Skipper for the night Peter Schmeichel evokes his part in the epochal 1999 final as Manchester United FC and FC Bayern München prepare to meet again in the UEFA Champions League.
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With Manchester United FC and FC Bayern München preparing to meet again, goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel has had another chance to reflect on one of the most dramatic finals in European history, at the Camp Nou in 1999, when Sir Alex Ferguson's side turned a 1-0 defeat into a 2-1 win in the space of two added-time minutes.
Now 46, Schmeichel was beaten just six minutes into that final by Mario Basler's swerving free-kick, and that goal looked set to win the game for Bayern until Teddy Sheringham and then Ole Gunnar Solskjær struck to hand the trophy to the Red Devils. Captain on the night in the absence of the suspended Roy Keane, the former Denmark goalkeeper recalls the events of 26 May 1999 in detail.
We had three games in eleven days. We had Tottenham at home in the Premier League. We had Arsenal hot on our heels but if we won against Spurs, regardless of Arsenal, we would win the championship. We had Newcastle on the Saturday in the FA Cup final, and then obviously Bayern in Barcelona in the Champions League final. It was only after the FA Cup final that I started to think about this massive match in Barcelona. It's probably the biggest match at club level that I played in.
We didn't have Roy Keane. We also didn't have Paul Scholes, he was also booked at Juventus. They'd been the backbone of our team for the whole of the season. So we played David Beckham in central midfield. Not that he cannot play there, but we were sort of unsettled in the beginning, because we had Ryan Giggs playing on the right-hand side and Jesper Blomqvist playing on the left. So at the beginning of the game, we just needed to find our feet, find each other, and get back to what we were really good at, being solid.
After conceding we started to fall into our normal rhythm, getting the ball out wide, getting crosses in, trying to play through the middle for Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. We started to calm down and we knew what we had to do now: we had to score. Having that knowledge that we must score made us a very dangerous team to play against.
Their mentality was to cling on to what they had. I was pretty sure that at some point we would score and 1-1 would give us momentum. I didn't have the feeling that we were going to wait as long as we did. I was ecstatic with the thought of us going into extra time. I was ecstatic when we scored that goal, because now I knew we had another chance.
I remember my thoughts said, 'Clear your head now, concentrate, make sure that they're not going to score - just calm down, prepare yourself because now it needs 100% concentration. Now we really have to concentrate on going back to basics, because that's what the game will be like.'
And as I'm thinking this, we score the second goal. I just can't believe this is happening, but when the corner was given I still thought, 'Hey, that's another chance here.' So, you never expect it to happen but it did.
I didn't want to be the man to lift the Champions League trophy; I wanted Sir Alex to be there, because he was the one who gave me and everyone else in the team the chance. He was the one who drove us. Sometimes he drove us insane with his demands, but he was the one who always made sure that we never left the pitch without having done 100%. To lift it with him was paramount. This was the last thing I did for Manchester United and I could have not asked for a better ending to my career.