1999: Man United's miracle at Camp Nou

1999: Man United's miracle at Camp Nou

The FC Barcelona stadium was the scene of probably the most extraordinary Champions League finals of all time

The Camp Nou has been the stage for some of the greatest moments in football history. But one of the most spectacular involved not FC Barcelona but our next European rivals, Manchester United.

It was here, in the 1999 Champions League Final, that the Red Devils produced what many regard as the most remarkable late comeback that the game has ever seen.

It isn't over till it's over

They may have been footballing giants, but neither United nor their opponents, Bayern Munich, had won the European crown for over two decades.

Before the late Montserrat Caballé had barely had time to leave the pitch after her pre-game performance, Mario Basler had put Bayern ahead. The 1-0 scoreline held until the 90 minutes ran out. By that time, the German fans were singing, the Bayern players were already celebrating, and Lennart Johansson was on his way towards the pitch to present the trophy, Bayern ribbons already tied in place.

The UEFA president couldn’t believe the scenes when he emerged. “The winners were crying and the losers were dancing” he later said.

What on earth had happened?

Late twist

United threw everything into an injury time corner. Probably their only remaining chance. Up went goalie Peter Schmeichel in his last ever game for the team, David Beckham floated in the corner, a flunked clearance went straight to Ryan Giggs, the Welshman scuffed his shot … but Teddy Sheringham managed to get a foot to it and divert the ball past Oliver Kahn.

Suddenly the game was heading for what would have been golden goal extra time. Only it wasn’t.

Straight from the restart United won another corner. Sheringham met it with his head and fellow substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjær pounced on the ball. The Norwegian banged it in the roof of the net, and the Camp Nou was a state of utter confusion.

Party like it's 1999

United supporters who just seconds earlier had been sobbing with despair were now jumping for joy and trying to make sense of the fact that they were now champions. In stark contrast, the Bayern fans were trying to work out how they were not.

After the game, the scenes around the Camp Nou were of elated United fans for whom it was only just starting to sink in, and of Germans staring emptily into their beer glasses dwelling on how such a golden chance had slipped away.

From Ladislao Kubala to Leo Messi, the Camp Nou has so many things to be remembered for. But it will also always be special for Manchester United as the venue of THAT final.

Did you know? 1999 factoids

  • The Camp Nou was appointed as the venue in recognition of FC Barcelona’s one hundredth anniversary that year. The only time that the stadium hosted the final was Milan’s 4–0 victory over Steaua Bucharest in 1989.
  • Barça’s chances of appearing in the game on home turf came to an end in the group stage. Louis van Gaal’s side finished third in Group D – behind finalists Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
  • Some of the most legendary players in United history featured in that game, but both Paul Scholes and Roy Keane sat it out through suspension.
  • Regarded by many as the greatest referee of all time, this was the only UCL final featuring Italian Pierluigi Collina as the man in the middle. He'd later say that the ‘lion’s roar’ when United scored their second was unlike anything he had ever heard.
  • Manchester United became the first club to win the Champions League without having won their domestic league the year before (won by Arsenal).
  • United became the first team to win the treble of domestic league and cup plus the European title since PSV Eindhoven in 1988. The next would be FC Barcelona in 2009 (and we also did it 2015).
  • Poor Lothar Matthäus had also been in the Bayern team lost the 1987 final, when two late goals (though not quite as late as in 1999) goals from Porto cancelled out what had looked like a definitive 1-0 lead for the Bavarians.
  • “Football, eh? Bloody hell.” That was the way United manager Alex Ferguson summed up his feelings after the game. He’d go on to be knighted the following summer.
  • And what happened to the scorer of the dramatic winning goal, Ole Gunnar Solskjær? Of course, he’s now managing the team.
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