Champions League Classics: Manchester United 2-1 Bayern

Read this, then watch United do the unthinkable in this dramatic 1998/99 final on UEFA.tv.

United's treble dreams looked to be dead and buried, but two substitutes produced the comeback of comebacks in "the greatest moment" of Sir Alex Ferguson's life.

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Context

Manchester United v Bayern: The full story of the 1999 final
Manchester United v Bayern: The full story of the 1999 final

United and Bayern had only met twice in competitive matches before the final – earlier that season, and both games in that 1998/99 group stage finished all square. United had already won the Premier League and FA Cup, and were aiming for an unprecedented treble. Sir Matt Busby's 1968 side, however, were the last United team to be crowned European champions, and no English club had reached the final since 1985. Bayern were enduring a continental drought of their own, having last ruled Europe in 1976.

Making his final Red Devils appearance, Peter Schmeichel stepped in to wear the captain's armband in Roy Keane's absence. The Irish midfielder had picked up a second booking of the campaign in a driving semi-final performance at Juventus which Sir Alex Ferguson lauded as "the most emphatic display of selflessness" he had seen on a football field. Joining Keane in serving a suspension was Paul Scholes, whose campaign contribution had included four goals. Bayern were also deprived of key figures with left-back Bixente Lizarazu and forward Giovane Élber missing through injury.

Key players

Manchester United's 1998/99 road to glory
Manchester United's 1998/99 road to glory

Mario Basler: The Germany midfielder was well established as a dead-ball specialist and had already scored the decisive goal against Dynamo Kyiv in the second leg of the semi-final to book Bayern's place in Barcelona.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær: Famed as a 'supersub' at Old Trafford, the Norwegian international had perfected the art of coming off the bench to supply crucial goals, including a remarkable four-goal haul in the last 12 minutes of a Premier League game at Nottingham Forest in February 1999.

Teddy Sheringham: Like Solskjær, the England ace started on the bench at Camp Nou having found his opportunities limited all season by first-choice strike pairing Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke. The Premier League title was Sheringham's first major honour, and four days before the Bayern showdown he had scored against Newcastle in the FA Cup final – the second successful leg of United's treble bid.

What happened

Champions League final match-winning substitutes
Champions League final match-winning substitutes

Catching out Schmeichel, Bayern seized control early on through Basler's free-kick, and the one-way traffic continued thereafter as the Germans held sway. Mehmet Scholl's lob found the big Dane's gloves via a post, before Carsten Jancker's acrobatic effort crashed off the crossbar late on, meaning Bayern still led by a single goal as the final whistle loomed.

Having already brought on Sheringham, Ferguson introduced Solskjær with less than ten minutes to go. United rallied, and sweeping in from Ryan Giggs' mis-hit attempt, Sheringham equalised in the 91st minute. Bayern buckled and, two minutes later, Sheringham flicked on David Beckham’s corner for Solskjær to prod into the roof of the net, capping an utterly remarkable turnaround.

Reaction

Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager: "Football, bloody hell."

Lothar Matthäus, Bayern midfielder: "It's very rare for a team to lose a Champions League final so undeservedly. We dominated the game for 89 minutes."

Great Champions League goals from 1998/99
Great Champions League goals from 1998/99

Ole Gunnar Solskjær, United forward: "When Teddy scored, I can only remember shouting for joy. I was thrilled to get to play an extra 30 minutes in a Champions League final. Obviously that didn't happen and I only have myself to blame."

Stefan Effenberg, Bayern midfielder: "I don't have the words to describe such a sickening moment. It is too brutal."

Aftermath

By lifting their first European Cup since 1968, Manchester United had claimed three trophies in a ten-day period. While they would continue to dominate the domestic scene, winning the following two Premier League titles, their next UEFA Champions League success would not come until 2008, thanks to a Moscow shoot-out success against Chelsea in the competition's first all-English final. United reached the showpiece again in 2009 and 2011, losing on both occasions to Josep Guardiola's Barcelona.

Bayern bounced back from their Barcelona heartbreak to land their fourth European Cup two seasons later, outlasting Valencia in a final dominated by penalties in Milan. The Bavarian giants made it five titles in 2013, beating Dortmund at Wembley as the Bundesliga took over London.