Manchester United's 20 Best Goals of the 1990s

Kyle Diller@kdiller6Contributor IIIMarch 7, 2012

Manchester United's 20 Best Goals of the 1990s

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    Manchester United supporters are blessed to have celebrated so many titles over the past two decades, and in the process of winning, many breathtaking goals were scored.

    Not all clubs strike the right balance of entertaining the fans while also chasing silverware. In the 1990s, however, United did just that. The trophy haul from that decade alone dwarfs what some clubs have won in their entire history. As if that wasn't enough, United did it with style.

    Winning so much requires the absolute best, and United had some of the all-time greats at Old Trafford throughout the 1990s. So often they refused to settle for just winning, instead opting for the spectacular, and regularly, they delivered.

    Goals should be judged not only for their quality, but also the significance of the goal in the context it was scored. These 20 goals are the best that United fans were privileged to witness in the illustrious decade of the 1990s.

    Note: These goals are sorted chronologically and not ranked. You decide which goal you believe is the best. Some of the goals require you to jump ahead in the video. The time of the goal is listed in the caption in these cases.

Mark Hughes vs Barcelona

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    Mark Hughes scored a brilliant goal for Manchester United against Barcelona to secure the 1991 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

    After spending a few years away from Old Trafford with spells at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Hughes returned and proved crucial to some of United's early silverware in the 1990s.

    In the 1991 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final, Hughes scored twice against his former club, the second of which was superb. Brilliantly breaking the offside trap, Hughes received the pass, rounded the goalkeeper with ease and then scored from a near-impossible angle.

    Barcelona scored a consultation goal shortly after, but Hughes' goals were enough to secure the victory. United became the first English club to win a European competition since the country had been banned in 1985.

Steve Bruce vs Sheffield Wednesday

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    Steve Bruce scored one of the most important Manchester United goals of the 1990s, and although it is not a spectacular piece of skill, this goal laid the foundation for Premier League dominance that continues to this day.

    Having already scored one late goal to equalize against Sheffield Wednesday, Bruce provided another crucial goal in the title challenge, heading home the winner six minutes into stoppage time. United went top of the table and went on to win the inaugural Premier League title.

Denis Irwin vs Tottenham

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    As Eric Cantona recalled the favorite moment of his career in the film Looking for Eric, he simply said, "It was a pass."

    For once, it was not Cantona scoring the beautiful goal. This time, the honor went to Denis Irwin. Cantona was the architect on this occasion.

    Irwin played a pass to Cantona on the outside of the box, and without even taking a first touch, Cantona chipped it over the Tottenham defense as Irwin made his run. The ball feel perfectly into his stride, and he struck the ball with such authority past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

    The goal is not always about just the shot, but also how it was created, and the combination between Cantona and Irwin on this occasion was one still fondly in the memories of many United fans.

Gary Pallister vs Blackburn

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    Gary Pallister became the final member of the Manchester United squad to score a goal in the 1992/93 season with a fantastic free kick against Blackburn.

    It was the final home game of the Premier League campaign for United, and Pallister was the only player who had yet to score that season. Up 2-1 with a free kick on the edge of the box, Pallister was provided with an opportunity to correct that.

    It was by no means a magnificent bending free kick that would grace Old Trafford a few years later; just absolute power as Pallister blasted it straight into the bottom corner during stoppage time. Not bad for a defender.

Eric Cantona vs Arsenal

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    Eric Cantona is making the first of many appearances on this list with his incredible free kick against Arsenal in 1993.

    Many of Cantona's goals for Manchester United were of such brilliant creativity and finesse, but this goal against Arsenal is sheer power and precision. Cantona lined it up so perfectly that he rocketed the ball through a hole in the Arsenal wall and straight into the back of the net.

    He took off running with that cast in the air for a somewhat memorable celebration as United went on to win the game, 1-0.

Ryan Giggs vs Queens Park Rangers

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    Ryan Giggs scored more than a few great goals for Manchester United in his prime, and one of the first came in 1994 against Queens Park Rangers.

    Unfortunately, you probably won't see a goal like this in this day and age. Most players would go down at the first challenge, and if not, they definitely would for the second. Giggs rode out every challenge, staying on his feet as he weaved his way through midfield into the box and fired straight past the goalkeeper.

    Really makes you miss the old days watching a player using his talent to beat the opposition rather than attempting to win a free kick. Giggs was special, though. Especially in his youth, he could mesmerize defenders with his runs, and this is a great example of what the pacy winger could do to haunt a defense.

Eric Cantona vs Wimbledon

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    Eric Cantona with yet another moment of genius for Manchester United, this time against Wimbledon in the FA Cup.

    A poor clearance from the Wimbledon defender set Cantona up perfectly to awe the United supporters once again. As the ball landed in front of him, Cantona controlled it with one touch, then half-volleyed it over the goalkeeper, dipping his shot in right under the crossbar.

    Paul Ince and Denis Irwin added two more goal as United won, 3-0, and continued their successful 1994 FA Cup run.

Mark Hughes vs Oldham

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    Mark Hughes makes yet another appearance on the list for his volley against Oldham in the dying minutes of the 1994 FA Cup semifinal.

    Oldham had a 1-0 lead, and it looked as though Manchester United may be on their way out of the competition. The entire team pushed forward, and finally, Hughes provided an exhilarating goal to draw the game and force a replay.

    The ball was flicked into Hughes' path, and he miraculously managed to volley the ball over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net, all while falling down backwards.

    United beat Oldham, 4-1, a few days later in the replay, and then won the trophy against Chelsea with a 4-0 victory at Wembley.

Lee Sharpe vs Barcelona

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    Lee Sharpe's cheeky back-heel goal against Barcelona in the Champions League takes us back to a time when playing the Catalan giants was not quite as frustrating as it may seem today.

    Manchester United were losing the game, 2-1, when Sharpe provided the equalizer with a moment of brilliance. He made a well-timed run into the box, and with a lovely flick of his back heel, Sharpe turned the cross into the back of the net.

    The game ended in a 2-2 draw, with Sharpe providing a piece of magic for the supporters to enjoy with his equalizer. It may not have been a win, but this is certainly one the fans still enjoy.

Eric Cantona vs Sheffield United

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    Eric Cantona scored brilliant goals for Manchester United. With his third appearance on this list, and by no means his last, Cantona provided another moment of inspiration against Sheffield United.

    His continued presence on this list is unsurprising for a man of whom Michel Platini once said, "I have the impression that if he cannot score a beautiful goal, he'd rather not score."

    On this occasion, Cantona benefited from a fantastic counterattack. After being played in just outside of the box, Cantona took the ball in his stride and chipped it up over the goalkeeper and just under the crossbar.

    Platini may have had a point. He really didn't settle for ordinary goals, instead always striving for the incredible.

Eric Cantona vs Liverpool

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    Any Manchester United goal against Liverpool is a good one, but even more so when that goal is the winner in the FA Cup Final scored by none other than Eric Cantona.

    The 1996 FA Cup Final was evenly balanced at 0-0 as the match entered the final five minutes. It really isn't a shock that when United needed a goal, up stepped Cantona.

    Liverpool's goalkeeper poorly punched the ball from a corner, and it landed just to the outside of the box, right in the path of Cantona. The Frenchman stepped back to accommodate for the ball's bounce and then fired it on the volley through the crowded penalty area.

    His shot somehow managed to evade all of the bodies and hit the back of the net. United secured the 1996 FA Cup with that goal as they defeated fierce rivals Liverpool.

David Beckham vs Wimbledon

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    David Beckham quickly became a household name at Manchester United with this goal against Wimbledon at the start of the 1996/97 season.

    After collecting the ball at the halfway line, Beckham saw the Wimbledon goalkeeper was out of position off his line and chipped the ball right into the back of the net. It was such a perfectly struck shot, and despite the keeper being out of position, Beckham had to hit it just right.

    That goal arguably launched Beckham toward the celebrity lifestyle he now lives today, with such an exquisite chip introducing the game to the man who would one day be its most well-known star.

Eric Cantona vs Sunderland

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    Eric Cantona with another awe-inspiring goal for Manchester United, this time against Sunderland.

    After receiving the ball in midfield, Cantona took off on a run through the heart of the Sunderland defense. He quickly played a one-two with Brian McClair just outside the box and then chipped the goalkeeper with his shot deflecting in off the post.

    The spectacular goal was followed by a memorable celebration. Most would take off on an adrenaline-fueled run to celebrate with their teammates, but this celebration was the epitome of Cantona. He just turned, face void of expression, and lifted his arms as his teammates ran to him. He had such an aura around him; he exuded such confidence.

    It was a perfect illustration of Cantona. Fantastic goal with a celebration to sum up his unique personality.

David Beckham vs Barcelona

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    David Beckham's free kick against Barcelona was one of the best Bend It Like Beckham moments from his time at Manchester United.

    Unsurprisingly, this is the beginning of a long section dedicated to goals from the famous Treble season. Along with pulling off the magnificent feat of winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, United also scored some beautiful goals along the way. It goes without saying that many were important as well.

    This free kick from Beckham is an excellent goal to begin with. He struck it so flawlessly that the ball curved right into the top corner of the goal, leaving the goalkeeper helpless. So often his bending free kicks found the back of the net, and this was one of the best.

    Beckham's goal secured a 3-3 draw for United in the first game of their triumphant 1998/99 Champions League campaign.

Andy Cole vs Barcelona

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    Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke built such a famous partnership at Manchester United, and this goal against Barcelona in the 1998/99 season was a perfect example of their chemistry and teamwork.

    The goal was created by such a terrific bit of build-up play between the two strikers, each pass splitting open the Barcelona defense even more, leaving Cole to simply place his shot into the corner of the net. They were just on the same brainwave, playing quick, creative passing back and forth before the final one-two created a wonderful opportunity.

    It was a simple shot, but the play that led to the goal was such incredible teamwork that it made for a truly special moment.

David Beckham vs Arsenal

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    David Beckham's goal against Arsenal is often forgotten in shadow of the goal scored later in this game, and while it was not nearly as impressive as what was to come, it still deserves mention.

    Needing to win this FA Cup semifinal replay against Arsenal to keep the Treble alive, Beckham scored a beauty to keep United in it. The ball came to him a good distance outside of the box, but Beckham just took it in stride and shot with his first touch. His shot dipped perfectly into the bottom corner of the net to give United the lead.

    Arsenal equalized and forced the game into extra time, which set the stage for the next goal.

Ryan Giggs vs Arsenal

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    Ryan Giggs is a spectacular player. He is a living legend whose whole career has been dedicated to United. His success at the club is unrivaled. Everything he has accomplished is spectacular, but this goal quite possibly trumps it all.

    All the events that led up to this goal make it all the more incredible. Roy Keane being sent off with 30 minutes left in normal time. Peter Schmeichel forcing the game into extra time with a great penalty save in stoppage time. All of it led to a magnificent end to the FA Cup semifinal replay.

    Patrick Vieira's misplaced pass fell right into the path of Giggs. He proceed to take off on a breathtaking run from the halfway line, beating every defender in his path along the way. Giggs cut through the Arsenal backline single-handedly before launching a rocket into the roof of the net.

    Honestly, words cannot do this justice. Watch the video.

    Arsenal were defeated, 2-1, and United went on to win the FA Cup Final against Newcastle to setup the famous Treble.

Roy Keane vs Juventus

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    "Roy Keane with a captain's goal for Manchester United. Game on," screamed the announcer as Keane headed in the goal that started United's Champions League comeback against Juventus.

    Juventus scored early and had a crucial 2-0 lead at home, leading the tie, 3-1, on aggregate. Refusing to accept defeat, that's when Keane inspired United back from the brink of elimination. A corner came into the box, and Keane charged in and headed the ball straight into the back of the net to pull United back to 2-1.

    It was an incredible performance from Keane, working tirelessly to motivate his teammates and win the game. He picked up a yellow card that ruled him out of the final, but he continued to urge his team forward. It was the ultimate example of a captain and much of the reason supporters loved him.

    United went on to complete the comeback with a 3-2 victory in Italy. One of the most epic performances in United history, they advanced to the Champions League Final, 4-3, on aggregate.

Andy Cole vs Tottenham

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    Andy Cole's goal against Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the 1998/99 Premier League season assured Manchester United would win the title ahead of Arsenal.

    David Beckham opened the scoring for United with an impressive goal, which deserves an honorable mention, but it was Cole who assured United would win the title just moments after halftime.

    A cross into the box found Cole, and he brought it down with such ease, juggled a few times to set himself up and then chipped the goalkeeper exquisitely to make it 2-1. It demonstrated such excellent technique to control the ball and score a breathtaking, title-winning goal.

    With Arsenal close behind in the title race, United could not afford to slip up, and Cole's goal provided the killer blow to Tottenham. Arsenal's title hopes were dead, and United secured the first piece of silverware for the Treble.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær vs Bayern Munich

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    "Beckham...into Sheringham...and Solskjær has won it! Manchester United have reached the promised land!"

    There is no better way to end a list of the best goals from the 1990s than with Ole Gunnar Solskjær's stoppage time winner in the 1999 Champions League Final.

    You know the story, or at least, hopefully you do. If you don't, then you desperately need to review the club's history if you wish to consider yourself a supporter.

    Either way, here's a quick recap.

    Premier League and FA Cup already secured. Trailing 1-0 to Bayern Munich entering stoppage time. Teddy Sheringham scores an equalizer as time runs down. All even at 1-1, United earn a corner in the dying seconds of the game. David Beckham delivers a trademark cross, which Sheringham flicks on, and Solskjær pokes into the roof of the net. United win the Treble.

    Just watch the video. Even if you've seen it 100 times, it still sends chills up your spine.

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