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Memory lane

Former Man Utd star Denis Irwin remembers the famous 1999 Champions League final win.

Last Updated: 26/11/13 at 23:27

"I cannot believe it. I cannot believe it. Football, bloody hell." Sir Alex Ferguson's immortal line after Manchester United's unbelievably late victory over Bayern Munich in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final has become a part of the sport's legend.

After injury-time goals from substitutes Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sealed one of the most dramatic 2-1 successes by cancelling out Mario Basler's sixth minute free-kick, the entire footballing world was left in a state of shock.

Ferguson summed up the feeling of fans around the globe with his words. With an improbable comeback, United had secured the trophy which completed their set of an unprecedented Treble when combined with the Premier League and FA Cup.

Ahead of United's meeting with Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday night, when even a draw could secure progress to the knockout stages of this season's Champions League, ex-United left-back Denis Irwin - speaking at Chevrolet retailer Frosts of Shoreham, gives Sky Sports the inside story of that night in Barcelona.

Was the 1999 Champions League final your greatest night in football?

"I thought my first year at United, when we beat Barcelona - a team who included Andoni Goikoetxea, Ronald Koeman and Michael Laudrup, who went on to win the European Cup the following year - in the 1991 Cup Winners' Cup final was probably my best moment. We were underdogs and I won my first medal. The first year we won the Premier League was huge, as well. But, of course, everyone remembers 1999 and the Treble and the manner in which we did it. The club had also had to wait so long, 31 years, for the European Cup."

What were your emotions before the Champions League final, with United on the brink of winning the Treble?

"I was nervous and tired, because the Premier League is a long, long slog. But you always go in there with confidence. We were missing our two best players, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, so we had to rejig and Ryan Giggs played on the right and Jesper Blomqvist came in, with David Beckham coming into central midfield with Nicky Butt. We did not play well. We did have a little bit of luck - they hit the post and the crossbar. We were putting ourselves under pressure, because we had won the Premier League five or six times before and it was time to stand up in Europe."

You were 1-0 down at half-time, do you remember what Sir Alex Ferguson had to say?

"I was 33 at the time so you take a lot more in. He just said, 'you will be walking past that trophy on the way back out, make sure you give the game everything. You do not get too many opportunities to win the European Cup so go out and grab it'. But we always had that belief in ourselves."

Can you still picture the moments when Sheringham and Solskjaer scored the two goals to win the match?

"Yes, very clearly. Through experience, you take a lot more in and enjoy it. I remember the goals being a huge relief. The first one was a huge relief and the second was probably a huge disbelief that we had gone on to win the game. It was a great occasion."

Can you reveal any stories from the celebratory nights out?

"I was getting a bit old by then [laughing]! But the manager always told us to make sure we enjoyed it, because you have to celebrate your success."

The Bayern players had been in complete despair at the final whistle, did you speak to any of them?

"I do not think any of them wanted to speak and we were so caught up in the occasion ourselves. You could tell from the look on their faces, even when we scored the first goal, they were distraught. A couple of their players were lying on the ground in disbelief. To go so close for them must have been heartbreaking."

Denis Irwin was presenting Frosts of Shoreham with a Manchester United Chevrolet Trax - for more information go to www.chevrolet.co.uk

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Readers' Comments

C

lassic management. Build them up and then knock them back. Raise expectations and then dampen them. Create a dynamic where by you demand the most from your team, but where the team are given room to manoeuvre unexpected or unwanted results. Classy work by Van Gaal, he really reminds me a lot of me. A smart cookie, make no doubt.

hump3.
Van Gaal: 'I struggle for first three months'

H

e will be the England left back for ten years or more, and then you will have to thank MUFC for that. *smiles*

london saint
Shaw: Criticism spot on

P

urely because of that little diva moment he had last night, I don't want him coming to my club. DESTROYED ? Grow up and give something back to the club that helped put you up there on the world stage.

bale doubt
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