For most Manchester United fans, the 1998-99 season will forever be remembered as one, if not the greatest season for the Red Devils. Known for being the season in which the team of players achieved something that has never been done before - win the treble. Hence in our latest post, we will be remembering the Alex Ferguson treble-winning season and why it is one of the all-time great seasons in football history. But to those who do not know, what is it meant by ‘winning a treble’?
Within English football, three key competitions are played, these are the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup (otherwise known as the EFL Cup). For a team to win the treble, this means that a club is successful in winning all three competitions in one season. Although a treble doesn’t necessarily limit itself to domestic, as should you lift the UEFA Champions League, this also means that you are a treble-winning side (should a particular domestic trophy leave your grasp).
The Alex Ferguson treble is widely regarded as the best performance from a team in English football and a feat that has yet to be topped. At the end of the campaign, Manchester United was successful in lifting the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League ending with an unforgettable win over Bayern Munich in Barcelona.
In essence, winning a treble demonstrates complete superiority among the other teams across the divisions, proving that Manchester United was truly the best team in England for that particular season. Despite Alex Ferguson’s tenure as Manchester United manager lasting from 1986 - 2013 with a multitude of tremendous accomplishments and eras - most fans and football enthusiasts in general point to this particular season being the pinnacle of his reign.
So who did Alex Ferguson have at Manchester United that played a major role in such a successful campaign?
Given that there is an argument that Ferguson’s treble-winning season is his finest achievement - some of the most notable players including the likes of Jaap Stam, Dwight Yorke and Jesper Blomqvist arrived following the departure of Brian McClair and Gary Pallister in the summer. In addition to now club legends such as Peter Schmeichel, Gary Neville, Denis Irwin, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and of course, club captain - Roy Keane. Relating to positions of the end of the Premier League season following the 38-game season - Manchester United was able to finish with 22 wins, 13 draws and 3 losses with a remarkable 43-goal difference - leading to an impressive 79 points. This was in fact a two-horse race as Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side finished second with 78 points.
This rivalry carried over into the FA Cup as both sides found themselves head-to-head in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. The initial clash resulted in a 0-0 draw which led to both sides needing to replay. Alas, the reply resulted in Manchester United progressing to the final thanks to two goals from David Beckham and a Ryan Giggs winner in extra time (109th minute). This led to the Red Devils facing Newcastle United in the FA Cup final in which Alex Ferguson’s side won 2-0 thanks to Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes to seal the deal in the 52nd minute.
As for the Champions League Final, this was decided at Barcelona’s iconic stadium, Camp Nou in which Manchester United faced Bayern Munich. This fixture was sure to be all but won for Bayern Munich until in added time, in the 91st minute, Teddy Sheringham dragged the Red Devils back into the fight with a stunning goal. Followed merely two minutes later by Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s iconic finish - resulting in a last-minute winner to secure Manchester United the Champions League.
At the time of writing, Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side is the only team in England to have won the treble - including the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League. However, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side came extremely close to winning the quadruple in the 2021/22 season. Losing out to the Premier League on the final day due to Manchester City beating Aston Villa 3-2. In addition to losing the Champions League 1-0 to Real Madrid.
However, Liverpool was able to win the FA Cup by besting Chelsea in a penalty shootout - as well as the EFL Cup which too ended in a penalty shootout. With this in mind, accomplishing a treble and even a quadruple by all accounts is incredibly difficult - hence why the 1998/99 Manchester United will go down as one of - if not the greatest Premier League side of all time.
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