MX23RW : Monday, January 21 06:28:55
Dec 19, 1998 at 3pm UK at ​Old Trafford
Man UtdManchester United
2-3
Middlesbrough
Butt (62'), Scholes (70')
FT(HT: 0-2)
Gordon (31'), Ricard (23'), Deane (59')

On this day: Manchester United suffer last defeat of treble-winning season

On this day 17 years ago, Manchester United fell to a shock 3-2 home loss to Middlesbrough - their last defeat of the historic 1998-99 treble-winning campaign.

The 1998-99 season may have ended in the most memorable fashion for Manchester United, but five months before securing an historic treble their domestic hopes were still far from certain. A defeat to Middlesbrough, coming on this day 17 years ago, left the Red Devils down in third place in the Premier League table and without a win in four games.

December really was a barren month for Sir Alex Ferguson and his men, as draws against Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea saw them slip up in a heated battle with arch-rivals Arsenal at the top. Things would become a lot clearer as the campaign wore on, with this shock 3-2 home reverse against Boro arguably providing the turning point in their campaign.

After this home loss, their first against the Smoggies since 1930, United would not lose another match in the top flight. A 20-game unbeaten run would prove to be enough to edge out Arsenal by a single point at the summit, while Champions League and FA Cup success provided Ferguson with the most impressive achievement of his illustrious Old Trafford tenure.

Dean Gordon of Middlesbrough celebrates his goal against Manchester United in the FA Carling Premiership match at Old Trafford in Manchester on December 19, 1998© Getty Images

It all seemed a far cry on this particular afternoon, however, as Boro extended their own impressive unbeaten run at the home of the eventual title winners in an impressive manner. The visitors were up and running 23 minutes in when Hamilton Ricard converted from close range on the back of a smart Brian Deane pass.

Gary Neville was at fault in the build-up to the opener, allowing Dean Gordon's cross to make its way to Deane, and it was Gordon who doubled his side's advantage eight minutes later when the full-back volleyed home Andy Townsend's half-cleared cross. Things may have seemed bad for the Red Devils at this stage, but matters were soon to get a lot worse when a third arrived before the hour mark.

Ricard and Dean were involved again, with the latter finding the net with his shot from the edge of the box following some more slack defending from the hosts. Three goals down and seemingly with little but pride left to play for, United finally found their groove and pulled one back through Nicky Butt's header to restore just a glimmer of hope.

Brian Deane of Middlesbrough holds off the challenge from Philip Neville of Manchester United during the FA Carling Premiership match against Manchester United played at Old Trafford in Manchester, England © Getty Images

There was then just the one goal in it when, soon after being brought off the bench, Paul Scholes converted from the spot to leave Boro hanging on a little for the remainder at the Theatre of Dreams. Hang on they did, though, thanks to a big Mark Schwarzer save to deny Andy Cole just four minutes from time.

The full-time whistle marked a third defeat of the Premier League season for Fergie's men, but despite taking just three points from a possible 12 they were soon back on the winning trail. While Middlesbrough, promoted from the Championship the season prior, were happy to settle for a ninth-place finish, Man United more than redeemed themselves by lifting three trophies at home and in Europe come May.

In fact, redemption was the key word when the North-East outfit returned to Old Trafford the following month for an FA Cup third-round tie, which the Red Devils would win 3-1. That was the start of a strong run, taking in wins against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and indeed Newcastle United in the final along the way to their eventual success.

United would remain unbeaten in Europe all term, too, again beating the best of the best en route to lifting the trophy for just the second their in their history. It helped round off what is still arguably the finest campaign in the famous club's history, yet for those inside Old Trafford for the defeat to Middlesbrough, what would later transpire still looked a million miles away.

Manchester United XI: Schmeichel; G.Neville, Johnsen, Irwin, P.Neville (Solskjaer-78); Beckham (Scholes-64), Keane, Butt, Giggs; Cole, Sheringham

Middlesbrough XI: Schwarzer; Festa, Vickers, Cooper, Pallister, Gordon; Townsend, Mustoe (Moore-72), Maddison (Beck-83), Ricard; Deane


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Jurgen Klinsmann of Tottenham is mobbed by teammates after scoring a goal during the FA Carling Premier League match between Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham Hotspur at Hillsborough on August 20, 1994
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool23193154134160
2Manchester CityMan City23182362174556
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs23170648232551
4Chelsea23145440192147
5Arsenal23135548321644
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd23135546331344
7Watford239683232033
8Wolverhampton WanderersWolves239592731-432
9Leicester CityLeicester2394102929031
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham2394103034-431
11Everton238693433130
12Bournemouth2393113342-930
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2375112532-726
14Crystal Palace2364132332-922
15Southampton2357112540-1522
16Burnley2364132343-2022
17Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2356121931-1221
18Cardiff CityCardiff2354141944-2519
19Fulham2335152151-3014
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2325161340-2711

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