Manchester United’s best ever late goal is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be included in any top five list. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won us the treble and none of us who were old enough to enjoy it will ever get an experience from following United to top that. However, after Daley Blind kept up his 100% record of scoring late equalisers away to teams whose name start with “West” on Sunday, thoughts naturally turned to United’s marvellous habit of leaving the drama until late. So other than that night in Barcelona, what have been United’s top five ever late goals? These are ranked by an arbitrary combination of importance and personal preference. You’ll notice that all of them are against big rivals, because oh my goodness isn’t that just so sweet?
If you passionately agree or disagree with the selection, let us know in the comments below. By necessity, some crackers have been left off the list (sorry Kiko). The five that remain offer one heck of a trip down memory lane.
Number Five – Paul Scholes vs City, 2010
Paul Scholes scored it. Versus City. Feels slightly redundant to write any more, but I shall try. By 2010, City had started to emerge as a genuine force, but Fergie’s boys did their relentless best to keep the Sky Blues in their place. In my memory, we beat them with the last kick of the game about 30 times in a row, but in truth, it was more like three. The most dramatic of those is further up this list, but in truth, I sort of prefer this one, because Paul Scholes is a million times better than (spoiler warning) Michael Owen.
G Nev planted a smacker on Scholes’ reluctant lips in celebration. In doing so, as he did so often, he acted as the fans’ representative on the pitch. Scholesey rolling back the years, bursting into the box, and heading us to a win over City was worthy of a great big smackeroo. Every United fan in the crowd (of whom there were a considerable number, in spite of the location), would have gladly swapped places with Gaz.
He scored goals galore, and not too many of them were sweeter than this.
Number Four – John O’Shea vs Liverpool, 2007
Talking of G-Nev, after John O’Shea scored this one, the Irishman said, “The 90th minute at Anfield, in front of the Kop – Gary Neville’s just told me that is his dream and I’ve just gone and done it!”
It was a massive goal, as United faced off with Chelsea for the title. “It must be soul destroying for Chelsea, to be watching this with a couple of minutes to go,” said Sheasy, rubbing salt into the wound.
It was daylight robbery that we won that game. It certainly wasn’t a great goal, but that didn’t matter a jot, because it was a 90th minute winner in front of the Kop, and for that it stands for all that is good, pure and true. Again, so very, very sweet.
Number Three – Michael Owen vs Man City, 2009
On balance, in retrospect, it just about makes Owen’s time at United worthwhile. He never really did much else, but it was one heck of a goal, and one heck of a moment. It was one of the very few times that Owen looked like his vintage best in a United shirt (a terrible United shirt with a horrible black swoop on it, a big knock against both this and Scholesey’s goals if you ask me).
Rio Ferdinand had gifted City a way back into this cracking game that they should never have had. For a moment it looked like, as eventually happened, City were going to out match us. However, that inevitable was pleasingly delayed by Owen’s incisive finish, from Ryan Giggs’ beautiful through ball. It was a true “Fergie Time” goal, too, in that it happened after stoppage time was supposed to be up.
His BT Sport commentary might come close to a crime against humanity, but it should be remembered that once upon a time, Owen bestowed a beautiful gift upon us. Cheers Michael, now find an alternative line of work please.
Number Two – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vs Liverpool, 1999
Before Ole’s last minute winner in 1999 came Ole’s last minute winner in 1999. Liverpool had been leading the FA Cup fourth round tie since right at the beginning of the game. United had battered them in an attempt to equalise, with Keane hitting the post twice. Then, two minutes from the end, Dwight Yorke snatched an equaliser, but in a moment of beautiful foreshadowing, Ole slotted home in injury time.
United’s indomitable spirit was set in stone that day, and it stayed with them for the rest of that magical season.
Number One – Eric Cantona vs Liverpool, 1996
By United late goal standards, this one wasn’t that late. But the 85th minute is late enough to count as late, and my goodness it was a thing of beauty. It was a famously terrible cup final, presumably in honour of Liverpool’s famously terrible suits. However, Eric won the double for United, after a season in which he’d appeared to drag us single handedly to the league title, and for that, in my mind, it’s basically the greatest cup final of all time.
The goal itself was ace, with David James making a predictable poor punch, and Eric latching on to it to volley the ball through a statistically improbable number of limbs, sending United fans into raptures. The King wrote his legacy further into United folklore, as if there were any need for him to do so. He had conjured up enough miracles already, but here was yet another.
For the drama, the stage, and the opposition, Eric deserves top spot. Ah, who am I kidding. For being Eric, Eric deserves top spot.