Man Utd 1999-2009
Man Utd 1999
Coach: Sir Alex Ferguson
Achievements: European Cup 1999; 2008; Finalists 2009, 2011
Key Players: Cantona, Schmeicel, Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Beckham, Stam, Yorke, van Nistleroy, Ferdinand, Vidic, Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez, van der Sar
Star Player: Ronaldo, Rooney, Cantona, Scholes, Giggs
Sir Alex Ferguson has now become Manchester United's most successful manager, eclipsing even the great Sir Matt Busby. Like Sir Matt he has constructed three great United sides. Fergie's teams have dominated English football throughout most of the 1990s and 2000s. The first 'dream team' ended the 26-year wait to win the league and then won the domestic double in 1994. The genius and lynchpin of this team was the temperamental Frenchman Eric Cantona. However, the club struggled with the after-effects of the ban on English clubs in Europe and the 5-foreigner rule (which penalised British clubs more harshly as Welsh, Scottish and Irish players were all classed as foreign). This team was broken up in 1995 with the sale of Ince, Hughes and Kanchelskis to much consternation at the time.
In an echo to the Busby Babe's of the 1950s, this set the stage for the second great team, which was based on an incredible crop of young players (Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Butt, Gary Neville, Phil Neville) who were to form the core of the team for the next ten years, and in the case of Giggs and Scholes even longer. This team was supplemented by some key signings such as Jaap Stam and Dwight Yorke and went one stage further by winning a historic 'Treble' in 1999, adding the European Cup to the club for the first time in 31 years, always an important trophy for this club. Sir Alex made full use of an impressive squad depth to acheive this victory. This was well illustrated when substitutes Sheringham and Solskjaer both scored late to win the European Cup Final in dramatic fashion in 1999.
The Treble side continued to dominate English football but were unable to follow their 1999 triumph with a period of dominance in Europe. The club went through a minor decline in the mid 2000s, being tempoarily eclipsed by Arsenal and Chelsea, with Sir Alex even planning to retire at one point.
Things changed in 2008 when the new young side he created (chiefly by signings rather than youth policy this time) came of age and was supplemented by some shrewd additions. This included the talismanic Wayne Rooney, midfield terrier Owen Hargreaves, the excellent defensive partnership of Ferdinand and Vidic, Edwin van der Sar: the first goalkeeper to rival the great Schmeicel and the impressive and hard-working Argentinian loanee Carlos Tevez. However, the star of the team was certainly the young Portugese winger Cristiano Ronaldo. He had been with the club since he was 18 but he had now blossomed into the world's best player. Scoring an incredible 42 goals from a forward right-wing position he became the first player at the club since the similalry-positioned George Best to be crowned the European Player of the Year. Ronaldo inspired the team to beat Chelsea and win the European Cup in 2008 and to reach the final again in 2009, when this time they were outclassed by a wonderful Barcelona side.
After this final Ronaldo was finally sold to Real Madrid for an astonishing £80m and Tevez's two-year loan period ended. The huge debt burden imposed by the Glazer family's hostile take-over of the club in 2005 meant that the club were unable to replace these players with similar talent. Wayne Rooney rose to the occassion magnificently the following season and a further league win in 2010/2011 re-established United as the foremost team in England although they remained some way behind Barcelona as proved in the 2011 European Cup Final. On the domestic front, the takeover of Manchester City by Arabs with bottomless pockets led to them dramatically losing the league championship on the last day of the 2011/12 season. With the retirement of Sir Alex in 2012 it was the end of a magnificent era.