Goalscorers: Les Ferdinand 24, David Beckham 42, Andy Cole 47
Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Denis Irwin, Gary Neville, Ronny Johnsen, David May, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes (Nicky Butt 69), David Beckham, Ryan Giggs (Phil Neville 79), Teddy Sheringham (Andy Cole 45), Dwight Yorke
Tottenham Hotspur: Ian Walker, Stephen Carr, Justin Edinburgh, Sol Campbell, John Scales (Luke Young 70), Steffen Freund, Tim Sherwood, Darren Anderton, David Ginola (Jose Dominguez 9), (Andy Sinton 76) Steffen Iversen, Les Ferdinand
Referee: Graham Poll, Attendance: 55,189
On the final day of the 1998-1999 season, Manchester United needed to win to secure the championship. They started the day one point clear of reigning champions Arsenal and faced the Gunners bitter rivals in Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. Tottenham had only won once in their last 17 league meetings against Manchester United and the Red Devils were unbeaten in 30 matches in all competitions since losing at home to Middlesbrough before Christmas. Many before kick-off thought victory would be a forgone conclusion but it turned into a nervy afternoon for the home faithful.
Alex Ferguson’s first big decision came before kick-off as he elected to start with Teddy Sheringham ahead of Andy Cole. Immediately from the outset, the home side seeked to take control and nearly took the lead in fluky circumstances. Ian Walker’s attempted clearance was charged down by Dwight Yorke and the ball spun onto the post, back into Walker’s grasp.
Spurs suffered another blow when the Player of the Year, David Ginola disappeared from the contest after just nine minutes because of injury. The visitors hadn’t showed any attacking instincts in the opening 20 minutes. So, it was a big surprise when they took the lead. From Walker’s goal-kick, Steffen Iversen flicked a header on and Les Ferdinand beat Ronny Johnsen to the loose ball. Ferdinand’s effort managed to beat a scrambling Peter Schmeichel in his farewell Old Trafford appearance before he moved to Sporting Lisbon on a free transfer.
The Manchester United fans had a sense it might not be their day. Walker made two great saves to deny Paul Scholes in quick succession. Seconds later, David Beckham put a header over the crossbar from point-blank range. His frustration was clear. He knew he should have scored. Persistence was the key to this performance and three minutes before half-time, the league leaders finally managed to find a way through Walker and Tottenham’s defences.
Scholes tackled Tim Sherwood who felt he had been fouled. Referee Graham Poll disagreed and Scholes continued his run, picking out Beckham. This time, the England international made no mistake with his finish, launching his strike into the top corner for his ninth goal of the season. As things stood, Ferguson’s Red Devils would regain the Premier League title from Arsenal who were drawing 0-0 at the same time with Aston Villa.
At half-time, Cole was introduced for Sheringham and two minutes into the second half, the substitution had the inspired impact. Gary Neville found Cole with an incisive ball. Staying onside, the forward’s control was devastating and he lobbed the ball over the advancing Walker. It felt like redemption for him after missing all the guilt-edge opportunities on the final day in 1995 at Upton Park when Manchester United lost the title to Blackburn Rovers.
Tottenham had given it a good go and Arsenal got their goal to beat Villa but it was all in vain. For the fifth time in seven seasons, Manchester United were Premier League champions and the first part of the historic ‘Treble’ was signed, sealed and delivered.