112 seconds that made history

It’s time again to go back and reminisce as we go back to my “Name on the Trophy” blog from last September where by I wrote about three e-mails I found from back on 26th May 2004.

The e-mails were entitled “Name on the Trophy!!! 26/05/1999 (1), (2) and (3)” and it was a load of quotes from the world of TV commentary from the day, as well as various newspaper reports from the days after the event. Below are another two of those reports and I have many more to come, enjoy reading them. I have.

Manchester United’s fortunes were transformed in the space of 112 dramatic seconds in injury time at the Nou Camp. A match that seemed destined to be settled by Bayern Munich’s early goal erupted into a sensational climax.

90.25: With goalkeeper Schmeichel having joined the attack, Beckham swings over a corner from the left.

90.35: Ball has bobbled around the area and Giggs has miscued a shot that finds Sheringham lurking in front of him. The substitute swivels and drills home the equaliser. There is no time for celebration as the stunned Germans kick off in search of the winner.

92.15: With 45 seconds officially to play, Solskjaer wins another corner and Beckham attempts to work the oracle again.

92.17: Sheringham latches on to Beckham’s delivery and glances a header towards Solskjaer, who sticks out his right boot and gets a solid touch. Ball flies into top left-hand corner of Kahn’s goal and United have won

#7 112 seconds that made history – The Times


How can we explain it? Should we even try to put what happened in those final seconds in the tempest of the Nou Camp last night into any reasonable kind of perspective? Manchester United had waited 31 years; they had, if we are honest, suffered 89 minutes in which the drama was always greater than the performance.

They had been second-best in all but the one characteristic that had taken both these two sides through to the final of theEuropean Cup . . . the absolute refusal to lie down when there was still a hope that adversity could be overturned.

It was astonishing that two substitutes, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, should be the marksmen that secured the final glory. Astonishing, yet somehow in keeping with a night when 90,000 spectators enjoyed surely the most magnificent footballing stadium on the Continent and as many as 30,000 people waited in the streets – waiting and hoping for the tumultuous roar that came from the United following, by far the greater inside the Barcelona arena.

To see at the finish the red shirts lining up to be hailed by their throng and to see, spread out on the turf, the grown men of Bayern Munich crying leaves an indelible memory. Not only had the ten Germans and their one African scored first, they had dominated and blanketed United’s spirits and tattooed the United woodwork.

Of course, the times have been many when the Germans have enjoyed the celebrations while the English have been left lying in their own tears on the turf. Now, we wondered what to feel when we saw those images of Carston Jancker, a brute of a man, unashamedly sobbing like an infant because, when he least expected it, when his self-image was two blinks of an eye away from fulfilling a lifetime’s achievement, it was snatched away.

What we can say is that this ability of sport to turn despair into ecstasy is what makes sport such an addictive highlight of our existence. If we could bottle the sheer tenacity, the belief and the will by which United turned this game around, it would be the most valuable commodity on this earth.

Alex Ferguson, his face appearing to shed a dozen years, knew that this had been his great escape. He is the equal now of the late Sir Matt Busby and has achieved every managerial quest in club football. How fitting it was that Ferguson acknowledged the moment by seeking out Roy Keane, his captain, who had been forced to sit out the occasion through suspension and whose leadership qualities were sorely missed until those last, climactic moments.

The night itself, balmy and wonderfully Mediterranean, had started fearfully. Outside, the police made a dreadful hash of the organisation. Tens of thousands of supporters, those with tickets and those without, were forced into a bottleneck, the hot breath of people’s beery preparations mingling with the sweat.

No one escaped. Dignitaries were forced to leave their cars, three separate checkpoints marshalled by riot police appeared intent on adding to the pandemonium and, for this and many other visitors spectators from England, it had the dreaded portents of Hillsborough.

Thankfully, it appeared that the good sense of the people prevailed. Then, after Basler’s early goal, we waited, we hoped and, towards the end, we ran out of belief. This was because the German champions had, at times, passed the ball with greater finesse than those of England. It was because German tackles, seldom rash, always brusque, were being timed to a near-perfection that drummed their apparent superiority into the night.

David Beckham was the exception. Sometimes his passes, angled, long and perceptive, transcended his team and, indeed, most of the opposition. But not until that fevered finale did United even look like emerging as equals, let alone winners.

When the pulse is allowed to rest, when the pleasant shock of this magnificent victory seeps into the consciousness, we might begin to ask how this United compares to the team of 1968. In matters of merit, we might have to question it, but for sheer human spirit, that will never be in doubt.

This was a triumph reflecting the personality of the team builder, no doubt one day to be knighted Sir Alex. I could not help watching this man among his players, some reared at Old Trafford, some bought at enormous, and now justified, expense. I know that Ferguson would have paid anything he had for this moment in history.

Instead, offering the old Scottish warhorse £350,000 as a bonus for something he had spent 25 years dreaming of achieving seems like bribing a young stud to spend a night with Claudia Schiffer. Dream on, for sometimes, despite everything our eyes tell us, it becomes reality.

#8 True champions of human spirit – THE TIMES
Rob Hughes

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