On this day in 1999, “Manchester United moved a step closer to European glory after surviving a nerve-jangling night in Milan.”
That was from a BBC report on one of the many remarkable steps United took towards a treble that year. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had already faced Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Brondby in the group stages. They beat Inter Milan 2-0 in the home leg at Old Trafford and needed only a draw to progress into the semi-final.
On this day: Keane walks past Inter’s Ronaldo at San Siro
United’s tone was set from the off when captain Roy Keane, in typical fashion, moved straight past Inter Milan’s unattentive players without shaking hands.
A banner in the United end comically read “MUFC were too sexy for Milan”. As it happened, it was the home side who dominated proceedings in the iconic San Siro stadium. Javier Zanetti struck the post before Nicola Ventola found the net. A looping ball came into the box, Keane lifted a leg but couldn’t quite make contact and Ventola pounced to finish past Schmeichel.
“Match point, Manchester United”
United were still going through, but things were left on a knife-edge. That was until a second looping cross came in, this time onto the head of the ever-composed Andy Cole. In the middle of a 24-goal season, Cole headed down into the path of “ace in the box” Paul Scholes who finished.
Clive Tyldesley declared “match point, Manchester United”. The ITV commentator had delivered one of many iconic lines during that treble season.
Henning Berg put in a defensive masterclass in Milan
United headed through, into battle with another Serie A heavyweight in Juventus. Henning Berg had helped United to an impressive defensive display. It’s a reminder of the quality that existed in that United side. It may have been Keane who dominated in Turin in the semi-final but in Milan, Berg was a defensive rock.
Berg had already made headlines with a goalline clearance in the final minute of the first leg. On his return, he hooked away a Zanetti cross that was heading for Zamorano in a clear goalscoring position.
He helped to deal with Ronaldo, the Brazilian ‘fenomeno’ who had just returned from a knee injury after missing the first leg.
This was another crucial step closer to an unmatched achievement even though talk of a treble was banned within Manchester United.
You can watch the full Inter Milan vs Manchester United match here.
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