History of Manchester United F.C. (1999–present)

History of Manchester United F.C. (1999–present)

"Preceding article: Manchester United F.C. season 1998-99 (the Treble)"

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The new millennium has seen Sir Alex Ferguson's side land more silverware, although they have faced some stiff competition from other teams - first Arsenal and later Chelsea.

Many players have come and gone. Since the 1999 treble success Peter Schmeichel, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Ronny Johnsen, Jaap Stam, Denis Irwin, Dwight Yorke, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Roy Keane, and Ole Gunnar Solskjær have all left to be replaced by a new generation of players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Edwin van der Sar, Park Ji-Sung, Nemanja Vidić, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, and Michael Carrick. Other players like Fabien Barthez, Ruud van Nistelrooy, José Kléberson and Juan Sebastián Verón have arrived and left within the space of a few seasons.

Into the new millennium

United won the Premiership title in 1999-2000, with an 18-point margin over runners-up Arsenal. They suffered just three league defeats all season, all coming away from home and scored in thirty six out of the thirty eight league games that season. They won their third successive title the following season, making United the fourth team to achieve that success and Sir Alex Ferguson the first manager to stay in charge of any team throughout a championship hat-trick.

2001-2002 was a trophyless season, as United was knocked out of the Champions League by Bayer Leverkusen, the FA Cup by Middlesbrough (in the fourth round), and finished third in the Premiership. [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2094-1471903,00.html]

United won another Premiership title in 2002-03, overhauling Arsenal to secure their eighth title in 11 seasons. Ferguson even described this success as his greatest achievement since becoming United manager in 1986.

Alex Ferguson rebuilt the team, signing the England defender Rio Ferdinand for a record £29.1 million from rivals Leeds United before the transfers of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003 and Wayne Rooney in 2004. His injury and Rio Ferdinand's eight month suspension damaged United's title hopes in 2003-04 and they finished third in the Premiership, which was won by unbeaten Arsenal. United were knocked out of the Champions League by eventual winners FC Porto and the League Cup by West Brom, but they won the FA Cup, beating Millwall 3-0 in the final.

The FA Cup since 1999

United caused considerable controversy in 1999-2000 when they failed to enter the FA Cup, instead electing to take part in the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship, played in Brazil. United became the first FA Cup holders not to defend their title.

United claim to have been pressured by the Labour Government of the day, along with The FA, who felt that having English representation in the FIFA competition might assist an English attempt to host the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Whether this decision boosted the English Bid's chances is uncertain, but either way, the plan failed, and Germany was nominated as the World Cup Host Nation, beating South Africa into second place.

Returning to the FA Cup in the 2000-2001 season, United struggled to have an impact on the competition, failing to get past the Fifth Round until the 2003-2004 season, when they went on to win the competition. In the interim, they went out of the competition to West Ham United and Middlesbrough.

In the 2004 Final, United defeated Millwall 3-0. United had also beaten Arsenal 1-0 in the Semi-Final at Villa Park, which was some consolation for their failure to keep up with the Gunners in the League Title race.

United managed to get to the final again in 2004-2005, but lost to Arsenal on Penalties, despite dominating the match. This was the first time that the FA Cup Final had been decided on penalties. Previously, the FA Cup was decided by replay (United won two FA Cup Final replays in 1983 against Brighton and Hove Albion and again in 1990 against Crystal Palace) but the Replay system was removed from the Final in the mid-1990s. However, no FA Cup Final had gone to Penalties in the interim. The Final was also the first final ever to finish 0-0 after 90 minutes (and again after Extra Time).

United went out of the 2005-2006 competition in the Fifth round again, 1-0, at near-rivals Liverpool. This game is mostly remembered for Alan Smith, who broke his left leg and dislocated his left ankle in a terrible double-injury. It also marked the first time since 1925 that Liverpool had defeated United in the FA Cup. The two teams had met on 9 previous occasions since, with United triumphing on each one (including the 1-0 win in the 1996 Final).

Manchester United reached a record 18th final of the FA Cup on 14 April 2007, defeating Watford 4-1 in the semi-final at Villa Park. United faced second placed Chelsea in the first FA Cup final to be held at the new Wembley Stadium on 19 May. It was a tense affair however at fulltime the score was still 0-0. Ryan Giggs failed to score from close range in the first period of extra time, though arguably Cech, who was holding the ball at the time was behind the line. Didier Drogba went on to tap in a well-played pass from Frank Lampard four minutes before the end of extra time. Chelsea won 1-0.

In 2007-2008 United reached the quarter-final after defeating Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. They were eliminated by Portsmouth in the last eight, though. United created chance after chance but could not find a way past the Portsmouth goalkeeper David James. In the 79th, however, disaster struck for United. On a rare foray from Portsmouth into the United penalty area they were awarded a penalty and Man United's substitute goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, who came on at half-time for the injured Edwin van der Sar, was sent off for a professional foul. United put Rio Ferdinand in goal and the first thing he had to do as a goalkeeper was take the ball out of the net after Sulley Muntari scored the penalty. Portsmouth won the match 1-0 and went on to lift the FA Cup two months later.

2004-05: The Glazer takeover

In 2004-05, Manchester United finished third in the Premiership for the third time in four seasons. They were knocked out of the Champions League by AC Milan in the second round and the League Cup by Chelsea in the semifinal, and lost the FA Cup to Arsenal on 21 May. Although they had spent a considerable amount on players in the preceding seasons, many of them were disappointing, such as Juan Sebastián Verón, Kleberson, Diego Forlan, Eric Djemba-Djemba and Mark Bosnich. There were also those who criticised the sale of David Beckham to Real Madrid.

In late 2004, the American businessman Malcolm Glazer made a bid to take over the club. The bid was extremely controversial due to his plan to borrow large amounts of money to buy the club and then transfer the debt onto the club itself. United supporters made several anti-Glazer demonstrations before matches and the supporters' organisations Shareholders United and IMUSA encouraged supporters to buy shares in the club to prevent a takeover, but these attempts were unsuccessful and Glazer acquired control of the club on 12 May 2005. Supporters demonstrated outside the ground that evening and again when the Glazers first visited the stadium.

Under the shadow of this controversy, United went to the Millennium Stadium to defend the FA Cup amid threats of protests and possible crowd trouble. Throughout the game, United dominated the match but lost after the penalty shootout. This capped off a disappointing season where they finished third in the league, far behind the champions, Chelsea. Many supporters refused to renew their season tickets in protest at the Glazer takeover, and some formed a new club, F.C. United of Manchester, to watch instead.

2005-06: League Cup win compensates for title chase disappointment

United made two major signings at the beginning of the season: the South Korean winger Park Ji-sung and the Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, but started the season badly. Players publicly complained about the lack of depth in the squad, and after a defeat away to Middlesbrough United's captain Roy Keane criticised his team mates so severely in an MUTV interview that CEO David Gill ordered them not to broadcast it. [ [http://football.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/0,1563,1605711,00.html "Keane gagged by United after TV attack on players"] ] On 6 November 2005, Manchester United had gone through their worst run of form in years, possibly due to injuries to five, and at one point even nine major starting team players- Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Gabriel Heinze, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Louis Saha, Wes Brown, Kieran Richardson, and Quinton Fortune all had the misfortune to be injured simultaneously. The worst part of that was that many were players occupying similar positions- leaving the defence and left side of midfield seriously undermanned and forcing players such as Phil Bardsley into the first team and Alan Smith to move into central midfield, a role which he did not excel in. The team, still damaged by injuries, defeated Chelsea and ended their 40 game unbeaten run after their best performance of the season, thus cutting the difference between United and Chelsea to 10 points with a game in hand.

Roy Keane left the club by mutual agreement terms on 17 November 2005. He was injured at the time, but a few weeks later he signed for Celtic.

United fans were further saddened when George Best, who had scored in the club's European Cup final victory in 1968, died on 25 November 2005. Many supporters left tributes outside Old Trafford in the form of scarves and shirts.

United's European campaign was a disaster, the loss on the last match day saw the team finishing bottom of their group in the UEFA Champions League, failing even to qualify for the UEFA Cup. This potentially cost the club around £15million in television revenue.

Injuries also dampened United's morale, after losing Heinze to injury to start the season. Paul Scholes, who had been declared unfit to return to action that season due to an eye dysfunction, returned on the final day of the season to play the second half. Alan Smith was also out for a lengthy period having broken his left leg and dislocated his left ankle in a horrendous double-injury in February (Although halfway through the season defenders Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra were signed, which helped a little in the team's recovery of form at the second half of the season).

To make matters worse, United lost 1-0 at Liverpool in their 5th Round FA Cup match, to all but end their quest for a major trophy. However, their Carling Cup run was successful, culminating in a 4-0 win over neighbours Wigan Athletic in the final on 26 February at the Millennium Stadium. It was only United's second win in the competition, following victory in 1992.

United finished second in the Premiership with 83 points, their best finish since 2003, but trailed Chelsea by 8 points.

2006-07: The 16th title

In pre-season matches, United won the Amsterdam Tournament. In the 2006 summer transfer window Ruud van Nistelrooy left United for Real Madrid, after falling out of favour with Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the previous season. Michael Carrick joined United from Tottenham Hotspur for £18.6m, and goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak joined from West Bromwich Albion, initially on a two season loan. Alan Smith, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Paul Scholes and Gabriel Heinze all returned from their long-term injuries to take part in the 2006-2007 season. United courted England and Bayern Munich star Owen Hargreaves, but were rebuffed by Bayern.

United suffered a shock 4th Round exit from the Carling Cup, a trophy they had won the previous season, at the hands of Southend United, who at the time were bottom of the Championship and were eventually relegated to League One at the end of the season. The only goal of the game of the match was scored from a free kick by Freddie Eastwood.

On 1 December it was announced that an agreement with Swedish side Helsingborgs IF had been made for the loan signing of Henrik Larsson. The loan began on 1 January 2007 and ended at the beginning of the Swedish domestic season on 12 March 2007. The loan was triggered by the perceived lack of depth behind first choice strikers Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/A17828049 "Larsson move may be inspired"] ] Solskjær's injury added with young Giuseppe Rossi's inexperience as well as his loan status, then at Newcastle and later at Parma as well as Alan Smith's lack of fitness forced midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo to partner with Rooney up front in Saha's absence for United's 3-0 victory over Everton on 29 November. [ [http://soccernet.espn.go.com/report?id=199225&cc=5739 "Man Utd 3-0 Everton: United ring the changes"] ] Henrik Larsson made his debut in an FA Cup game against Aston Villa, opening the scoring in a game that Manchester United won 2-1. His last goal as a United player secured the victory against Lille in the UEFA Champions League 1st knockout round.

In their UEFA Champions League campaign, United started out well in the group stage, the team won all of the home games against Celtic, Benfica and Copenhagen, there was some concern regarding United's poor away performances (they only defeated Benfica as visitors, and lost the other two matches), United nonetheless finished top of their group, and also relegated Benfica to the UEFA Cup in the last match, a thrilling come-from-behind win at Old Trafford. In the 1st knockout round, United's opponents were French side LOSC Lille Métropole. The first leg, played at Stade Félix-Bollaert was a tense and rigid affair, mainly due to several decisions made by referee Eric Braamhaar, after he disallowed a Lille goal for a push on Nemanja Vidić and allowing a United goal, which came from a quick-taken free kick by Ryan Giggs; Lille players and coach Claude Puel protested, and argued that the shot was made before the referee blew his whistle and that the defensive wall wasn't ready (however, the validity of Giggs' goal was later approved and confirmed by UEFA); shortly afterwards they attempted to abandon the match, but subsequently returned and finished the match. There was also security scares in the ground when United fans appeared to be crushed and then French riot police became embroiled in a baton wielding fight. The 2nd leg, at Old Trafford instead of being a problematic match, was a memorable "goodbye" game for Henrik Larsson, as this was the last match he played for United at Old Trafford. Larsson himself was the hero of the day, scoring the winning goal and securing United's passage into the quarter-finals, where United's opponents were A.S. Roma.

The first leg, played at Stadio Olimpico, saw a United team affected by injuries to key players, especially influential defenders Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidić, Mikael Silvestre and midfielder Park Ji-Sung. Louis Saha and Darren Fletcher, who were recovering from injuries and not 100% fit at the time were brought into the squad as well as reserves player Chris Eagles; this showed how significant was the damage in United's roster. This match was a heated game [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/6517355.stm "Roma 2-1 Man Utd"] ] in which Paul Scholes was sent off for harsh fouls against Roma players Christian Wilhelmsson and Francesco Totti within 33 minutes; and the game was marred by serious crowd trouble. The Roma fans charged at a perspex barrier separating the two groups of supporters, and the Italian police responded by charging down through the United fans. Bedlam ensued, in which 11 United fans were taken to hospital. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6528049.stm "Fans in hospital after violence"] ] However, despite the trouble, United appeared to hold the upper hand in the tie despite losing 2-1. United scored the best goal of the game following a superb flowing breakaway in which Cristiano Ronaldo's quick footwork released Ole Gunnar Solskjær who crossed first time for Wayne Rooney to cooly slot home past Roma keeper Doni.

The team bounced back in the return leg; United qualified for the Champions League Semi-Finals with a 7-1 home victory (8-3 on aggregate) over Roma, hailed as one of the best performances in the history of the competition. This was the first time under Sir Alex Ferguson that United had overcome a first leg deficit to progress into the semi finals since winning the trophy in 1999. In addition to that, it was the biggest win for United in the Champions League format and United's biggest score in Europe since they beat the Irish team Waterford 7-1 in the first round of the 1968 European Cup. [ [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/sport/football.html?in_article_id=447815&in_page_id=1779&ct=5 "Fergie's boys go ultrasonic"] ] Goalscorers included Wayne Rooney, Alan Smith (his 1st goal after his broken leg sustained at liverpool), Patrice Evra, and a double for both Michael Carrick and Cristiano Ronaldo, the latter who officially opened his European account. At the semi-finals United faced the only non-English side left in the competition and also eventual winners A.C. Milan. Although Milan had the advantage for most of the first leg at Old Trafford (thanks to two goals from Kaká), United turned the result to their favour, courtesy of two magnificent goals from Wayne Rooney (the remaining United goal being an own goal from Dida, conceded later to Cristiano Ronaldo's effort), and the match ended 3-2. However, United failed to qualify for the Champions League final in Athens when they were comprehensively beaten by A.C. Milan at the San Siro, losing the game 3-0 with goals from Kaká, Clarence Seedorf and Alberto Gilardino putting United out of the tie, allowing Milan to progress 5-3 on aggregate. Nonetheless, this was a huge contrast to their previous 2005-06 season campaign, in which United finished bottom of their group.

On 22 April 2007, Cristiano Ronaldo won both PFA Players' Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year and joined Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidić, Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs in the PFA Team of the Year. Eight members from the same team is a record.

On 6 May, Manchester United won the Premier League for the 9th time in 15 years when Chelsea drew 1-1 with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, United won the Manchester derby the previous day. They were awarded the trophy on 13 May after their last game of the season against West Ham United. This is a first Premiership title win for many of United's team, including Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra, Gabriel Heinze, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha, Park Ji-Sung, Alan Smith, Nemanja Vidić and Michael Carrick. Ryan Giggs also broke Alan Hansen's record for the most league titles won, with his ninth winner's medal.

Despite losing the FA Cup at the new Wembley (see the FA Cup section above) and failing to get to Athens, the 2006-07 season is seen as a successful one for Manchester United. One that many will remember Cristiano Ronaldo's outstanding performances. Paul Scholes's fantastic return from his eye injury, playing a major role in United's title bid and how United held off Chelsea during the dying moments even with defensive injuries. Many, including Sir Alex Ferguson, believes that this will be a new turning point for United to start dominating English football again after spending the last three seasons in the dark in which Arsenal and Chelsea dominated.

European XI

On 13 March, United played a charity game against a European XI selected by Marcello Lippi at Old Trafford. This game commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome as well as the 50th anniversary of Manchester United's entry to the European Cup. The game ended with a 4-3 win for Manchester United in front of more than 74,000 fans with a Wayne Rooney double, a strike by Wes Brown and a Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick sealing a win for the home side.

2007-08 - The European Double

The summer of 2007 began brightly for United and its supporters as the club announced the double signing of Brazilian Anderson of F.C. Porto and the Sporting Lisbon winger Nani on 30 May. The day after the announcement of the Nani and Anderson signing, United announced that they had agreed a contract with Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves. [cite news |url=http://www.manutd.com/default.sps?pagegid={B4CEE8FA-9A47-47BC-B069-3F7A2F35DB70}&newsid=432216 |title=Reds agree terms with Hargreaves |accessdate=2007-05-31 |author=Ben Hibbs |date=2007-05-31 |publisher=ManUtd.com ] Just before the start of the 2007-08 Premier League season United completed the signing of Argentina striker Carlos Tévez. The signing followed a long and complicated transfer saga involving Tévez's Iranian owner Kia Joorabchian, Manchester United, his former club West Ham United, the Premier League, and eventually FIFA.

The additions of Anderson, Hargreaves, Nani, and Tévez in the transfer market were met with the departures of Alan Smith (to Newcastle), Kieran Richardson (to Sunderland), Giuseppe Rossi (to Villareal), and Gabriel Heinze (to Real Madrid). Also a host of younger players returned from their loan spells from the previous season. These players included Ben Foster, Gerard Piqué, Phil Bardsley, Jonny Evans, Danny Simpson, and Lee Martin.

After a two week long preseason tour of Japan, South Korea, and China, United won the 2007 Community Shield, beating Chelsea 3-0 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley Stadium. Edwin van der Sar was particularly impressive, saving all three of Chelsea's penalties while Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney converted all three United penalty kicks.

Wayne Rooney, whose shirt number was changed from 8 to the famous 10 (worn by, amongst others, Denis Law, Mark Hughes, and Ruud van Nistelrooy) during the summer, would go on to injure his left foot in the opening fixture of United's 2007-08 Premier League campaign against an unusually ultra-defensive Reading side. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/eng_prem/6931068.stm "Man Utd 0-0 Reading"] ] Carlos Tévez was subsequently named as the replacement for Rooney in the starting lineup against Portsmouth on the next match, which ended in a 1-1 draw. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/6941810.stm "Portsmouth 1-1 Man Utd"] ] United's misfortune continued as they lost the Manchester derby, 1-0, at Eastlands. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/6941879.stm "Man City 1-0 Man Utd"] ] This ensured United had made their worst start to a Premier League season since the 1992-93 season. United however, started to get the season back on track as the team would then go on in a streak of consecutive "1-0" wins in the Premiership (against Tottenham, Roy Keane's Sunderland, and Everton). On 27 August 2007, Ole Gunnar Solskjær announced his retirement from football after failing to recover from a serious knee injury. United continued winning their matches (against Chelsea, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa).

Having won the Premier League in 2006-07, Manchester United were seeded amongst the top eight seeds in the 2007-08 Champions League group stage draw in Monaco. Drawn into United's Group F were A.S. Roma, Sporting Lisbon, and Dynamo Kiev. United's pairing with Roma created a lot of expectations, partially due to the violence that marred the previous season's Champions League quarterfinal clash between the same sides. United's Champions League campaign started brightly with a 1-0 away win over Sporting Lisbon, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the lone goal against his old club. This victory was followed with a 1-0 win over A.S. Roma at Old Trafford, and a 4-2 away win over Dynamo Kiev, thus putting United close to qualifying to the 1st knockout round.

On 26 September 2007, United were knocked out of the 2007-08 Carling Cup, in the third round, against Championship side Coventry City, managed by Iain Dowie. Coventry won the game 2-0, both goals from striker Michael Mifsud.

United however, responded to their 1-0 critics by scoring four goals in four consecutive games and reach the top of the table.

On 3 November 2007, Manchester United faced arch-rivals Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in North London. This tie was crucial for both teams as both were level on points and were separated only on the basis of goals scored. The tie remained goalless till almost the end of the first half until William Gallas scored an own goal bought on by pressure from Wayne Rooney from a low Cristiano Ronaldo cross. However, coming back from the break, Arsenal equalised through Cesc Fabregas, who has been in scintillating form this season. Once again the tie looked set for a draw when suddenly, Patrice Evra found room inside the box and delivered an accurate low cross to Cristiano Ronaldo who coolly tapped it in. Manchester United looked to have won it. But, in the dying seconds, Arsenal captain, William Gallas, scored a thrilling equaliser and rescued a point for the Gunners.

After the disappointing end at the Emirates Stadium, Manchester United faced a low on confidence Dynamo Kiev side at Old Trafford in midweek in the Uefa Champions League. It marked the beginning of Sir Alex Ferguson's 22nd year in charge. The Red Devils easily won that game 4-0 thanks to goals from Gerard Pique, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Next came Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League. Blackburn had not lost against the three of the "Big Four" of the Premier League. So this team was considered a test for the champions. Furthermore, a day before the game, in form striker Wayne Rooney had been ruled out for a month due to a freak ankle injury suffered in training. This would also mean that Rooney would miss the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier for England against Croatia. But despite the disappointment of Rooney's injury, the Red Devils won comfortably 2-0 thanks to two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo. This win saw United topping the table. It only lasted for a day as the Gunners managed to reclaim top spot by beating Reading the next day. The Gunners leads the table just based on goals scored.

After the Blackburn game, a proud Sir Alex Ferguson stated that this current crop of United players are the best he has managed to assemble and manage so far throughout his time at Manchester United as manager. Despite a shock loss to Bolton at the Reebok Stadium, United bounced back with 2 successive wins against Fulham and Derby before facing arch rivals Liverpool at Anfield in a game in which could have gone either way but United won 1-0 thanks to a Carlos Tevez goal just before half time.

After the hurrah at Anfield, United faced another team from Merseyside, Everton. They won the game 2-1 with Cristiano Ronaldo brace separating the two sides. Next came the Black Cats, managed by ex-captain Roy Keane. United won the game very comfortably with a victory margin of 4-0. That week also saw United topping the table after Arsenal drew 0-0 away at Portsmouth.

On 29 December, United suffered a major setback when they lost 1-2 to West Ham United. This was only United's 3rd defeat this season. It was also United's 3rd consecutive defeat against West Ham United in Premier League. This recalled memories of the 1998-99 season, when the team had already lost three times before the turn of the year, before going on an unbeaten run until the end of the season to win the league.

After this United went on a run of 4 straight wins without conceding a goal, 1-0 against Birmingham City, 2-0 against Aston Villa (in the FA Cup) 6-0 against managerless Newcastle United, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring his first hat-trick for the club and a 2-0 away win at Reading, leaving them top of the Premiership ahead of Arsenal due to a superior goal difference. However, United were held to a 1-1 draw against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and then misfired to a 2-1 loss against Manchester City at Old Trafford on a day which marked the 50th anniversary of the Munich crash and it thus allowing the Gunners to hold a comfortable 5 point lead over the Red Devils. United then bounced back by beating Arsenal 4-0 in their FA Cup fifth round tie at Old Trafford. This victory came without in-form Cristiano Ronaldo as Ferguson granted some of the squad's fringe players such as Darren Fletcher and Nani an opportunity to show their worth ahead of the Champions League clash with Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade de Gerland. After a goal by Karim Benzema at the start of the second half, Carlos Tevez dramatically equalised in the 87th minute to put United level on the night and give them a significant advantage going into the second leg at Old Trafford with the away goal. This was followed by a 5-1 win at Newcastle, with a brace by both Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo and a solitary goal from Louis Saha, who recently recovered from injury to make an appearance as a second half substitute.

United then put three goals past Fulham without reply to close the gap at the top to Arsenal to just one point with just ten games remaining. Among the goalscorers was Owen Hargreaves who scored his first goal for the club. Attention then turned to the Champions League where United had to finish the job of qualifying for the quarter-finals for a ninth time. A single goal on the night from Cristiano Ronaldo was enough to see off Olympique Lyonnais and therefore qualify 2-1 on aggregate. In so doing they equaled Juventus's record of ten consecutive home victories in the Champions League. The FA Cup took centre stage on Saturday 8th of March. Portsmouth stood between them and a trip to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final. Pompey upset the odds by winning controversially 1-0 at Old Trafford.

Portsmouth had made several strong tackles in the match that weren't noticed by the referee, including one in the 7th minute that was a clear penalty, and United dominated the entire match, only for Portsmouth to earn a penalty and for Tomasz Kuszczak to be sent off in virtually the only attacking move Portsmouth made for 90 minutes. As United had made all their substitutions, with Kuszczak being one of them after Edwin van der Sar's injury, Rio Ferdinand stepped into the goal, but he couldn't prevent Sulley Muntari from scoring the penalty.

Following the disappointment of getting knocked out of the F.A Cup, United bounced back by winning 1-0 in a tough match against bottom side Derby County. Cristiano Ronaldo, as he had done so many times during the season, saved United again, and scored the only goal of the game 14 minutes from time.

Ronaldo continued his rich vein of form, and in the next match against Bolton, he not only captained the side for the first time, he also broke George Best's record of 32 goals in a season scored by a winger. Ronaldo scored his 32nd goal of the season in the 9th minute, before hitting a trademark rocket free-kick in the 19th minute. United won the match 2-0, and the win took them 3 points clear of second-placed Arsenal, who were losing steam for the past 4 games.

United's next opponents, Liverpool, had been the form team in the Premier-League, also notching up several wins, with several pundits claiming that if Liverpool beat United at Old Trafford, Liverpool would have an outside chance of getting back into the title race.

On the day, Liverpool were made to look non-existent, as United easily swept them aside 3-0, dominated the match, and could have scored even more, if it weren't for excellent saves from Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina, and the woodwork. Wes Brown scored his first goal for United in 3 years to open the scoring, before Ronaldo hit his 34th goal of the season, and within two minutes, substitute Nani exchanged passes with Wayne Rooney on the edge of the box, before hitting an unstoppable curler from 17 yards out, and going on to celebrate with his trademark somersault. The win took United 5 points clear of Chelsea, and 6 clear of Arsenal, who were beaten by the Blues 2-1 at Stamford Bridge later that day, with the win taking Chelsea above Arsenal.

The next weekend brought further joy to Old Trafford, as United beat Aston Villa 4-0. Two goals from Wayne Rooney saw him end his 6 game streak without a goal. Ronaldo and Tevez finished off the scoring, netting one apiece. This match also saw United substitute several key players to prevent injury against their mid-week game against Roma. The game against Roma, which was hyped for many reasons other than football, namely the violence that had gone on there the previous meetings. However, no violence was reported, and United won the game in Rome, with goals from Ronaldo and Rooney giving United a 2-0 victory. These goals were of particular importance, because as away goals, they would count for double in the event of a draw on aggregate.

United drew 0-0 with Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final at the Nou Camp, and in the return game at Old Trafford a Paul Scholes goal put them through to the final in Moscow, where they will take on Chelsea in the first all-English European Cup final.

On 11 May 2008, the final day of the Premier League season, United played against Wigan Athletic, needing to equal or better Chelsea's result against Bolton Wanderers to claim the title. Chelsea could only manage a 1-1 draw against Bolton, while United beat Wigan 2-0 to retain the league title. Ryan Giggs, who scored United's second goal after Ronaldo dispatched the first with a penalty, made his 758th appearance in a Manchester United shirt when he came on as a substitute for Park Ji-Sung, equalling Bobby Charlton's 35-year-old club record. With his tenth Premier League winner's medal in 16 years, Giggs also set a new English record for the most league titles won by one player. He is the only medallist remaining from the first two title-winning teams, although Gary Neville was a bit-part player in 1993 and 1994.

United's challenge for the FA Cup ended in the quarter-finals when they lost 1-0 at home to Portsmouth, who went on to win the trophy.

On 21 May, United defeated Chelsea 6–5 on penalties in Moscow, after the teams each scored one goal in regular time of the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final. Ronaldo scored a header after 26 minutes, but Frank Lampard equalised just before half-time. In the penalty shootout, Chelsea's John Terry had a chance to win the final for Chelsea, after Ronaldo's shot had been saved, but Terry sent his opportunity wide of the goal. Ryan Giggs, making a record 759th appearance for the club, breaking Bobby Charlton's record, scored what proved to the winning kick in the seventh round of the shootout, before Edwin van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka's attempt.

2008-09

On 10 August, Manchester United defeated Portsmouth 3–1 on penalties in London, after a goalless draw in regular time of the 2008 FA Community Shield. United had an average start to their league season, earning four points from their first two games, drawing with Newcastle United in the first match before beating Portsmouth at Fratton Park for the first time in three years.

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