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Remembering Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer's treble-winning heroics 20 years on

Remembering Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer's treble-winning heroics 20 years on
© Reuters
Two goals in added time completed a 2-1 comeback success over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final in Barcelona.

Manchester United's Treble-sealing triumph in the Champions League final 20 years ago will live long in the memory.

The small matter of doing the story justice went to Mark Bradley, who then worked as PA Sport Chief Soccer Writer.

Here is his match report from that remarkable night in Barcelona.

Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is mobbed by teammates after scoring a last seconds winner in the the Champions League final
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is mobbed by teammates after scoring a last seconds winner in the Champions League final (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Alex Ferguson always says his amazing Manchester United side like to do things the hard way but even he could not have predicted the simply incredible comeback which they produced in the Nou Camp to win the European Champions' Cup.

Any dreams of the Treble seemed firmly dead and buried when injury-time started in Barcelona with Bayern Munich 1-0 ahead and promising to extend the Germans' position as the nemesis of English football.

But 40 seconds into added time, with even goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel up for a corner in a desperate final move, Ryan Giggs played a half-clearance back into the penalty area and substitute Teddy Sheringham swept the ball home on the turn.

Time was suspended for a millisecond as all eyes turned to the linesman but he pointed to the centre-circle and United had come back from the dead.

Teddy Sheringham celebrates after equalising against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final
Teddy Sheringham celebrates after equalising against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final (Phil Noble/PA)

However, if that was incredible, the winner was simply unbelievable.

Within a minute, another David Beckham corner had been flicked on by Sheringham and there was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on the pitch for just 10 minutes, to prod the ball home.

The Germans were simply devastated, falling to their knees in complete and utter dejection. Within 20 seconds, the final whistle had sounded and the most stunning comeback imaginable had been completed.

More than half of the capacity 90,000 crowd erupted with unrestrained euphoria, even Ferguson could hardly believe his eyes, but when the tears of joy had cleared, there was Schmeichel lifting the European Cup in his final appearance for the club.

Peter Schmeichel lifts the Champions League aloft (Phil Noble/PA)
Peter Schmeichel lifts the Champions League trophy aloft (Phil Noble/PA)

The achievement of Sir Matt Busby in leading United to the trophy in 1968 had finally been matched, the historic Treble of League, FA Cup and European Cup had been achieved and the continent's biggest prize was back in England after an agonisingly long 15-year wait.

And it was entirely fitting that Ferguson's place in the pantheon of the greatest managers in the game should have been secured on what would have been Sir Matt's 90th birthday.

Perhaps we should never have doubted United, given the way they had already come back from 2-0 down within 11 minutes at Juventus to win 3-2 and from 1-0 down with two minutes to go to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup.

But oh, how they made us sweat.

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates the treble
Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates the Treble (Phil Noble/PA)

Roy Keane may have been one of the proudest United players as he lifted the cup in ecstasy but his loss through suspension was keenly felt for 65 minutes until finally, Ferguson changed his tactics.

Until then, United may have two of the best wingers in the world but one of them, Beckham, was leading a lonely creative battle in central midfield, while the other, Giggs, was marooned out on the right flank, cutting inside all too predictably at every turn.

Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who had led Borussia Dortmund to victory against United in the semi-finals of the competition two years ago, appeared to have pulled off another tactical masterstroke as his side rode roughshod over Ferguson's team.

They even took the lead after six minutes as they gave United a rude awakening from which they almost never recovered.

Mario Basler is congratulated after giving Bayern Munich the lead
Mario Basler is congratulated after giving Bayern Munich the lead (Phil Noble/PA)

Ronny Johnsen fouled Carsten Jancker on the edge of the penalty area as the striker burst forward and Mario Basler curled his free-kick low into the far corner.

Schmeichel was left helplessly rooted on his heels as the ball passed exactly through the gap left when Markus Babbel had cleverly turned Nicky Butt on the edge of the wall.

United were being hustled out of their stride by a team who had clearly done their homework as Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke – both expertly marked – attempted to survive on emergency rations with their supply lines cut.

There was the glimpse of an opening just after the break when Jesper Blomqvist beat keeper Oliver Kahn to a cross from Giggs but he could not keep his shot down at full stretch.

Manchester United were on the back foot in Barcelona
Manchester United were on the back foot in Barcelona (Phil Noble/PA)

The crowd's calls for Sheringham were duly met with the striker's introduction with 24 minutes left for the hapless Blomqvist.

At last Beckham and Giggs were restored to their rightful places, with Yorke dropping deeper, and Cole mishit an overhead kick just after Jaap Stam had headed over.

The Germans countered by withdrawing Alexander Zickler for midfielder Mehmet Scholl, leaving Jancker up front on his own.

Steffen Effenberg then threatened with a long-range drive before only a giant leap by Schmeichel prevented the midfielder lobbing him as he broke clear.

Bayern Munich made Manchester United sweat at the Nou Camp
Bayern Munich made Manchester United sweat at the Nou Camp (Owen Humphreys/PA)

It was almost completely over for United with 11 minutes left when Basler set up Scholl after a superb run and the substitute's chip over Schmeichel looked goalbound until it rebounded off the post back into the relieved keeper's arms.

Butt threatened at the other end but his hooked cross eluded his team-mates, while Solskjaer's header was clutched by Kahn within a minute of him coming on for Cole.

The match was simply exploding into action by now, with Schmeichel diving full-length to deny Scholl and Jancker's overhead kick striking the underside of the bar as United sacrificed defence for attack.

The sides battled the end of the 1999 finale
The sides battled to the end of the 1999 final (Phil Noble/PA)

Solskjaer back-heeled the ball to Sheringham but his shot was easily gathered by Kahn, Yorke completely missed his kick in the penalty area and Solskjaer's header was saved.

Memories of yet another German victory to match the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96 were flooding back but then came those two simple incredible late strikes.

It was a match which no one in the Nou Camp will ever forget.

United secured their places in the history books and, whisper it quietly, possibly even in the hearts of a nation as well.

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General view of Manchester United's Old Trafford taken August 2018
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