United took the lead against title rivals Arsenal on just two minutes. Thierry Henry evened the score just over ten minutes later and it was game on. Dwight Yorke scored his second goal on 17 minutes and completed his hattrick on 21. Arsenal were dead and buried now. Roy Keane made it 4-1 on 25 minutes before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it 5-1 on 37 minutes. With one minute left to play, Teddy Sherringham made it 6-1. United go 16 points clear at the top, result!
United went in 3-0 down at half time, having conceded two goals in the last four minutes against Deportivo just days earlier to lose 2-1. Things were not looking good for United. But Sir Alex Ferguson worked his magic at half time and within the first minute of the second half, the fight back had begun, with Andy Cole making it 3-1. Laurent Blanc made it 3-2 just before the hour mark, then Ruud van Nistelrooy levelled the score on 72 minutes. There was only going to be one winner now. Four minutes later, Veron put us in the lead, before Beckham made it 5-3 in the last few minutes. One of the most impressive come backs of all time.
vs Juventus, February 25th 2003
Manchester United travelled to Italy to face the current Italian champions for a place in the European Cup quarter finals. Ryan Giggs started the match on the bench but with less than ten minutes played came on for an injured Forlan. On 15 minutes, Giggs put us 1-0 ahead, and just before half time made it 2-0 to United. Giggs was then subbed back off just after half time, replaced by Ruud van Nistelrooy, who made it 3-0 with half an hour to play. Juventus went on to win the league again that season by 7 points.
United took on Real Madrid with it all to do following our 3-1 defeat at the Bernabeu. To overcome such a deficit would be hard work against any side, let alone a team that contained the current best player in Europe and the World, Ronaldo, Zidane, Figo, Makelele, Roberto Carlos and Raul, amongst others. We got off to a dreadful start, with Ronaldo opening the scoring on 12 minutes. Ruud van Nistelrooy pulled one back just before half time, but five mintues after the restart Ronaldo put us behind again. An own goal made it 2-2 a couple of minutes later after some good work from Veron, but Ronaldo completed his hattrick before the hour mark in sensational style. With Real Madrid 3-2, Ronaldo was subbed off and received a standing ovation from the Old Trafford crowd. Out of favour David Beckham then came off the bench and scored two goals, to give us a 4-3, which was enough for victory on the night, but not enough for progression to the semi-finals.
vs City, February 14th 2004
We were drawn against City in the 5th Round of the FA Cup and started the game well, with Paul Scholes opening the scoring on 34 minutes. But five minutes later Gary Neville got sent off for head-butting Steve McManaman. At the time, it seemed pretty careless of Neville, given we still had more than a half a football match to play. With hindsight, it is now fairly brilliant, because he got one up on that scouse twat and with ten men, we still beat them. With 15 minutes to play, we went 3-1 up, with Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo adding to Scholes’ goal. City showed some potential fight back, but we made it 4-1 through Van Nistelrooy before they scored again to make it 4-2. Knocking City out was made sweeter by the fact we went on to win the Cup this year.
The game that the Invincibles were taught a lesson after going 49 matches unbeaten. After the embarrassing classless behaviour from the Arsenal baboons following Van Nistelrooy’s late penalty miss, there was no doubt Ruud was eager to make amends the following season. After sending Jens Lehmann the wrong way, Ruud ran to the corner and emotion overflowed, so delighted was he to rid him demons against them. Phil Neville filled the boots of Roy Keane that afternoon, kicking whoever got in the way of him. Arsenal struggled to get in to the game, forcing just one save over the 90 minutes, but that didn’t stop Wenger claiming Arsenal didn’t deserve to lose. That mattered little though when in the last minute, Louis Saha brought the ball forward, passed to Alan Smith, who found Wayne Rooney for a simple tap in. 2-0 to United and Arsenal’s record was over.
After ending their unbeaten run, we were promised they would even the score when we went to Highbury. Before the match had kicked off, it was all kicking off in the tunnel, with Roy Keane chasing Patrick Vieira. Vieira ran off whilst Keano was held back by referee Graham Poll. “I’ll see you out there!” Keane promised, and that he did, although intially, it looked as though Vieira had won the battle of nerves. On eight minutes he put Arsenal ahead. Ten minutes later, Giggsy equalised. Bergkamp gave Arsenal the lead before half time, but it was two goals in four minutes in the second half from Cristiano Ronaldo that put us 3-2 ahead. To make things a little more interesting, Mikael Silvestre, who now plays for Arsenal, headbutted Freddie Ljungberg, receiving the first (and only, to date) red card of his career. The pressure was on Arsenal to get the equalising goal, given their man and home advantage, but they buckled under the pressure and it was John O’Shea, of all people, who scored a beautiful 89th minute goal to secure the 4-2 victory.
In the summer leading up to the 06-07 season, we had sold our top scorer from last season and the second highest scorer, but hadn’t bought a replacement. After finally having the money to spend on what was supposed to be our new Roy Keane, we forked out £18.6m on Michael Carrick, who certainly hadn’t been our first choice. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo had a bust up on the pitch in the World Cup quarter-final, with the press reporting their friendship was over and that Ronaldo wanted to leave. Sky Sports and The Guardian predicted we would finish fourth in the league because of these less than helpful factors. So, when on the opening day of the season we were 4-0 up after 20 minutes, you’d be forgiven for becoming a tad excitable! The game finished 5-1, with Rooney, Ronaldo and Saha all getting in on the action, with our two young players looking anything but enemies! Phew.
The weekend before, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brilliant late winner against Fulham to put us 9 points clear at the top. We travelled to Anfield with just a few months of the season remaining, desperately seeking the points, as much as the bragging rights against our hated rivals. We were outplayed for most of the game and when Paul Scholes got sent off with a few minutes to play, it was looking like we were going to have to settle for a point. But then, in injury time, Ronaldo fizzed in a freekick which Reina could only parry under pressure from Saha, leaving John O’Shea to lift the ball in to the roof of the net, with the commentators talking about the “hallmark of Champions”.
This was the day it felt like the title had been won, with one eye on our match, one eye on Chelsea at Bolton. At the start of the day, there was just three points between us, but when we went 2-0 down on 50 minutes, with Chelsea beating Bolton, there would have just been goal difference separating us with just three games to go. Fortunately, United never say die… and Philip Neville’s still a red. John O’Shea pulled one goal back for us after a dreadful drop from the keeper, before Phil swung the ball in to his own net. There could only be one player to put us in front, and that was Wayne Rooney, with an individual piece of brilliant control. Chris Eagles came off the bench and made sure of the result with a fourth though, curling the ball in to the corner of the goal. Five points and clear and finally we could start to relax!
After Cristiano Ronaldo missed an early penalty in the away leg of the semi-final, the nerves before the home leg were greater than anything I could remember. Just looking through Barcelona’s team sheet was enough to give you the sweats. Messi, Iniesta, Henry, Yaya Toure, Xavi, Eto’o, amongst others. They had players could do serious damage and we knew just how costly that could be thanks to the away goal rule. Paul Scholes took the lead in spectacular fashion and after that point it was a case of keeping Barcelona out, which we did incredibly well. The nerves heightened when Henry came on the field, with it all set up for the former Arsenal man to deny us a place in the European Cup final, but all he could manage was a pacey shot straight at Van der Sar. With time running out, us knowing that if they scored we would have to score two to reach the final, the support from the crowd was incredible. Song after song at such a volume that even the hardest bloke would be fighting back emotion. The relief at the final whistle was incredible. We were going to the European Cup final in the year of the 50th anniversary of Munich and the 40th anniversary of us first winning the trophy.
Before a ball was kicked, this game was billed to be a big one. Carlos Tevez was returning to Old Trafford for the first time in their blue shirt, whilst they had now assembed a team worth hundreds of millions and honestly fancied their chances. Rooney took the lead within the first two minutes, but lack of communication at the back lead to Tevez pinching the ball and setting up Barry to make it 1-1. We had been bossing the game up until that point and after gifting them a goal we feared they would come back strong. But four minutes in to the second half, a great ball in to the box from Giggs ended up on Fletcher’s head and in to the back of the net. But three minutes later we gave the ball away and Craig Bellamy took advantage, scoring a fantastic goal. It wasn’t until ten minutes from time that we looked to have the game finally wrapped up, when another Giggs cross found Fletcher, and he out-jumped their defence again to make it 3-2. We had absolutely battered them up until this point and finally it appeared as though justice had been done. But then in the last minute of normal time, Rio Ferdinand did the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen from him. On the half way line when all we needed was to play time down, he attempted to flick the ball over Bellamy’s head. It still irritates me. What the fuck was he thinking about? Bellamy raced away from Rio, took the ball around Foster and slotted it in to the back of the net. It was totally gutting. Three mistakes had lead to three City goals in a game we deserved to win. It was unbearable. But then deep in to injury time, Giggs spotted Michael Owen unmarked and played a perfect ball through City’s defence, leaving Owen just needing to stab it home. The celebrations that followed were wild, with Owen racing away in front of the Stretford End and North Stand, not a drop of Liverpool left in him, Gary Neville and Sir Alex Ferguson raced on to the pitch, whilst the fans went absolutely mental. Seeing Tevez and Hughes totally gutted after the game only added to the sheer brilliance of what will be remembered as the best derby day ever.
vs Chelsea, December 1st 2001
After being thrashed 3-1 by Arsenal the week before, having gone a goal up, a home match against Chelsea was just what the doctor ordered. These were the days when they were just about scraping a top six place so we could do with a confidence booster. But the game did not go to plan at all. With Roy Keane filling in at the back to compensate for injuries, we got taken for a ride. Melchiot opened the scoring on 6 minutes and we went in 1-0 down at half time. But then Hasselbaink added to the misery just past the hour mark before Gudjohnsen compounded the defeat five minutes from time, United losing 3-0. Chelsea had the best of the chances and that horrible twat Le Saux even had an effort come back off the woodwork. We dropped down to 7th in the table.
Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford knowing they could secure the league title, one that had been ours for the past three years. Bergkamp, Henry and Tony Adams were all missing but unfortunately that didn’t save us. We did our best job of kicking them about the park, with Keano flattening Vieira on a couple of occasions, but we offered little else. Forlan filled in for Van Nistelrooy up front and was dreadful. Their goal came in the second half when Silvestre gave away possession, with Wiltord having no problem beating Barthez. Arsenal had already won the FA Cup and now they’d won the league at Old Trafford, they’d won the league in Manchester. Sulk.
Ok, so we don’t really care about the League Cup, but when you’re in the final against your biggest rivals, of course you want to win it. These weren’t the days of Fergie playing the kids, with him fielding our strongest side to play Liverpool at Cardiff. They took the lead just before half time through Steven Gerrard. We didn’t show up though and Liverpool took advantage. Some Liverpool hero or someone put us out of our misery four minutes from time. Can’t remember his name but he was pretty handy.
We’d beaten City 3-1 at home this season, as well as thrashing them 4-2 in the FA Cup, but that mattered little when we went to Wastelands. The last thrashing they had dished out to us was the 5-1 back in ’89, but the result this day came close. Robbie YSB Fowler opened the scoring with just three minutes played before their lead was doubled on the half hour mark. Paul Scholes restored some belief and pride a few minutes later and we went in just 2-1 down at half time. Substitute Sinclair made it 3-1 to City following a Silvestre mistake before Wright-Phillips scored a stunning fourth.
We weren’t brimming with confidence ahead of the FA Cup final against Arsenal, given we had just suffered a very disappointing season that saw us finish a massive 18 points behind Chelsea and 6 behind Arsenal. But as it turned out, we weren’t as bad as we thought we were! Roy Keane bossed the midfield, with Arsenal players diving left, right and centre. They couldn’t handle us. The clock was ticking away though but after Ruud van Nistelrooy had a goal ruled out for offside, it seemed to be a matter of when, rather than if, we were going to score. The game reached extra time, we were still on top, but we still hadn’t managed a goal. So after two hours of football, with us totally outplaying Arsenal, it came down to a penalty shoot out. Who would have thought it, Paul Scholes took a dreadful penalty, they scored all of ours, and never as a more undeserving team lifted the FA Cup.
vs Boro, October 29th 2005
Back in the days when Roy Keane was a United players and always out injured, we were looking at how to solve the problem of replacing him. Sir Alex Ferguson was trying out Darren Fletcher and Alan Smith. Against Middlesbrough, it failed miserably, and lead to the infamous Keano rant that was pulled from MUTV. We were absolutely dreadful and for me, this is certainly one of the worst United performances ever. We were all over the place, didn’t have a clue, with Richardson not knowing his arse from his elbow in defence, Smith running round in circles and our strikers hardly getting a touch. It was woeful. They went in 3-0 up at half time, with Mendieta opening the scoring on 2 minutes after a Van der Sar howler, Hasselbaink adding to it on 25 minutes thanks to a Rio fuck up, and Yakubu scoring a penalty after Richardson pulled on one of their shirts. Disaster. It didn’t stop there though. Mendieta added his second with over ten minutes to go, leaving us fearing just how embarrassing this day was going to get. Ronaldo got a consolation for us, our 1000th Premiership goal incidentally, but I certainly didn’t feel consoled.
vs Benfica, December 7th 2005
United had been poor in Europe and were looking to make amends with our last group stage match against Benfica. We’d been them at Old Trafford already and if other results went our way, a win against them could seal second spot in the group. Things were looking good for us when Paul Scholes scored on just 6 minutes, but it all went downhill from there. Two goals before half time from the Portuguese meant we were trailing 2-1. Fergie sent on Saha for the last half hour, meaning we were playing with three strikers, but it made no difference and we lost, finishing bottom of the group. The only blessing in this was we weren’t forced to embarrass ourselves competing for the UEFA Cup.
This was the kind of season we’d all been waiting for. An opportunity to really hate Liverpool again, with them competing with us for the title. After leading for most of the season, Rafael Benitez went in to melt down and the team followed suit. So, when Ronaldo scored a penalty on just 23 minutes, it looked like things were going to go our way. However, just five minutes later, Nemanja Vidic’s nightmare moment occurred, when allowing the ball to bounce and then getting beaten for speed by Fernando Torres. The Spaniard raced away to the away support, 1-1. Then just before half time Evra gave away a penalty which Gerrard stuck away. Whilst not at our best, we were still in the game though, until the defining moment of the match occurred. Vidic fouled Gerrard and was handed a straight red, meaning we were down to ten men, then Aurelio scored from the resulting freekick. So painful. We could have possibly come back from 2-1 down with ten men, but there was no way from 3-1 down. Then just to add insult to injury Dossena rounded up the scoring in the last minute. We were still four points ahead with a game in hand, so firm favourites for the title, but to lose like that, at home, was totally humiliating.