won a total of 18 top level trophies. Since then they've won a further 40, including a stunning 35 under Sir Alex's leadership alone.

    And yet every one counts. In its context, none more so than the European Champions League in 2008.

    Roman Abramovich had rebuilt Chelsea with his billions and with the primary goal of winning the ECL. The match was very tight on the night, finishing 1-1 after extra time.

    It went to penalties and, when Cristiano Ronaldo of all people missed his, many may have feared the worst.

    Wayne Rooney's missed penalty on Sunday was reminiscent of John Terry's gaffe three years ago. Even then, the scores were level.

    Cometh the hour, cometh the man and, approaching the end of his illustrious career, Edwin van der Saar pulled off the save from Anelka that sent 300 million fans into rapture.

    A moment to savour...

Fergie Gets a Reprieve

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    It has often been said that the Gaffer's position was seriously at risk and, following a run of seven games without a win, if United had lost this 1990 FA Cup match against Forest, he would have been sacked.

    In that case, an unlikely hero, Mark Robins, saved Sir Alex Ferguson's job.

    Considering what Sir Alex and United have achieved since, we owe him and the team on the day a great debt.

Steve Bruce's Goal

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    United went on to win the FA Cup Final in 1990 and, following their success in the European Cup-Winners Cup in 1990/1, Sir Alex promised that United would win the League in the following year. That didn't happen.

    The key event that changed history was the signing of Eric Cantona from Leeds in 1992. Ferguson had tried and failed to buy Alan Shearer as the last piece of his jigsaw. He had already begun to integrate youth with experience, as he is in 2011, with Ryan Giggs and Lee Sharpe coming through the previous year.

    At last, the Holy Grail was achieved on 10 April 1993, with one of countless nail-biting finishes. This heralded the emergence of 'Fergie Time,' that is extended injury time that produces a result for Manchester United.

    The referee on the day, Mike Peck, injured his Achilles heel and, in the seven extra minutes that were played, Steve Bruce scored the goal that brought the title back to Old Trafford and began to rewrite history.

Sparky's Winning Goal

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    To get an idea of the additional significance of United's win against Forest in the 3rd round of the FA Cup in 1990, consider the train of events that followed:

    The Reds went on to win the FA Cup that year, qualifying them for the European Cup Winners Cup the following year.

    Sir Alex had built the reputation that led to his Old Trafford appointment on the back of his extraordinary success at Aberdeen.

    He had broken the Old Firm monopoly by winning the Scottish League no less than four times. The second of their Scottish Cup wins took them into the Cup Winners Cup for 1982/3 which they won with an astonishing 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the Final. They then also won the European Super Cup.

    So he knew how to succeed in Europe but, after a fairly barren five years at United, could he do the same and bring back the European glory days?

    Five years after he had left United to join Barcelona, Mark Hughes scored the second goal that finally beat the Spanish giants in the Cup Winners Cup Final 2-0.

    Like Aberdeen, United also went on to win the Super Cup.

Another Epic Comeback

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    This list wouldn't be complete without a few more of Manchester United's greatest comebacks.

    While the 1999 ECL Final ranks right up there, they wouldn't even have been in that Final had it not been for the heroics against Juventus in the semi-final, including the ultimate sacrifices of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.

    Arguably the greatest captain ever, Keane led from the front. United were 2-0 down after only 11 minutes, having only drawn the home leg 1-1. They therefore needed to score at least two goals to have a chance.

    Keane created the momentum, scoring the first after 24 minutes and after 34, United had achieved parity, but with the away goals advantage.

    Zidane was inspiring the Italians, and Keane sacrificed any chance of appearing in the Final with a saving tackle on the Galactic star.

    United were clinging on with just 10 minutes to play when Yorke was brought down by the Juventus keeper, but Cole ran on to the loose ball and took the Reds to what was to be a historic Final in Barcelona.

Ryan Giggs Will Tear You Apart

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    This is one of the best goals ever scored by Manchester United, certainly Giggs' best and as good as any in history.

    Only a week before that Juventus epic, United had been involved in yet another comeback—this time in a FA Cup Replay against their great rivals, Arsenal.

    The first match, three days earlier, had been a goal-less affair. The replay was fairly evenly contested until Roy Keane's sending off, late in the second half, with the scores level. Although Arsenal began to dominate, the match was taken into extra time.

    Finally, much against the run of play, 10 minutes from the end, Patrick Viera misplaced yet another pass near halfway and Ryan Giggs, running onto the ball, mesmerised the entire Arsenal defence before smashing it into the net.


Another 'Fergie Time' Last Minute Comeback

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    Mark Hughes was incandescent after this match, as the referee played six minutes of injury time—just long enough for Michael Owen to become a legend at Old Trafford.

    During his days at the other end of the East Lancs Road, Owen can never have dreamed that he would one day be a hero with the Scousers' most bitter enemies.

    The game ebbed and flowed, with United pegged back three times by a resurgent City—Craig Bellamy getting two goals.

    But long after the Blues thought the referee should blow his whistle—and partly because of time added on for City's third goal celebrations—Owen showed why he is one of the sharpest England strikers ever, with a superb finish that sent the 'Bitters' home empty-handed yet again.

Ole Ole Ole Ole

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    Apart from being one of the greatest Supersubs ever, and a year before his stunning extra time winner in Barcelona, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became a cult hero for selflessly getting himself sent off.

    Manchester United had been top of the Premier League for six months, before losing their grip on the title, with Arsenal looking threatening.

    Playing at Newcastle, needing a result and drawing 1-1, Solskjaer was brought on as usual to try and win the match. But what made him a hero was because United had thrown everything into attack and, as Robert Lee broke away to score an unchallenged winner, Ole ran 50 yards to hack him down, thus preventing the goal.

    As he trudged off the field, Beckham patted him on the back, to which Ole replied "I had to do it." The Reds fans were in ecstasy for a typically selfless act by the 'baby-faced assassin.'

Bonus Moment: KK Loses the Plot

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    The previous 'Top Ten' moments from Sir Alex Ferguson's reign all stand on their own merit, for various reasons. So here is a bonus moment where he may have won the league himself—or was it an 'own goal' by the Newcastle manager?

    The Manchester United manager has been famed for 'mind games' for much of his reign. Usually they were water off a duck's back but sometimes they worked. On this particular occasion, it was a spectacular success.

    Newcastle United were 12 points clear at the top of the table on 4 February 1998, but began to stumble and, with two games to go, both United's were level on points.

    Going into the final games, Sir Alex had implied that Newcastle might win the title if their opponents, with little to play for, didn't give 100 percent.

    Following Keegan's broadcast rant on 27 April 1996 (voted the best managerial moment of all time), Newcastle could only draw their last match at Tottenham, while United beat Middlesbrough 3-0 on 5 May to win the title.

    That was the season that Fergie won the Premier League 'with kids' and also the Double Double (FA Cup and EPL two years running).