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The image is iconic: Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer toeing the ball over the line at Camp Nou to secure Manchester United the treble in 1999. But how did they get there?
This is a story of how manager Sir Alex Ferguson learnt from previous failings, came back stronger, adapted to the continental style of play and inspired his side to never give up.
Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor, illustrated by Philippe Fenner.
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Music sourced from epidemicsound.com
Additional footage sourced from freestockfootagearchive.com
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Foreign Manchester United's 1998-99 season began With defeat at Wembley to defending Premier League champions Arsenal That day at the beginning of August in The charity Shield there was no Suggestion that Alex Ferguson was about To lead his Club to the most successful Campaign in British footballing history And an achievement that remains Unmatched But that is exactly what happened [Music] By the mid-1990s Alex Ferguson had grown Frustrated with Manchester United's Recruitment The club were a PLC and obliged to Balance their on-field ambition with Obligations to shareholders And it meant that United who'd spent Just 12 million pounds in the summer Before and just 10 million in the summer Before that were being routinely Outspent by Liverpool Arsenal Newcastle Occasionally Blackburn Rovers and nearly All of the European heavyweights The summer of 98 broke that trend Dutch Center half Yap stem was signed For 15 million pounds from PSV and Swedish Winger yes per blockquist joined From Palmer for 6 million Ferguson's main target was Aston Villa Forward Dwight Yorke and nothing better Illustrates the restrictions of the era
Than the fact that United had to delay The completion of that deal until Mid-august at which point its cost could Be deferred to a different accounting Period but this wasn't just about Strengthening the first team United had Suffered in Europe throughout that Decade The experience of which left Ferguson With two main conclusions One that Continental sides kept the ball Far better than English teams and two That the best teams were tactically Flexible and comprised not just starters But Squad players capable of multiple Roles So by the end of that summer he had four Forwards capable of playing in several Combinations a Midfield combining World-class players and Specialists and Behind them a newly strengthened defense And an outstanding goalkeeper in Peter Schmeichel it was enough to snatch the Premier League back from Arsenal by a Single point They began the season carelessly but Would remain unbeaten between December And May And their football was exhilarating and Diverse they could still counter-attack Their delivery and threat from wide Areas was Lethal and in Dwight York and Andy Cole they had a rare First Choice Strike bearing
Cole was a superb finisher blessed with Great pace and skill York was even more Rounded He was also a first-rate goalscorer and Terrific in the air but with great Vision also In the FA Cup which they'd win after a Processional final against Newcastle United's progress foreshadowed qualities They'd need later in the year They eliminated Chelsea with Phil Neville man marking John Franco Zola a Tactical sleight of hand that Ferguson Had acquired and that came after they'd Knocked out Liverpool in the fourth Round with two late goals from York and Social In a semi-final replay they'd conquer Arsenal at the end of 120 minutes which Had seen them a man down for an hour and Having a stoppage time penalty given Against them United were ahead of the British Footballing curve Eric cantona's success for instance owed Much to other Premier League teams not Really understanding how to defend a Deeper lying forward in Europe there was No such advantage While the English game also emphasized Speed and power European competition Privileged the ability to retain Possession and nullify opposition's Strengths United had built towards 98.99
They'd reached the semi and the Quarterfinals of the Champions League in Previous years but that season saw them Redress the shortcomings that had Derailed their European campaigns of the Past In the group stage United would contest A pair of exhilarating drawers against Bayern Munich and Barcelona The two Barcelona games finished 3-3 And the second of which provided a Famous signature of United's Cosmopolitan class For their second goal of that night York Stepped over a pass allowing it to run To Coal received a ball back from his Strike partner that he immediately Returned and then Cole carved in one of The finest goals in the competition's History In the quarterfinal United would take a Two-goal lead over into Milan to Italy And Ferguson would throw one of his Tactical curveballs pushing Ronnie Johnson into Midfield to help subdue Ronaldo they'd survive and advance to Face Juventus In the first half of the first leg at Old Trafford uvae were comfortably the Better side and might have been more Than one goal up Ferguson's wide midfielders Beckham and Giggs really operated as Wingers leaving Manchester United's Midfield badly
Outnumbered This time they had the capacity to Adjust and reclaim control Beckham was moved inside and played more Conservatively after the break while Geeks was given the more aggressive role That he'd equalize right at the death The semi-final second leg might be that Team's defining performance Two nil down within the blink of an eye Roy Keane and Dwight Yorke would score To bring United level by half time Keane would also collect the second Yellow card that left him suspended for The final But by the time Andy Cole tapped into an Empty net to finish the Tie full skulls Had also been booked and would be Missing in Barcelona as well denying Ferguson his first choice Midfield So on to the famous night at camp now Against Bayern Munich Teddy sheringham's late equalizer and Oligon Associates last gasp winner a Part of footballing history today So too is the image of samica 4 pounding The turf in frustration as the trophy Slipped bayern's grasp But that night was about the subtext Sharing him in soulsha were perfectly Used substitutes Ferguson had also constructed a Makeshift Center Midfield pairing out of Nikki butt and David Beckham with gigs
Moved to the right and blonkfist down The left It was team football not just a case of Sending out the 11 best players with a Rigid game plan as had previously been The English Way Manchester United were Able to reach the Mountaintop that year But only because they'd learned to climb It in a different way If you like this video please consider Subscribing to the channel The athletic brings you the best sports Journalism in the world in a Personalized experience connecting you With the stories and teams that you care About the most there's coverage of 13 Sports Plus direct access to world-class Journalists through live q and A's Discussions and podcasts and you can try It now for free for 30 days by clicking The link in the description [Music]