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23rd May 2019

OH WHAT A NIGHT: When Manchester United clinched the Treble, by the fans who were there

Simon Lloyd

The final minutes of the 1999 Champions League final are the stuff of legend for Manchester United supporters.

Having watched the team secure a domestic league and cup double in the days leading up to to Barcelona, hopes of completing an unprecedented Treble appeared to have been dashed as the game entered stoppage time. Bayern Munich, leading through Mario Basler’s early opener, were heading for victory in the Nou Camp. United were desperate.

A mere five minutes later, a miraculous comeback was complete. Goals from substitutes Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had seen United snatch victory in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Twenty years later, this is the story of the night United clinched the Treble, told by the fans who were there to witness it.

Darren Webb

“I missed Solskjaer’s goal… I thought they were showing a replay of the first goal on the big screen when the cheer went up.

I went to every away game in Europe that year. Brondby, Munich, Barcelona, Milan, the lot. 

When Andy Cole got the winner in Turin against Juventus in the semi-final, I jumped into a segregated area between the two sets of supporters. I remember the police hitting me with a baton a couple of times and I couldn’t feel a thing. I wasn’t pissed, it was just there was so much joy at us getting to the final that it didn’t hurt.

I flew out to Barcelona with a load of mates and stayed in Lloret de Mar. On the day of the final I didn’t drink too much. I wanted to remember the game, but I also had some spare tickets so I wanted to get those to some other genuine United fans for face value, which was about £14!

I missed Solskjaer’s goal. I’d gone down about four or five rows celebrating the equaliser. I was walking back up to my seat, punching the air and I thought they were showing a replay on the big screen of the first goal when the cheer went up. I realised when I turned around and saw the players sliding on their knees what had happened.

As brilliant as it was, not seeing it live is something that’ll live with me for the rest of my life. One of those things.

Bal Somal

“The day before the final, my mate called me just before he was supposed to pick me up to go to the airport. He told me the tickets were fake.”

I was in my final year as a student at the University of Hertfordshire. Me and some mates had been going to games throughout the 90s.

Getting a ticket was hell but a mate put me in touch with some guy from Birmingham who had three. We met him at Milton Keynes service station and gave him £250 a piece for the tickets. We thought we were all set so we sorted flights to Geneva, where we’d flown for the quarters in Milan and the semi in Turin. We were going to drive to Barcelona from there.

The day before the final, my mate called me just before he was supposed to pick me up to go to the airport. He told me the tickets were fake. He’d found out through Ceefax. There were a batch of tickets being touted around with a spelling mistake on them. We had three of the batch.

My heart sank but we decided to head to the airport anyway and take our chances when we arrived. We were so discombobulated by not having genuine tickets we mistakenly went to the wrong gate, for a flight to Toulouse. By chance, two lads behind us heard us talking about what had happened. They had three tickets. After checking them against our own fakes, we agreed they were real, swiftly found a cash point, emptied our accounts and took the lot. £250 each again.

We eventually got to Geneva and got a hire car the next day and went over the border into Spain. My mate was driving and thought there were no speed limits in that part of the world. We realised minutes later he was wrong when we were pulled over by police. We were hit with a €180 speeding fine which we had to pay on the spot or the car would be taken off us. Fortunately, one of us had a credit card.

Barcelona was brilliant though. It cost us a fortune but it was all worth it. Those two minutes at the end were unforgettable.

The worst part of the whole experience was that we bumped into the guy who’d sold us the fake tickets outside the ground. He was adamant he didn’t know and that the guy who gave them to him was the one at fault. Needless to say, he didn’t hang around.

I recently asked my mate how the the guy was doing. He said the last he heard was that he’d been in and out of prison. That figures, I suppose.

Andy Slater

“I got my first hangover the day after the final…”

I’ve got vivid memories of 1991, when United got to the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup.

I remember leaving Old Trafford on my dad’s shoulders that night [after the semi-final], joining in with the songs about how we were going to Rotterdam. My dad looked up at me and explained that, actually, he was going to Rotterdam but I wasn’t. I was too young.

In 1999 I was 15, so it was great to finally be going to a big European final with my dad.

As soon as we beat Juventus in the semi-final, my dad booked a family holiday for us in Salou for two weeks. The day before the final we got a train to Calella on the other side of Barcelona to meet up with some mates and uncles who’d gone down on a coach and were booked into a hostel.

As for the game itself, it was pretty dull. It didn’t matter though. The final couple of minutes were amazing. We were behind the nets that the goals were scored in. It was wild.

I got my first hangover the day after the final. Even though I was a very inexperienced drinker, before the game finished the alcohol didn’t touch me at all. My body held it off because I was too consumed with what was happening on the pitch. That was more important.

We eventually made it back to Salou to continue the holiday late on the Thursday. We’d missed a couple of trains because I was spewing from all the drink I’d had.

It was worth it.

Darren Davies

“The head of our sixth form, a City fan, pulled my dad in to say I wasn’t going to the final in the middle of my exams. My dad told her I was.”

I was 18 and doing my A-Levels in 1999.

The head of our sixth form, a City fan, pulled my dad in to say I wasn’t going to the final in the middle of my exams. My dad told her I was.

Luckily, both sides of my family are Reds. Everyone pulled together to make sure I could afford to go. I ended up going with an uncle and cousin and another mate. We found flights from Liverpool airport to Geneva, flew over, drove to a place in France called Orange, where we stayed the night before, and got to Barcelona for the day of the final.

We came out of the underground on Las Ramblas and it was a sea of red and white. Everyone was belting out the ‘Jip-Jaap Stam’ song. I’d never seen anything like it.

From there, I had to sort a ticket. My uncle and cousin already had one between them in the United end and we eventually got another two, both in the Bayern end. After a bit of negotiating with my uncle and cousin, it was decided I’d have the ticket in the United end so they could sit together. I was buzzing. I remember having the ticket in my hand and just shaking. I couldn’t believe I had it; that I was going to be there.

To be honest, United were awful that day. Bayern scored early on, right in front of us. I remember [Carsten] Jancker missing his big chance in the second half, too. It should have been over. With about five minutes to go, I was actually quite upset. After everything – all the excitement and buildup to this game -it was all going to end in disappointment.

Then it happened.

I remember the first corner, celebrating wildly when Teddy scored. I clashed heads with one of the other lads nearby in the celebrations so when the second corner came along, I wasn’t sure if it was actually happening or if my mind was playing tricks on me. When we scored, the reaction was strange. Some of us went mental; others just stood there, shaking their heads in disbelief.

I stayed in the ground for about an hour for the celebrations – the best hour of my life – and then remembered I had to get out and meet the others. We drove through the night to Geneva for our flight back to Liverpool on the Thursday morning.

My dad met me at the airport. It was quite emotional because he’d taken me watching United since I was a little kid. We had tickets for the celebrations at the Manchester Evening News Arena that night so we headed straight there to watch them parade the trophies.

The next day I had an exam. I needed to get 30% to get a C. I ended up with an E. My head of sixth form wasn’t happy.

I still wouldn’t swap it.

Jimmy McBride

“They thought they’d won. I remember Basler walking over to take a corner and waving to the fans with about ten minutes to go.”

We went from Blackpool to Old Trafford to get one of the official coaches the club had put on.

The night before the match we went to Salou. It was a huge party, even before the game – a brilliant atmosphere between the Bayern and United fans. I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be there.

As United fans, we just never imagined losing the game after all that had gone before it that season. Even with no Scholes or Keane, we felt we were destined to win it. I remember getting back and hearing the Clive Tyldesley commentary – “Can United score? They always score” – but that’s how you felt at that time.

I’d been sitting behind the goal that all the goals were scored in. I remember saying to a mate that Schmeichel had got his wall wrong just before [Mario] Basler scored his free-kick to put them a goal up.

United weren’t great, to be honest, but the pendulum started swinging our way when they took Lothar Matthäus off. They thought they’d won. I remember Basler walking over to take a corner and waving to the fans with about ten minutes to go.

Once the first one of our goals went in, there was only ever going to be one winner. It was ours for the taking. You could sense it. So many people were still trying to get back to their seats from the first goal when the second went in. It was wild.

I’d not taken pictures or anything on the whole trip. It didn’t cross my mind, to be honest. It was only when I got home that my mum told me she’d taped something and that I was on the telly. She knew I was going to the Champions League final. My dad told her there was a programme on about Manchester United fans going over on the coach to watch the final. My mum was like, ‘oh, that’ll be the one our James was on, there must’ve only been one coach’ – like mums do.

I watched it and, sure enough, there I was.

Dave Murphy

“The noise that first goal made, I don’t think will ever be replicated ever again. It was spine-tingling.”

I went to the final with a bunch of guys from Ireland. A friend of a friend ran a travel agency and was always offered tickets. When we beat Juventus I reached out to this guy and we put our name down for a four-day trip, staying in Lloret de Mar.

We arrived on the Monday to find the place was full of Bayern fans. As more United fans arrived, there was actually quite a lot of camaraderie between the two sets of supporters. There’d be nights where United and Bayern fans would take it in turns to sing their songs at each other from across the street. Nothing nasty at all.

But as we went into Barcelona for the game, you felt the police were quite nervy. Our coach was stopped twice for ticket checks on the way.

In the stadium, we were directly in line with the 18-yard line and had the perfect view of the goals.

In truth, United were poor in the game. You could feel the uneasiness as it approached full-time with the police and stewards. Looking back, I think the Spanish police wanted United to win because their fear was, as happened in ’94, us losing might have seen United fans cause a bit of damage. A United win would have made their lives a lot easier.

The Nou Camp’s a very tight stadium, very cramped. You’re so restricted in there that when we scored the equaliser, I fell three or four rows forward. I was just tumbling, for what seemed like minutes. I got up, hugged and kissed some guy I didn’t know. It was crazy. The noise that first goal made, I don’t think will ever be replicated ever again. It was spine-tingling. I’ve been to many United games but I’ve never heard a noise like that. Not even for the winner. It was sheer relief that the dream was still alive.

You could feel the relief from the police after the game, too.

The Germans, to be fair, were much better in defeat than our lot would’ve been. I honestly believe that.

Mike Birtwistle

“I remember being annoyed at Ferguson taking Cole off for Solskjaer in the second half… With hindsight, that looks stupid.”

I was a student in Sheffield and the game coincided with exam week.

I ended up going with my mate’s brother and sister. They got tickets but he didn’t. Manchester had run out of direct flights to Barcelona so we ended up driving down to Gatwick and going from there.

I don’t actually remember much about the game but I do remember being annoyed at Ferguson taking Cole off for Solskjaer in the second half. I love Andy Cole. I always have. He signed the day I passed my driving test so I’ve always had good associations with him. Ferguson had already got his tactics wrong that day and I just couldn’t believe he was taking him off when we needed a goal.

With hindsight, that looks stupid.

I also recall the first goal going in, celebrating and then thinking ‘oh, is it golden goal rule in extra time?’ Nobody seemed to know. Some people were checking match programmes to see. Thankfully, it didn’t matter a minute or so later.

The last three minutes were a blur. I’ve watched it back so many times now that it’s hard to distinguish what I remember from being there and what I’ve just picked up from the footage. I just remember floating. It was an end to a journey. Partly because of the beer, partly because of the euphoria, I’ve still no idea how I got back to the airport.

I got back to Sheffield the next day. There’d been a guy from Doncaster who’d been at the game on a different trip. He had an exam the very next morning so I met him outside after he’d finished it to talk about the game. There were hugs and tears, but after that, it finally dawned on me that I had an exam I needed to prepare for.

I went to do some reading in the library but fell asleep. When I woke up, I decided it was probably better to just go home and get some more sleep so I could at least stay awake when it came to doing my exam.

The final was only my second Euro away with United. My first was Turin which was an 18th birthday present. I’ve still not done any more. Even if I did do any more, I can’t see it ever being beaten.

Mark Rutter

“My mate suddenly said “fuck this”, and was off over the turnstiles. We followed him, police chasing us with batons, but we got in. The rest was history.”

I left home with £85 and got to Barcelona with £20. I got back home again with £15.

15 of us went. One of us had a ticket, another bought one when he was over there and the rest of us jumped in. Five of us were together, right behind the goal.

We got a minibus and got the SeaCat from Dover to Ostend. We had a drinking session until about six in the morning when we were there. We were going to go to Spain but thought nah, fuck it, let’s go to Amsterdam for a day instead. So we did.

The rail tickets we had were stolen so we just filled them in ourselves and used them. We got sleeper trains from Amsterdam to Paris then from there to Barca via Andorra.

We got there on the day of the final. I was watching the money when I was there. One bottle of lager and a McDonald’s and that was me done. I didn’t want to be pissed because that would have jeopardised my chances of getting in.

We walked round the stadium, mithered everyone, asking them to throw their ticket stubs back out to us. Everyone was keeping them as souvenirs so that didn’t work. We did a full lap and got back to where we started. After that, my mate suddenly said “fuck this”, and was off over the turnstiles. We followed him, police chasing us with batons. We got in though. The rest was history.

There was a guy next to us all game who was a Barca fan. He’d been telling us all through the game that we’d win it. It got to injury time and he changed his mind and said it wasn’t our night. We were on the brink of leaving and then it happened. Bedlam.

Brian Houten

“When John tried getting in, the authorities stopped him, as he was dressed as a red devil and obviously wasn’t a Bayern fan. Luckily for him, some Germans that were close by told them he was their friend.”

I was considering not going to Wembley for the FA Cup final the weekend before but my wife made sure I did.

She knew I’d never forgive myself for missing any of them if they ended up winning all three. We stayed in Lloret and had a great time for a couple of nights with the German fans who were great company.

Some of our party were still looking for tickets on the day of the game. Our party included my mate John, who’s sadly no longer with us, who was dressed completely as a red devil. He was in his forties by then – not a kid. We got him a ticket off some German lads who explained to him he’d be in the Bayern end. He didn’t mind; he was just so happy to get to the game. We said farewell before the game and he went off to the other end of the ground.

We found out afterwards that when John tried getting in the authorities stopped him, as he was dressed as a red devil and obviously wasn’t a Bayern fan. Luckily for him, some Germans that were close by told them he was their friend, and so he was able to go in.

The Bayern fans shared their drinks with him throughout the game. I remember him telling us after how the Germans, whenever Bayern had a corner, had held their arms out and shook their hands before it was taken. Of course, after the equaliser, when United got the corner which they scored the winner from, John was there, stood amongst them, shaking his hands. The Bayern fans were laughing at him at first, then Ole scored and he was worried he’d gone too far. Thankfully, they were all fantastic with him.

As for us, we were literally right at the front and had a fantastic view of the winner. I don’t know what I was doing but I found myself kissing the floor. My mates picked me up, because so many people were coming to the bottom to celebrate they thought I’d get trampled on.

The greatest experience of my life.

Murray Easton

“The celebrations went on forever. Stone Roses, James’ Sit Down got a few airings… It was just a magical time, one of the happiest moments of my life.”

I was part of the Glasgow supporters’ group so I’d been going down to Old Trafford regularly that season.

There was a mad scramble to get tickets for the final and a lot of people seemed to get theirs through a Manchester company called Mill West. They promised something stupid like a ticket, flight and hotel for £200. The closer it got to the final, the price kept going up – asking for more and more money to guarantee a ticket.

We were due to fly out on the Tuesday and on the Monday one of my best mates phoned me and said he had tickets. He’s a dentist and a lady had been in and said her son, who worked for Kilmarnock, had tickets but was no longer able to go. I remember waiting for him at his house while he went and collected them, then us both dancing around his living room when he got back.

We stayed in Salou and went to Barca on the day of the final. We headed to the stadium early to soak up the atmosphere.

In the game it was clear that it just wasn’t clicking for United; they could have been hammered on another night. In the end, they were just going for it and got the luck they needed. We, and plenty of others, headed for the touchline as soon as the second went in. It was pure joy.

Afterwards, the celebrations went on forever – Stone Roses songs, James’ Sit Down got a few airings. It was just a magical time, one of the happiest moments of my life.

The Bayern fans, it has to be said, were amazing afterwards. Some of them handed us cigars after full-time that they had bought in case they won.

Andy Geoghegan

“I can still remember the bruises down my shins. Knee to ankle.”

I’d failed an exam just before the Christmas break so I knew I had to resit it at some point at the end of May. I was praying it wouldn’t be on the day of the final or the day after.

When it was confirmed as being the day after the final my initial reaction was ‘shit, I can’t go’. That went out the window quite quickly.

I didn’t go to the FA Cup final the Saturday before. Instead of going to London and back from Sheffield, where I was studying, I’d planned to get up in the morning and do a few hours of revision, watch the game, do some more and be free all Sunday to prepare, too. What actually happened was I woke up in morning, went down the offy with a housemate, bought a crate of Guinness and got drunk. I was so hungover the next day I couldn’t revise.

We flew to Barca and back in a day. We spent most of the day on the Ramblas, drinking beer, and got into the stadium just in time for Basler’s goal for Bayern.

With ten minutes to go, I was just trying to justify the day. Y’know, it was my first Champions League final, I’d had a great time and we’d still won the double. Even though they hadn’t done enough to win this one, it was a good season and I could have coped with it, as disappointing as it was.

And then the first goal goes in and all those thoughts went away. We were still celebrating it when the second went in. I can still remember the bruises down my shins. Knee to ankle.

After the game it dawned on me I had to get back to Sheffield 12 hours later for an exam. Flights were delayed but we eventually landed back in the UK. I probably should have got some sleep at that point. Instead, I decided to watch the whole game back again before my dad drove me to the station to get the train back over to Sheffield.

I had Red Bull and pro plus on my desk in the exam room. I’ve no idea what I wrote on the paper but there’s no way whoever was marking it could have read it. My handwriting was everywhere. It was no surprise when the result came back.

Sal Warner

“I nearly got arrested for trying to get on the pitch.”

I was lucky to get a ticket. I found out the day before the game my friend who had a ticket couldn’t make it.

I didn’t have a flight and couldn’t find a hotel so I drove down through France with my brother. We reached Barcelona on the day and thought we’d go clubbing during the night. As it turned out, all the clubs were shut – presumably because of the game.

The whole experience is a bit of a blur but the last three minutes will stay with me forever. I wouldn’t necessarily say we were the better team on the night, but none of that mattered by full-time. I was about 12 rows from the front. When Ole’s winner went in, we flew down the steps. I nearly got arrested for trying to get on the pitch.

It was unforgettable – the first time I ever cried at a football match.

After the game, we had no hotel so we knew we’d have to just find somewhere outside to sleep, as a lot of United fans did that night.

There’s a little beach at the end of the Ramblas near the port. We ended up sitting there reminiscing all night. I just wish I could turn back the clock and enjoy it a little bit more. As United fans, we were all so used to it then.

Jim Sullivan

“He’d heard Solskjaer’s winner from the toilets…”

I went with my brother-in-law, there and back in a day.

There was an alcohol ban on the plane which was a bit of a shame but we got to Barcelona and spent a few hours on Las Ramblas. That cost a fortune but we made up for the alcohol ban on the plane.

My brother-in-law and I weren’t sitting together in the stadium: he was up in the gods somewhere, I was pretty much right behind the goal.

I got speaking to the guy who was next to me throughout the game. By the end we’d honestly written United off. It was going to finish 1-0 Bayern and that was it. There wasn’t to be any comeback.

When Sheringham scored the equaliser, the place erupted. Then, after it had calmed down slightly, the guy next to me says: “Have you seen the toilets? They’re not very big. I’d better go and have a piss now so I’m back in time for extra-time.” Off he went.

I remember him coming back to his seat and asking what all the cheering was for. He’d heard Solskjaer’s winner from the toilet but thought United might have missed a sitter. In a way, I don’t think he wanted to believe there’d been a winner and he’d missed it. I told him, as did the others nearby, but it was only when he looked at the scoreboard he accepted it. I just remember him saying: “I’ve come all this bloody way and when I get home, I’ll be relying on the highlights.”

He decided he wasn’t going to tell anyone at home.

Tom Quinn

“When we got into the bar, we noticed Hristo Stoichkov was in there too.”

I’d been to the FA Cup final against Newcastle. My sister lived down in London at the time so I crashed there before going to Barca the next day.

We had no tickets so the plan was to go out to Nice on the Sunday and come back from there a week later. In between we’d go to Barca on the train and hopefully, with a bit of luck, get tickets for the game.

We had a day and night in Nice and got the train via Montpellier and Girona on the Monday. One of the lads managed to make contact with a Swedish tout. We paid something like £140 for each ticket which, at the time, seemed a lot. We didn’t know if they were fake or not. We had to pass through three separate ticket checkpoints and our hearts were in our mouths every time because you could see people being turned away.

One of our group’s mum and dad were staying in a hotel in Barcelona at the time so we went to meet them on the morning of the game in the hotel bar. When we got into the bar, we noticed Hristo Stoichkov was in there too. It was only a few years after he’d run Bruce and Pallister ragged when Barca battered us in the Nou Camp. We were dumbstruck to be so close to him until some other guy came bounding over shouting “Hagi, Hagi,” at him. He turned round and shot them a death stare. We weren’t sure if we should ask for a photograph after that.

It was like Manchester on tour that day. I was bumping into people I’d not seen since leaving school. There was no need to ask what they were doing there because everyone was there for the same reason.

Getting in and seeing the Nou Camp – it was my first time there – was just incredible. Just walls of people up to the moon. I remember the euphoria of just being there before the game had even kicked off.

And then we were shit. We just didn’t turn up. After the free-kick went in, we just kind of hung on. It was only when Jancker hit the bar I started to think we might actually have a chance.

It was bedlam when the goals went in – completely mental. We’d seemed dead and buried when the board for added time went up.

When the celebrations started to calm a bit after full-time, I remember the Bayern fans patting us on the back and congratulating us. I’m not sure if it was just them being respectful or if it was because they were surrounded and they thought that was the best way of dealing with it.

We were in there a while after, drinking it all in. We were a bit disappointed we couldn’t get back to Manchester for the parade the day after but honestly, it didn’t matter. We were there to see it happen in the Nou Camp.

I just wish I could go back and experience it all again.