Manchester City completed “the treble” last weekend. In beating Inter Milan in the Champions League 1-0 they added this trophy to the English Premier League and FA Cup silverware. But it has been done before, back in 1999 by cross-town rivals Manchester United.

by Roger Childs

A proud history

Manchester United are one of the most popular sports club on the planet. They have more than 1.1 billion fans and followers world-wide with half of them living in Asia. The club has a proud history going back to 1878 when the Newton Heath LYR Football Club was formed in the Lancashire city. In 1902 they adopted the name Manchester United. 

There have been many momentous events over the years, with the worst being 1958 Munich air crash which claimed the lives of eight players. However, the greatest achievement in its magnificent post-war record came over ten days in the spring of 1999.

“The Class of ‘92”

This film, directed by Benjamin and Gabe Turner, came out in December 2013 and is one of the best sports documentaries ever. It focuses on the rise of six young British players from working class backgrounds, who came together in the Manchester United team in 1992. 

David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes were a magic combination on the pitch and close friends off it. These were the days when English football teams were dominated by British players. 

The fabulous six all had great careers. In total:

  • 3268 appearances for Manchester United
  • 26 major trophies
  • 428 international caps.

 However, their supreme achievement was “The Treble” in 1999. 

The Premier League: 16 May 1999

It was the first game of three cup finals: 10 days, 3 games, win them: history. Sounds simple! –Ryan Giggs 

David Beckham’s grandfather had been a Tottenham fan for over 50 years and had mixed feelings about his talented grandson playing for the Lancashire team.

By their own high standards Manchester United didn’t play well for much of this vital home game which they needed to win to take the Premier League trophy. They were a goal down at half time, but then in the second half Beckham produced a vintage shot which saw the ball bend away from the Tottenham goalie into the top of the net. A second goal came soon after and so it was one down with two to play.

The FA Cup Final: 22 May 1999

It was the biggest thing in my eyes as a kid: the FA Cup final. –Paul Scholes

The match at Wembley Stadium saw Manchester United play Newcastle United. However the expected close match did not eventuate. The Lancashire team cruised home 2-0. Scholes scored the second goal with a pile-driver from 25 metres out.

So now it was on to Barcelona to see if Manchester United could win the first treble – Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League – in a single season.

UEFA Champions League Final: 29 May 1999

This is it for us: we become legends or just win the League and FA Cup. David Beckham 

Watching in Wellington was staunch United fan Dave Daniel. I recall the 1999 European Cup Final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. United we’re trailing 1-0 and justifiable so as Bayern had

  • controlled the game
  • hit the woodwork twice
  • scored a vital goal.

The rest is history, as they say: United scored twice in the last three minutes of injury time, to lift the trophy. The Bayern players could hardly believe what had happened and collapsed on the turf at the final whistle.

The goals came from two superb corners by David Beckham and on taking the second one he sensed something special was about to happen.

It was a magic moment and the 1999 Manchester United football players had become sporting legends. Manager Alex Ferguson is regarded as one of greatest England football managers and a legend in his own right. For his efforts in the spring of 1999 he was made a knight on the realm.