1998–99 Manchester United F.C. season

1998–99 Manchester United F.C. season
Manchester United
1998–99 season
Chairman Martin Edwards
Manager Alex Ferguson
FA Premier League 1st
FA Cup Winners
League Cup Quarter-finals
Charity Shield Runners-up
UEFA Champions League Winners
Top goalscorer League:
Dwight Yorke (18)
Dwight Yorke (29)
Highest home attendance 55,316 vs Southampton (27 February 1999)
Lowest home attendance 37,337 vs Nottingham Forest (11 November 1998)
Average home attendance 54,056
Home colours
Away colours
Third colours

The 1998–99 season was the most successful in the history of Manchester United Football Club.[1][2][3] By the season's end the club had won a treble of trophies (the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League), the first side in English football to achieve such a feat. During the campaign United lost only five times, including a one-off Charity Shield fixture, in the League Cup against eventual winners Tottenham Hotspur and their only home defeat, a league match against Middlesbrough in December 1998. A run of 33 games unbeaten in all competitions began on 26 December at home to Nottingham Forest.

Veteran players Brian McClair and Gary Pallister, along with a host of younger and less experienced players such as goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington and striker Graeme Tomlinson, had left the club before the season began. The big news of the pre-season was the arrival of Dutch defender Jaap Stam for a club record fee of £10.75 million. Other additions included striker Dwight Yorke and Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist. Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel announced his intention to leave the club after eight years at Old Trafford,[4] joining Sporting Clube de Portugal at the end of the season.[5]

The team's never-say-die attitude,[6][7] instilled in previous seasons,[6] was key to their success as the players often thrived in difficult situations. The highlight was United's dramatic comeback in the Champions League final, when Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær each scored in injury time to overturn Bayern Munich's first-half lead.[8]

The treble haul is often regarded by fans and writers as manager Alex Ferguson's finest hour, although he has dismissed that assertion in later years.[9] Tens of thousands of fans lined the streets of Manchester to welcome the team as the season drew to a close. In recognition of his achievements Ferguson was awarded a knighthood,[10] and handed the Freedom of the City of Glasgow in November 1999.[11]

By the end of the season Manchester United had become the world’s richest football club,[12][13] and the most valuable sporting brand worldwide.[12] The club was also at the centre of a takeover bid by BSkyB,[14] which was blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in March 1999.[15]



In their pre-season travels United lost and drew their first two matches, before winning three. A testimonial for Teddy Scott at Pittodrie against Aberdeen was scheduled in January; United lost 7–6 on penalties after a 1–1 draw in 90 minutes.[16]

Date Opponents H / A Result

F – A

Scorers Attendance
25 July 1998 Birmingham City A 3–4 Mulryne (3, 1 pen.) 21', 38', 56' 20,708
27 July 1998 Vålerenga IF A 2–2 Scholes 12', Solskjær 14' 19,700
31 July 1998 Brøndby A 6–0 Sheringham (2) 33', 71', Scholes 44', Cole (2) 66', 84', Cruyff 90' 27,022
4 August 1998 Brann A 4–0 Irwin (3) 43', 44' (pen.), 55' (pen.), Cole 82' 16,100
18 August 1998 Eric Cantona European XI H 8–4 P. Neville, Butt, Scholes, Giggs, Cantona, Cruyff, Notman (2) 55,121
18 January 1999 Aberdeen A 1 – 1
(6 – 7p)
Johnsen 51' 21,500

Colours: Green = Manchester United win; Yellow = draw; Red = opponents win.

FA Charity Shield

The opening game of the season was the Charity Shield on 9 August 1998 at Wembley Stadium in front of 67,342 people, which United lost 3–0 to the previous season's double winners Arsenal.[17] Roy Keane made his comeback after almost a year out injured, and Jaap Stam debuted in central defence.

FA Premier League


In the opening weekend of the season Manchester United faced Leicester City at Old Trafford, and went a goal down within seven minutes; Muzzy Izzet’s cross was met by Emile Heskey to scuff the ball into the net before Tony Cottee – the scorer in the previous season’s corresponding fixture – added a second with fifteen minutes remaining. Teddy Sheringham’s intervention and a last gasp free kick by David Beckham helped the home side salvage a point, setting a precedent for things to come.[18] The team's first away game at West Ham followed, but despite the debut of striker Dwight Yorke, United were held to a goalless draw. Beckham, who had become a national hate figure after his dismissal in the World Cup received a torrid reception by the home supporters, with every touch of the ball made by him jeered at. Bottles and stones were directed at the team coach prior to kick-off.[19] After the game Alex Ferguson, his players, and the Manchester United staff refused to be interviewed by the press or television.[20]


Manchester United recorded their first win of the season on 9 September, beating newly promoted Charlton Athletic 4–1.[21] Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjær each scored a brace to overturn the visitor's early lead. The match was marred with demonstrations in and around Old Trafford against the proposed takeover of the club by BSkyB.[22] Obscene chants were directed at chairman Martin Edwards, who had given his support to the merger.[21] A 2–0 victory against Coventry City the following week put United in perfect stead for the clash at home to Barcelona,[23] but a comprehensive defeat to champions Arsenal left the team in 10th position.[24] This was Arsène Wenger's third straight victory over Alex Ferguson (four in all competitions); goals from Tony Adams, Nicolas Anelka and Freddie Ljungberg condemned Manchester United to their heaviest away defeat in more than two years. To compound the misery midfielder Nicky Butt, who had been sent off in the Champions League match earlier in the week, was handed a second red card in the space of four days after a lunge on French international Patrick Vieira.[24] United ended the month with a win, beating rivals Liverpool 2–0 to move into fifth spot.[25]


A trip to The Dell on 3 October was taken with caution given United's return from Munich in the Champions League and winless record at the ground. The team lost to Southampton in each of their last three visits, including a 6–3 mauling in 1996.[26] Despite dominating possession and clear-cut chances in the previous season’s fixture, United lost by a single goal leaving Ferguson to question when, not if he would eventually break the jinx.[27] Andy Cole was paired with Dwight Yorke for only the second time this season, a tactic that paid off as both got on the score sheet. Substitute Jordi Cruyff added a third in the 75th minute to move United into second place in the table, four points behind leaders Aston Villa going into the international break.[28] Raimond van der Gouw who deputised for injured goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel at Southampton featured again at home to Wimbledon, a match that Manchester United won 5–1, the biggest win of the season at Old Trafford.[29] Ryan Giggs, Beckham, Yorke and Cole (twice) all scored; Ferguson in particular hailed the contribution of 19-year-old defender Wes Brown.[29] United earned a point away at Derby County on 24 October,[30] and deservedly beat Everton at Goodison Park on Halloween to cut the gap at the top to just a point.[31]


Manchester United drew their first and only home blank of the season against Newcastle,[32] but made amends with a 3–2 victory over bottom team Blackburn Rovers.[33] Defensive frailties, most notably from Schmeichel, were on show away to Sheffield Wednesday as the team missed the chance to go top of the table.[34] A brace from winger Jens Niclas Alexandersson and a debut goal scored by Wim Jonk consigned Ferguson to his second defeat in the league and extended a barren run at Hillsborough; United had won only a single game in their last eight visits.[34] On 29 November, Manchester United hosted Leeds United and a vailiant performance by the visitors looked to have gained them a draw, after going two goals down in the first half. A moment of brilliance from Nicky Butt however secured the three points for the Red Devils and kept up the pressure on the challengers.[35]


Three straight draws followed in December, the first away to league leaders Aston Villa.[36] United were fortunate to pick up a point given their opponents dominance in the second half, and were careless at Tottenham Hotspur, throwing away a 0–2 lead.[37] Solskjær put United two goals ahead, but in the 39th minute Gary Neville received a red card for a second bookable offence, tugging on David Ginola's shirt. Spurs captain Sol Campbell brought his team back into the match with 20 minutes remaining and on the cusp of stoppage time powered a header in the top left-hand corner, sparking jubilant scenes at White Hart Lane. Chelsea grabbed a creditable draw at Old Trafford to stake their championship creditals four days later[38] and United, who were without their manager Ferguson for the Middlesbrough game[39] were beaten 3–2; their last defeat of the season.[40] On Boxing Day the team collected three points against Nottingham Forest[41] and merited a point at Stamford Bridge in the last match of 1998 to solidify their position in the top four.[42]


A power cut at Old Trafford delayed proceedings against West Ham on 10 January, a match that ended 4–1 to Manchester United. The partnership of Yorke and Cole was starting to click, evident in the win at Leicester City. Five goals were scored in the second half including a hat trick for the former, cutting Chelsea's lead at the top to two points.[43] On 31 January, Manchester United moved a point clear at the Premiership summit for the first time in the season.[44] Dwight Yorke's late header in the 89th minute made the victory at Charlton Athletic their third consecutive league win (fifth in the month). Ferguson praised the team's resolve, adding "It's a good result for us, because there are games where you have to dig in and find a result."[44]


Manchester United beat Derby County 1–0 at home on 3 February to move four points ahead of Chelsea.[45] Three days later the team set a new record at the City Ground, racking up the biggest away Premier League win (8–1).[46] Substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored four times in the space of ten minutes, adding to an already commanding scoreline.[47] Ron Atkinson, the manager of Nottingham Forest, declared Manchester United to be the best team in the league by "a country mile",[48] and Ferguson was now handed a selection dilemma ahead of the clash against Arsenal on 17 February. The Gunners were without Dennis Bergkamp, Emmanuel Petit and Martin Keown,[49] and conceded an early penalty when Ray Parlour brought down Solskjaer. Yorke missed, chipping the ball wide of the right-hand post, and was made to pay early in the second half as Nwankwo Kanu's through ball found striker Anelka, who put his team into the lead. Given Arsenal’s defensive record,[50] another cleansheet looked to be on the cards until a header by Andy Cole in the 60th minute drew the game level. United from then on had several chances to win the game, but a point each left the title race finely balanced. Back to back wins starting with Coventry on 20 February,[51] and Southampton a week later,[52] maintained United's grip on first position.

March and April

Cup duties were the main priority in March as United played only two league fixtures: away to Newcastle and at home to Everton. Two wins out of two, including two goals by Andy Cole against his former club, Newcastle,[53] helped the team to become the first to reach 60 points in the season.

Manchester United could only manage a draw at Wimbledon on 3 April as David Beckham’s well-drilled shot cancelled out Jason Euell's opener in the fifth minute.[54] Despite several of the first-team members being rested for the Juventus tie, United won easily against Sheffield Wednesday[55] and battled well to earn a point against Leeds at Elland Road after the midweek tie at Juventus.[56] But the result allowed Arsenal to move to the top of the Premiership for the first time this season, albeit having played one game more, after scoring six against Middlesbrough at the Riverside for no reply.[57]


Another versatile performance by David Beckham dragged United back to the summit, but Arsenal’s win at Derby the following Sunday restored the champion's slender advantage. Against Liverpool at Anfield, Ferguson restored the Cole-Yorke partnership, and within 23 minutes the latter scored the opener from a Beckham cross. In the second half United were awarded a penalty for a challenge on Jesper Blomqvist by Jamie Carragher, which Irwin successfully converted. But Irwin was sent off in the 75th minute for a second bookable offence just after Jamie Redknapp scored through a penalty to give Liverpool hope. Paul Ince, who Ferguson labelled before the match as a “big time Charlie”,[58] scrambled the equaliser two minutes from time. The United manager did not hide his discomfort, adding he thought “the referee handed it to them.”[59] On the same night, Arsenal convincingly beat rivals Tottenham to move three points clear, having still played a game more.[60] Wenger was adamant that United were marginal favourites,[60] but it was clear the title race would be decided on the final day, akin to 1995.

With two games remaining, Dwight Yorke scored his 29th goal of the season at Middlesbrough to help his team return to the top of the table. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's late winner against Arsenal two days later all but ended Wenger’s chances of retaining the league championship.[61] United now needed only four points, one of them gained at Ewood Park, relegating Blackburn Rovers in the process. Manchester United eventually secured the championship on the final day, coming back from a goal down against Tottenham to win 2–1.[62] The achievement was all the more special for Ferguson, who lifted his fifth domestic championship in seven seasons.

Date Opponents H / A Result
F – A
Scorers Attendance League
15 August 1998 Leicester City H 2–2 Sheringham 79', Beckham 90' 55,052 7th
22 August 1998 West Ham United A 0–0 26,039 11th
9 September 1998 Charlton Athletic H 4–1 Solskjær (2) 39', 63', Yorke 45', 48' 55,147 9th
12 September 1998 Coventry City H 2–0 Yorke 20', Johnsen 48' 55,193 5th
20 September 1998 Arsenal A 0–3 38,142 10th
24 September 1998 Liverpool H 2–0 Irwin 19' (pen.), Scholes 80' 55,181 5th
3 October 1998 Southampton A 3–0 Yorke 12', Cole 60', Cruyff 75' 15,251 2nd
17 October 1998 Wimbledon H 5–1 Cole (2) 19', 88', Giggs 45', Beckham 47', Yorke 52' 55,265 2nd
24 October 1998 Derby County A 1–1 Cruyff 86' 30,867 2nd
31 October 1998 Everton A 4–1 Yorke 14', Short 23' (o.g.), Cole 59', Blomqvist 64' 40,079 2nd
8 November 1998 Newcastle United H 0–0 55,174 3rd
14 November 1998 Blackburn Rovers H 3–2 Scholes (2) 31', 59', Yorke 43' 55,198 2nd
21 November 1998 Sheffield Wednesday A 1–3 Cole 29' 39,475 2nd
29 November 1998 Leeds United H 3–2 Solskjær 45', Keane 46', Butt 78' 55,172 2nd
5 December 1998 Aston Villa A 1–1 Scholes 47' 39,241 2nd
12 December 1998 Tottenham Hotspur A 2–2 Solskjær (2) 11', 18' 36,079 1st
16 December 1998 Chelsea H 1–1 Cole 45' 55,159 2nd
19 December 1998 Middlesbrough H 2–3 Butt 62', Scholes 70' 55,152 3rd
26 December 1998 Nottingham Forest H 3–0 Johnsen (2) 28', 60', Giggs 62' 55,216 4th
29 December 1998 Chelsea A 0–0 34,741 4th
10 January 1999 West Ham United H 4–1 Yorke 10', Cole (2) 40', 68', Solskjær 81' 55,180 3rd
16 January 1999 Leicester City A 6–2 Yorke (3) 10', 64', 86', Cole (2) 50', 62', Stam 90' 22,091 3rd
31 January 1999 Charlton Athletic A 1–0 Yorke 89' 20,043 1st
3 February 1999 Derby County H 1–0 Yorke 65' 55,174 1st
6 February 1999 Nottingham Forest A 8–1 Yorke (2) 2', 67', Cole (2) 7', 50', Solskjær (4) 80', 88', 90', 90' 30,025 1st
17 February 1999 Arsenal H 1–1 Cole 61' 55,171 1st
20 February 1999 Coventry City A 1–0 Giggs 79' 22,596 1st
27 February 1999 Southampton H 2–1 Keane 80', Yorke 84' 55,316 1st
13 March 1999 Newcastle United A 2–1 Cole 25', 51' 36,776 1st
21 March 1999 Everton H 3–1 Solskjær 55', G. Neville 64', Beckham 67' 55,182 1st
3 April 1999 Wimbledon A 1–1 Beckham 44' 26,121 1st
17 April 1999 Sheffield Wednesday H 3–0 Solskjær 34', Sheringham 45', Scholes 62' 55,270 1st
25 April 1999 Leeds United A 1–1 Cole 55' 40,255 2nd
1 May 1999 Aston Villa H 2–1 Watson 20' (o.g.), Beckham 47' 55,189 2nd
5 May 1999 Liverpool A 2–2 Yorke 22', Irwin 57' (pen.) 44,702 2nd
9 May 1999 Middlesbrough A 1–0 Yorke 45' 34,665 1st
12 May 1999 Blackburn Rovers A 0–0 30,436 1st
16 May 1999 Tottenham Hotspur H 2–1 Beckham 43', Cole 48' 55,189 1st

Colours: Green = Manchester United win; Yellow = draw; Red = opponents win.

Pos Club Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Manchester United 38 22 13 3 80 37 +43 79
2 Arsenal 38 22 12 4 59 17 +42 78
3 Chelsea 38 20 15 3 57 30 +27 75

Points allocation: Three points awarded for a win; one for a drawn match; none for a loss.

FA Cup

Despite receiving a home draw in each of their first four rounds (3rd – 6th), United were paired against difficult opponents throughout the competition. On their route to the final they defeated five Premier League teams: Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Newcastle United. The only non-Premier League team that United played in the competition was Fulham, who at the time played in the Second Division, the third tier of English football, but even they were not considered pushovers, having claimed shock wins over Southampton and Aston Villa in the previous rounds.

In the third round, United were drawn against Middlesbrough, who had recently beaten them in the league. Andy Townsend gave Middlesbrough the lead at half time, but goals from Andy Cole, Denis Irwin and Ryan Giggs gave United a 3–1 victory.

United faced Liverpool at home in the following round, where the visitors took the lead from a Michael Owen header inside three minutes. In spite of creating plenty of goalscoring chances, the team failed to equalise until the 86th minute, when Dwight Yorke scored off a Beckham free-kick. In the second minute of stoppage time, Ole Gunnar Solskjær hit a shot that sent Liverpool goalkeeper David James the wrong way to give United the win.[63]

Andy Cole scored the winner against Fulham on Valentine's Day to set up a quarter-final clash at home to Chelsea.[64] Although there were no goals, Paul Scholes and Roberto Di Matteo were both sent off and missed the replay, three days later at Stamford Bridge.[65] Yorke kept up his ever-improving goalscoring record, scoring two goals against the Blues on 10 March.[66]

United played cup holders Arsenal in the semi-final at Villa Park on 11 April. Neither team was able to score even after extra time had been played, therefore the match was decided in a replay four days later. David Beckham opened the scoring for United with a long range effort, but Dennis Bergkamp drew Arsenal level with a shot that deflected off United's centre back Jaap Stam.[67] Arsenal then thought they had taken the lead when Nicolas Anelka put the ball in the back of United's net, but the goal was ruled out for offside. United's captain Roy Keane was red-carded for two bookable offences and United played the last thirty minutes of normal time with ten men. In injury time at the end of the second half, Phil Neville fouled Ray Parlour in the penalty area. Peter Schmeichel parried away Bergkamp's resultant spot kick and the game went into extra time.

Giggs scored partway through the second half of extra time. Picking up possession on the halfway line after a loose pass from Patrick Vieira, he dribbled past the entire Arsenal back line before shooting just under goalkeeper David Seaman's bar. Giggs ran celebrating towards the United fans, and United held on to beat the Gunners 2–1.[68] The goal was the last ever scored in a FA Cup semi-final replay, which was abolished the following season.

United met Newcastle United in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, the penultimate FA Cup final to be held there before it was closed for rebuilding. Less than 10 minutes into the match, Keane was injured and replaced by Sheringham. He and Scholes both finished with a goal apiece in the 2–0 win that sealed the double.[69]

Date Round Opponents H / A Result

F – A

Scorers Attendance
3 January 1999 Round 3 Middlesbrough H 3–1 Cole 68', Irwin 82' (pen.), Giggs 90' 52,232
24 January 1999 Round 4 Liverpool H 2–1 Yorke 88', Solskjær 90' 54,591
14 February 1999 Round 5 Fulham H 1–0 Cole 26' 54,798
7 March 1999 Round 6 Chelsea H 0–0 54,587
10 March 1999 Round 6 replay Chelsea A 2–0 Yorke (2) 4', 59' 33,075
11 April 1999 Semi-final Arsenal N 0–0 39,217
14 April 1999 Semi-final replay Arsenal N 2 – 1 (a.e.t.) Beckham 17', Giggs 109' 30,223
22 May 1999 Final Newcastle United N 2–0 Sheringham 11', Scholes 52' 79,101

Colours: Green = Manchester United win; Yellow = draw; Red = opponents win.

League Cup

As in the previous four seasons United rested many of their first-team players in the League Cup, instead using the competition to provide first team experience to their younger players and reserves. In the third round of the competition United required extra-time to defeat Bury, eventually winning 2–0 with goals from Erik Nevland and Ole Gunnar Solskjær.[70] In the fourth round, two more goals from Solskjær gave United a 2–1 victory over Nottingham Forest, earning them a place in the quarter-finals for the first time since they reached the final in 1994.[71] United were beaten in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Tottenham Hotspur; two goals from Chris Armstrong and one from David Ginola gave Spurs a 3–1 victory, with ex-Spurs striker Teddy Sheringham scoring the consolation for United on his return to White Hart Lane.[72]

Date Round Opponents H / A Result

F – A

Scorers Attendance
28 October 1998 Round 3 Bury H 2 – 0
Solskjær 106', Nevland 115' 52,495
11 November 1998 Round 4 Nottingham Forest H 2–1 Solskjær (2) 57', 60' 37,337
2 December 1998 Round 5 Tottenham Hotspur A 1–3 Sheringham 70' 35,702

Colours: Green = Manchester United win; Yellow = draw; Red = opponents win.

Champions League

Qualifying round

Manchester United began their UEFA Champions League campaign against Polish champions ŁKS Łódź in the qualifying round. Goals from Ryan Giggs and Andy Cole in the home leg gave them a 2–0 win,[73] and a goalless second leg ensured their qualification for the group stage.[74] This gave Łódź the distinction of being the only side to keep a clean sheet against the eventual champions as well as being the only opponents failing to score against them.

Date Round Opponents H / A Result

F – A

Scorers Attendance
12 August 1998 Second qualifying round
First leg
ŁKS Łódź H 2–0 Giggs 16', Cole 81' 50,906
26 August 1998 Second qualifying round
Second leg
ŁKS Łódź A 0–0 8,000

Colours: Green = Manchester United win; Yellow = draw; Red = opponents win.

Group stage

United were drawn in Group D, quickly labelled the competition's "group of death", along with Spanish club Barcelona, German champions Bayern Munich and Danish side Brøndby.[75]

Both games against Barcelona ended in draws. Despite Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham putting the team into a 3—2 lead at Old Trafford, the visitors were awarded a late penalty after Nicky Butt was sent off for handling the ball. Luís Enrique converted the ball into the net to leave both teams with a point on Matchday One.[76] The return game on 25 November at the Camp Nou also finished 3–3.[77]

United were denied victory by Bayern Munich twice, home and away. In Munich, the home side equalised with two minutes to go with United leading 2–1, after Schmeichel uncharacteristically went for and missed Bixente Lizarazu's throw-in, allowing Giovane Élber to tap in from a few yards out and score his second of the match.[78] The return leg ended in a stalemate; Roy Keane scored just before half-time via a low header before Hasan Salihamidžić equalised for the visitors.[77]

United inflicted two heavy defeats on Brøndby, beating them 6–2 in Copenhagen[79] and 5–0 at Old Trafford.[80] Results in the other groups meant that a second place finish was enough for United to progress into the quarter-finals, joining group leaders Bayern Munich.

Date Opponents H / A Result

F – A

Scorers Attendance Group


16 September 1998 Barcelona H 3–3 Giggs 17', Scholes 25', Beckham 64' 53,601 3rd
30 September 1998 Bayern Munich A 2–2 Yorke 30', Scholes 49' 55,000 3rd
21 October 1998 Brøndby A 6–2 Giggs (2) 2', 21', Cole 28', Keane 55', Yorke 60', Solskjær 62' 40,315 1st
4 November 1998 Brøndby H 5–0 Beckham 7', Cole 13', P. Neville 16', Yorke 28', Scholes 62' 53,250 1st
25 November 1998 Barcelona A 3–3 Yorke (2) 25', 68', Cole 53' 54,213 2nd
9 December 1998 Bayern Munich H 1–1 Keane 43' 54,434 2nd

Colours: Green = Manchester United win; Yellow = draw; Red = opponents win.

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Germany Bayern Munich 6 3 2 1 9 6 +3 11
England Manchester United 6 2 4 0 20 11 +9 10
Spain Barcelona 6 2 2 2 11 9 +2 8
Denmark Brøndby 6 1 0 5 4 18 −14 3

Points allocation: Three points awarded for a win; one for a drawn match; none for a loss.

Knockout stage

In the knockout stage United played two Italian sides in the quarter and semi-finals, Internazionale and Juventus respectively; United had never won on an Italian pitch.

In the quarter-finals, David Beckham faced Diego Simeone for the first time since the 1998 World Cup. In the first leg at Old Trafford, United beat Inter 2–0 with two almost identical goals from Yorke, both from crosses by Beckham; Simeone's second-half goal was disallowed for pushing.[81] In the San Siro, Paul Scholes scored a late away goal to level the game at 1–1 as United advanced 3–1 on aggregate.[82]

In the semi-finals, Juve's captain Antonio Conte met Edgar Davids' pass to give Juventus an away goal. United equalised in injury-time through Ryan Giggs, who converted a Beckham cross: a Teddy Sheringham goal a few minutes earlier had been disallowed.[83] A draw meant that United either needed to win in Italy, or get a score-draw of 2–2 or greater.

At the Stadio delle Alpi, Filippo Inzaghi scored twice in the first 11 minutes to give Juve a 3–1 aggregate lead. However team captain Roy Keane, who was shown a yellow card preventing him from playing the final, headed in a Beckham cross. Dwight Yorke added a second to level the match just before the break. In the second half, Andy Cole put United ahead for the first time in the match and the tie. Yorke was brought down by the Juve keeper in the area as he went round him, but the referee played the advantage and Cole tapped in from an acute angle.[84] United held on for their first victory in Italy and booked their place in the Camp Nou for the final, against group opponents Bayern Munich.

Date Round Opponents H / A Result

F – A

Scorers Attendance
3 March 1999 Quarter-final
First leg
Internazionale H 2–0 Yorke (2) 6', 45' 54,430
17 March 1999 Quarter-final
Second leg
Internazionale A 1–1 Scholes 88' 79,528
7 April 1999 Semi-final
First leg
Juventus H 1–1 Giggs 90+2' 54,487
21 April 1999 Semi-final
Second leg
Juventus A 3–2 Keane 24', Yorke 34', Cole 84' 60,806
26 May 1999 Final Bayern Munich N 2–1 Sheringham 90+1', Solskjær 90+3' 91,000

Colours: Green = Manchester United win; Yellow = draw; Red = opponents win.


Three silver trophies on blue plinths in a glass display case.
The Treble trophies: the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup (left to right)

United were without first-choice central midfielders Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, as both were suspended after receiving a second yellow card in the competition. Ferguson reorganised the team, with Jesper Blomqvist and Nicky Butt replacing Keane and Scholes, David Beckham moving from right-wing to centre-midfield and Ryan Giggs moving from the left to the right wing. United lined up in their normal 4–4–2 formation.[8] This was the final match for Peter Schmeichel, who captained the team.[8]

Mario Basler's free kick after six minutes opened the scoring for Bayern Munich. Bayern then had the chance to extend their lead with Mehmet Scholl hitting the post and Carsten Jancker the crossbar, forcing Peter Schmeichel to make numerous saves. In reaction to going a goal down, Alex Ferguson substituted in Solskjær and Sheringham. As the game went to injury time, referee Pierluigi Collina indicated that three minutes would be played. In almost the last attack of the game, United won a corner, which Beckham took and goalkeeper Schmeichel went up front for. The ball was partially cleared by the Bayern defence before being played back to Ryan Giggs, who sent a low volley into the path of Sheringham, whose scuffed shot squeezed low inside the post.[8]

Almost immediately after the equaliser United won another corner, again taken by Beckham. He landed the ball on the head of Sheringham who nodded it to Solskjær who in turn toe-poked it into the roof of the net. Oliver Kahn, the Bayern goalkeeper, was motionless on the line. United had completed the come-back. Bayern barely had time to restart the game, which referee Collina brought to a close just a few seconds later.[8]

During the celebrations United's captain Peter Schmeichel and manager Alex Ferguson lifted the trophy together to the crowd. Despite their suspensions, both Roy Keane and Paul Scholes received winners' medals on the rostrum. Keane claims that to date he has not looked at the medal, feeling that his absence had tainted the accomplishment to the extent that he "didn't deserve the medal".[85] Substituted Bayern legend Lothar Matthäus removed his runner-up medal as soon as he received it, and later remarked that United were "lucky" to win the final.[86]

Manchester United became the first English team to win the European Cup (first in its Champions League format) since Liverpool in 1984, defeating Roma on penalties.[8] The club also fittingly won on the date of Sir Matt Busby's 90th birthday.[8]


I can't believe it. I can't believe it. Football, bloody hell.

Alex Ferguson, speaking moments after winning the Champions League[87]

Almost 24 hours after the dramatics in Barcelona, a crowd of over 500,000 people turned up on the streets of Manchester to greet the United players, who paraded through the city in an open-top bus.[88] As champions of Europe, Manchester United were invited to play in the Intercontinental Cup against Brazilian side Palmeiras in Tokyo. Roy Keane scored the winner, ensuring the team became the first and last British side to win the trophy,[89] which was abolished in 2004.[90]

To help England with its World Cup host bid, United controversially withdrew from the 1999–2000 FA Cup,[91] the first time the holders had done so in order to play in the inaugural Club World Championship. They did not progress past the group stages, and Ferguson has since admitted his regrets in how they handled the situation.[92]

Along with the Busby Babes, the 1999 treble-winning team is regarded by supporters as the benchmark of Manchester United teams.[93] In 2007 The Daily Telegraph in association with World Soccer Magazine published a list of the twenty greatest football teams of all time: United were ranked in last position, behind Liverpool's double winners of 1977.[94] Two years later, the Daily Mail compiled their list of the Greatest Teams Of All Time, ranking Ferguson's achievements at number two, losing out to the 1970 Brazilian national team.[95] The extra-time winner scored by Ryan Giggs in the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal topped a poll for the best goal in the competition[96] and Channel 4 viewers rated the team's comeback in the Champions League final at number four on the list of 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.[97]

Attempted takeover by BSkyB

After a meeting with Silvio Berlusconi in spring 1998, Rupert Murdoch (pictured) informed BSkyB of the need to buy a football club if the company wanted to hold on to their Premier League rights.[98]

In September 1998 Manchester United were the target of a proposed takeover by British Sky Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.[14] Negotiations between both sides had begun during the summer, but had stalled after disagreements over the asking price.[99] The satellite group’s original bid of £575 million – initially thought to be their final offer – was deemed too low by two members of United’s board (chairman Martin Edwards and Professor Sir Roland Smith), who pressed for a higher figure.[14] Two days of talks followed and in an attempt to close the deal, BSkyB made a final bid of £623.4 million.

A year earlier, Murdoch's Fox Entertainment Group purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers for $311m.[100] Fox also held exclusive rights to Major League Baseball which meant from a strategic point of view, Murdoch’s acquisition looked more appealing. He was now able to control both programming content on his network and distribution rights to the Dodgers.[101] For the very same reason BSkyB replicated Fox’s formula and went ahead with a takeover of a Premier League club. Manchester United thus was the unanimous choice of Murdoch and board members. The club was the most valuable in English football,[102] making £30.1 million from gate receipts and programmes in 1997 alone. At the same time, more than 200 supporters’ groups were established worldwide and the club's fanbase exceeded 100 million, despite only a million having been to Old Trafford to watch the first team play.[103] As a means of capitalising on this growing market MUTV, a television station operated by the club was launched in August 1998. In co-operation with Granada Media Group and BSkyB it was the world’s first channel dedicated to a football club,[104] funded entirely through subscriptions. On the pitch United's success was largely down to the nurturing talents of manager Alex Ferguson, who assembled a team capable of dominating in the long haul.[103]

Formation of Shareholders United

When BSkyB publicised their intentions to take over Manchester United, supporters reacted furiously to the news. The majority felt the club’s traditions, built on a loyal fan base and great teams including the Busby Babes and currently Fergie's Fledglings would just be tarnished forever.[105] United were no longer an independent entity,[105] and major decisions affecting the club looked increasingly likely to be taken on the other side of the globe.[105]

As a means of rallying supporters to get behind their cause, awareness campaigns against the takeover were launched. Red Issue issued pamphlets to fans[106] and demonstrations in and around Old Trafford took place before the match against Charlton Athletic on 9 September.[21] Football fans across the United Kingdom also lended support by lobbying their local MPs into passing a legislation, preventing further sport takeovers in the future.[107]

Perhaps the significance of the protests was the formation of Shareholders United Against Murdoch, more commonly known as Manchester United Supporters' Trust today, by journalist Michael Crick. Working alongside IMUSA (Independent Manchester United Supporters Association), their joint aim was to seek a reference of the merger by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.[108] Both groups therefore submitted papers to the Office of Fair Trading, stressing the importance of why the merger shouldn’t be carried out.[108] IMUSA in particular argued that BSkyB’s main intention was not that of United’s but their already dominant position.[109] Sky Television’s relevant market was premium subscription channels and by buying an established Premier League team when they already had rights to the division was purely for financial gain. Moreover, Manchester United’s market was on the pitch and an acquisition by a media organisation – particularly one run by Murdoch – may create detrimental damage to the sport in the long term.[110]

Bowing down to public pressure, the trade secretary Peter Mandelson referred the deal to the Mergers Commission in October 1998.[111] The report, finalised in April 1999, found that BSkyB acted selfishly and blocked the broadcaster's bid.[112]

Squad statistics

No. Pos. Name League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
1 GK Denmark Peter Schmeichel 34 0 8 0 0 0 13 0 1 0 56 0
2 DF England Gary Neville 34 1 7 0 0 0 12 0 1 0 54 1
3 DF Republic of Ireland Denis Irwin 26(3) 2 6 1 0 0 12 0 1 0 45(3) 3
4 DF England David May 4(2) 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 7(2) 0
5 DF Norway Ronny Johnsen 19(3) 3 3(2) 0 1 0 6(2) 0 1 0 30(7) 3
6 DF Netherlands Jaap Stam 30 1 6(1) 0 0 0 13 0 1 0 50(1) 1
7 MF England David Beckham 33(1) 6 7 1 0(1) 0 12 2 1 0 53(2) 9
8 MF England Nicky Butt 22(9) 2 5 0 2 0 4(4) 0 1 0 34(13) 2
9 FW England Andy Cole 26(6) 17 6(1) 2 0 0 10 5 1 0 43(7) 24
10 FW England Teddy Sheringham 7(10) 2 1(3) 1 1 1 2(2) 1 0(1) 0 11(16) 5
11 MF Wales Ryan Giggs 20(4) 3 5(1) 2 1 0 9 5 1 0 36(5) 10
12 DF England Phil Neville 19(9) 0 4(3) 0 2 0 4(2) 1 0(1) 0 29(15) 1
13 DF England John Curtis 1(3) 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 4(3) 0
14 MF Netherlands Jordi Cruyff 0(5) 2 0 0 2 0 0(3) 0 0(1) 0 2(9) 2
15 MF Sweden Jesper Blomqvist 20(5) 1 3(2) 0 0(1) 0 6(1) 0 0 0 29(9) 1
16 MF Republic of Ireland Roy Keane (c) 33(2) 2 7 0 0 0 12 3 1 0 53(2) 5
17 GK Netherlands Raimond van der Gouw 4(1) 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 7(1) 0
18 MF England Paul Scholes 24(7) 6 3(3) 1 0(1) 0 10(2) 4 1 0 38(13) 11
19 FW Trinidad and Tobago Dwight Yorke 32 18 5(3) 3 0 0 11 8 0 0 48(3) 29
20 FW Norway Ole Gunnar Solskjær 9(10) 12 4(4) 1 3 3 1(5) 2 0(1) 0 17(20) 18
21 DF Norway Henning Berg 10(6) 0 5 0 3 0 3(1) 0 0(1) 0 21(8) 0
22 FW Norway Erik Nevland 0 0 0 0 0(1) 1 0 0 0 0 0(1) 1
23 DF England Michael Clegg 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
24 DF England Wes Brown 11(3) 0 2 0 0(1) 0 3(1) 0 0 0 16(5) 0
28 MF Northern Ireland Philip Mulryne 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
29 FW Scotland Alex Notman 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0
30 DF England Ronnie Wallwork 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0 0 0 0 0 0(1) 0
31 GK England Nick Culkin 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
33 MF England Mark Wilson 0 0 0 0 2 0 0(1) 0 0 0 2(1) 0
34 MF England Jonathan Greening 0(3) 0 0(1) 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 3(4) 0
38 DF England Danny Higginbotham 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Manchester United's first departure of the 1998–99 season was Ben Thornley, who joined Huddersfield Town on 3 July.[113] A day later, Leon Mills signed for Wigan Athletic for an undisclosed fee, and Adam Sadler was released. Two of the club's longest-serving players – Brian McClair and Gary Pallister – left at the end of the season. McClair had been at United since 1987, and opted for a return to Motherwell[114] in the Scottish Premier League; he had played at Fir Park in the early 1980s. Pallister agreed to return to Middlesbrough in a £2.5 million deal, nine years after he had left them for a £2.3 million transfer to Old Trafford.[114] On 4 November, Chris Casper signed for Reading for a fee of £300,000.

Addressing the loss of Pallister, Ferguson signed Jaap Stam from PSV Eindhoven, becoming the world's most expensive defender in a £10 million deal.[115] Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist soon followed, completing a £4.4 million transfer in July[116] before Dwight Yorke was controversially drafted in from Aston Villa to become the club's record signing.[117] Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert, who impressed during the World Cup finals, was on the verge of finalising a £9 million move from Milan, only for talks to fall through.[118] An offer for Ole Gunnar Solskjær from Tottenham Hotspur was accepted, but Solskjær himself made it clear that he did not want to leave the club.

On 24 March, Michael Ryan signed for Wrexham for an undisclosed fee. A day later, Paul Gibson signed for Notts County, and on the same day, Philip Mulryne signed for Norwich City. On 16 April, Terry Cooke signed for United's crosstown rivals, Manchester City. On 30 June, United released Gerard Gaff and Jason Hickson, the same day that Peter Schmeichel signed for Sporting CP, John Thorrington joined Bayer Leverkusen, and Lee Whiteley departed for Salford City.[119]

United's only winter arrival was Bojan Djordjic, who signed for an undisclosed fee on 17 February.[113]


Date Pos. Name From Fee
1 July 1998 DF Netherlands Jaap Stam Netherlands PSV Eindhoven £10.75m[115]
8 July 1998 GK England Russell Best England Notts County Free[113]
21 July 1998 MF Sweden Jesper Blomqvist Italy Parma £4.4m[116]
3 August 1998 DF Republic of Ireland John O'Shea Republic of Ireland Waterford Bohemians Undisclosed
28 August 1998 FW Trinidad and Tobago Dwight Yorke England Aston Villa £12.6m[117]
17 February 1999 MF Sweden Bojan Djordjic Sweden Brommapojkarna Undisclosed[113]


Date Pos. Name To Fee
3 July 1998 MF England Ben Thornley England Huddersfield Town £175k[113]
4 July 1998 MF England Leon Mills England Wigan Athletic Undisclosed
4 July 1998 GK England Adam Sadler Unattached Free
17 July 1998 DF England Gary Pallister England Middlesbrough Undisclosed[113]
8 October 1998 GK England Russell Best Unattached Free
4 November 1998 DF England Chris Casper England Reading £300k[113]
24 March 1999 FW England Michael Ryan Wales Wrexham Undisclosed[113]
25 March 1999 GK England Paul Gibson England Notts County Undisclosed[113]
25 March 1999 MF Northern Ireland Philip Mulryne England Norwich City £500k[113]
16 April 1999 MF England Terry Cooke England Manchester City £1m[113]
30 June 1999 DF England Gerard Gaff Released
30 June 1999 FW England Jason Hickson Released
30 June 1999 GK Denmark Peter Schmeichel Portugal Sporting CP Free[113]
30 June 1999 MF United States John Thorrington Germany Bayer Leverkusen Undisclosed
30 June 1999 MF England Lee Whiteley England Salford City Undisclosed

Loan out

Date from Date to Position Name To
1 August 1998 10 March 1999 FW England Michael Twiss England Sheffield United[120]
17 September 1998 1 November 1998 DF England Chris Casper England Reading[121]
30 October 1998 9 January 1999 MF England Terry Cooke Wales Wrexham[122]
1 November 1998 30 June 1999 DF England Danny Higginbotham Belgium Royal Antwerp[123]
7 November 1998 7 December 1998 GK England Paul Gibson England Hull City[124]
14 January 1999 14 April 1999 MF England Terry Cooke England Manchester City[122]
14 January 1999 31 May 1999 FW Norway Erik Nevland Sweden IFK Göteborg[125]
15 January 1999 31 May 1999 MF Netherlands Jordi Cruyff Spain Celta Vigo[126]
27 January 1999 5 May 1999 DF England Ronnie Wallwork Belgium Royal Antwerp[127]
27 January 1999 5 May 1999 FW England Jamie Wood Belgium Royal Antwerp[128]
10 February 1999 1 May 1999 FW Scotland Alex Notman Scotland Aberdeen[129]

See also


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  • Greenfield, Steve; Osborn, Guy (2000). Law and sport in contemporary society. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7146-5048-7. 
  • Greenfield, Steve; Osborn, Guy (2001). Regulating football: commodification, consumption, and the law. London: Pluto Press. ISBN 0-745-31026-5. 
  • Harris, Neil (2000). Business economics: theory and application. London: Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 0-750-64454-0. 
  • Hughson, John; Inglis, David; Free, Marcus (2005). The uses of sport: a critical study. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-26048-5. 
  • King, Anthony (2003). The European ritual: football in the new Europe. London: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0-754-63652-6. 
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  46. ^ As of May 2011, this record still stands.
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