By Mark Weasley
The 1998-99 season is one we will forever cherish.
The glory in Barcelona is easy to remember, but what might seem surprising now is the state of play before the season began. We had lost out on the 1997-98 Premiership title to Arsenal, who had wowed the football world with their brand of attacking football; the likes of Marc Overmars, Nicolas Anelka and Emmanuel Petit led them to the double.
Sir Alex Ferguson knew he needed to add more firepower to the attack and solidity to the backline; in Dwight Yorke and Jaap Stam, he found the answers. Both players that would go on to earn iconic status at Old Trafford, even if at the time, chairman Martin Edwards joked at his annoyance at having to spend £27.7 on transfers – which of course is so little in today’s market.
The season began poorly as United lost 3-0 to Arsenal in the Charity Shield, a performance that offered more questions than answers.
In fact, while what the team achieved was incredible, the title win was by no means dominant in nature; The Red Devils finished 1998 just clinging onto their place in the top four.
Thankfully, we only dropped 10 points after the turn of the year, enabling us to complete the most remarkable fortnight in the club’s history, which saw us do what no other English team has done: win the Treble of Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League.
It all started in early May when a draw away at Blackburn was enough to see United need just three points to lift another title. It was a home game against Tottenham on May 16, who led 1-0; but David Beckham and Andy Cole scored either side of halftime to secure a fifth league title in seven years.
In the FA Cup, United had beaten Arsenal in the semi-finals, a game that has been touted as one of the greatest in the history of the competition. Giggs scored the winner at Wembley, scoring a solo goal after Dennis Bergkamp had his penalty saved by Peter Schmeichel. In the final against Newcastle on 22nd May, goals from Teddy Sheringham and Scholes secured the Double and up next was Bayern Munich in the Champions League final just four days later.
United were without Paul Scholes and Roy Keane for the final, with both men suspended for the game at Barcelona’s Camp Nou. Bayern scored first through Mario Basler but United never gave up. The commentary from that night is legendary.
With virtually the last kick of the game, Teddy Sheringham scored the equalizer after good work from Giggs. Another corner and it was from the right boot of Beckham again. Sheringham got a touch and baby-faced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wrote his name into the hearts of United fans forever by hitting a 93rd minute winner.
Referee, Pierluigi Colina brought the game to a close just few seconds later. United had won the Treble in the space of 10 days, a period United fans can still recount even till this day. The players of the 98/99 squad have become a reference for all United teams and rightly so.