Final Countdown

Keep the red flag flying: 10 great moments from Manchester United in the European Cup

We’re less than 24 hours away from the most-anticipated game in European football. United have been here before.

10. Porto put to the sword


PORTO ARRIVED AT Old Trafford for the quarter-final of the Champions league as the form team in Europe. United by contrast were still cutting their teeth at this level and had only scraped through to this stage by beating Rapid Vienna 2-0 in Austria with goals from David Beckham and Eric Cantona and possibly the greatest save in the clubs history from Peter Schmichael.

The blitz that swarmed Porto from the opening minute at Old Trafford shook the Portuguese to their core.

David May bundled home from six yards, Eric Cantona scored soon after and Andy Cole and Ryan Giggs finished the rout in the second half. Alex Ferguson’s United had started to stir in Europe.

9. The Massacre of Roma


Alex Ferguson once described this game as the greatest night he has ever experienced at Old Trafford. It is not hard to see why. Roma arrived with a 2-1 lead from the first leg and confident from that performance.

They were shredded by half-time. Michael Carrick struck two beauties from long-range, Cristiano Ronaldo scored two himself and tormented the Italians. Patrice Evra even got in on the act scoring the seventh in a performance and result that may never be bettered at Old Trafford.

8.Full-back enters folklore in Madrid


Ten years after the tragedy of the Munich Air Disaster, United stood on the cusp of the European Cup final. Their opponents in the semi-final, Real Madrid, were spoken of in reverential tones by most United players. Bobby Charlton once said “These people aren’t human” yet United won the first leg 1-0 at Old Trafford to take a slender lead to Spain.

However by half-time United trailed 3-1 on the night. David Sadler pulled a goal back and with the tie nearly over it was the unlikely figure of full-back Bill Foulkes who got on the end of a George Best cross to send United to Wembley.

7. Ronaldo tears up the Emirates


It was a testament to just how dangerous Cristiano Ronaldo was in his time at United that a corner for the opposition sometimes ended with a goal for the Portuguese machine. In the second-leg of United’s semi-final against Arsenal, Ronaldo first laid the ball off to Ji-Sung Park before sprinting the length of the pitch to slam home Wayne Rooney’s cross. Devastating.

6. The Babes shine in Belgrade


The last great light before the dark. The Busby babes of the fifties were the first English side to compete in the European cup in 1957. They reached the semi-finals beating Belgian champions Anderlecht 10-0 on the way. In 1958 many expected them to go one better and this 3-3 draw in Belgrade confirmed their place again in the semi-finals.

The plane that was taking the young team home however crashed in the icy runway in Munich after several stalled takeoffs. Eight of Busby’s immortal side perished in the crash while the manager himself was seriously injured.

5. Scholes breaks Catalan hearts


The game; semi-final of the Champions league. The opponents; Barcelona.  The mood; tense.

Ronaldo was running, Barcelona were chasing, the ball was hastily cleared to an onrushing Paul Scholes. The midfielder took one touch before arching a stunning shot into the top corner. The roof lifted from Old Trafford and United hung on to meet Chelsea in the first ever all-English Champions league final.

4. Roy’s keen in Turin


Alex Ferguson is not someone who heaps praise upon individuals. So when he said of Roy Keane in the second leg semi-final against Juventus  that “It was a honour to be associated with such a player.” It gives you some idea of just how influential the Corkman was. With United trailing 2-0 after a disastrous start, Keane dragged them back into the game with a towering header and set the tone for perhaps United’s greatest ever performance on the Continent.

3. Red Flag rules in Moscow


An historic match in English football, the first ever all-English Champions league final was settled by a slip and a save. Cristiano Ronaldo headed United into the lead before Frank Lampard equalized. Both sides had chances to win in extra-time with Chelsea hitting the post and Ryan Giggs having an effort cleared off the line.

The run of exemplary spot-kicks was broken when Ronald’s staggered run-up failed to fool Petr Cech and the keeper batted away the penalty. John Terry had the chance to take the trophy but slipped on the drenched surface leaving Nicolas Anelka to be the fall guy and Edwin van der Sar to be the hero for United.

2. The journey ends at Wembley


Ten years after the Munich air disaster United and Matt Busby had the chance to finish their fateful journey together at Wembley for the European cup final against Benfica. Bobby Charlton headed United into the lead but a Benfica equaliser forced the game into extra-time.

Goals again from Charlton, Brian Kidd and an iconic George Best effort won the tie in extra-time and gave England its first-ever European Cup winners.

1. Nothing and then everything at the Camp Nou


The clock ticked over 90 minutes. The score in the final of the Champions league stood at Bayern Munich 1 Manchester United 0.

A desperate Peter Schmichael stormed forward for a United corner. The ball bobbled, bounced and through Ryan Giggs squirmed its way to substitute Teddy Sheringham. He turned and scuffed the ball into the bottom corner. Ole Solksjaer was also on as a sub and recalled after that once Sheringham scored he was over the moon because he would play thirty minutes in a European Cup final. He curtailed that to one.

From another corner he extended his right toe and sent United to heaven.

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