|Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final. — AFP Photo|
Maybe it’s a sure sign of getting old, but in my mind, the year 1999 doesn’t seem that far back. I was working in Liverpool, England, as Chief Reporter for the evening newspaper, and I’d get my kicks on the train journey into the office by playing ‘snake’ on my latest Nokia phone.
The Millennium Bug was all everyone was talking about, and there was a genuine concern that at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999, the world was likely to implode.
FYI – it never.
The fabulous Prince song, 1999, released bizarrely in 1982, was, for obvious reasons, played constantly on the radio, and people actually listened to radios.
Vauxhall had just brought out their new and improved version of the Vectra and the euro currency was launched with England saying a firm ‘thanks but no thanks’.
In June of 1999, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was given a Knighthood and became Sir Alex Ferguson.
It was fitting that the honour for his contributions to football came at the end of a season when United had won the treble, lifting the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.
The feat had never been achieved before, and in the past 24 years, still hasn’t been matched, yet.
On Saturday, a Manchester City victory in the Champions League final against Inter Milan will see Pep Guardiola’s side win the treble.
I think they will. They are better than the Italians, and firm favourites going into the match in Istanbul.
This week, the question has been raised as to which Manchester team is better. The United of 1999 or the City of 2023?
Without getting into the discussion that City have spent an awful lot more on their squad than United did back in the day, I think the answer is simple. It’s United, hands down.
The incredibly knowledgeable sports journalist Oliver Holt wrote an excellent piece this week in the Daily Mail where he picked the best 11 from both teams.
In his composite XI, only four of the current City team made the grade.
He picked Kyle Walker at right back, John Stones in defence, Kevin De Bruyne as an attacking midfielder and, of course, Erling Haaland up front.
I agree with him 100 per cent. I suppose there is a case to include Ilkay Gundogan into the fantasy team, as he has been incredible this season, but better than Roy Keane and Paul Scholes were back then? No, not a chance.
Holt also made the excellent point that today, English teams are a shoo-in for the final of Europe’s elite competition, but back in 1999, they weren’t.
So as good as City are, and even though I think they will beat Inter Milan at the weekend and complete the treble, they are not as good as the United side of ’99. — VNS