Dimitar Berbatov’s late winner against Bolton on Saturday, may not quite have been last-minute but it wasn’t all that far off.
Over the years the sight of Fergie pointing at his watch subsequently followed by the naffest celebration in football history has become a common sight for football fans. For reasons I can’t be bothered to get into right now, United have made the last-minute goal something of an art form, consistently producing ‘back from the dead’ type goals when most teams would have given up.
It’s often said that United don’t do things the easy way and while opposition fans may look rather enviously at a club who’s fans main gripe is the fact that they have to go-through the mill on the way to countless trophies , there’s something to be said for that argument.
There’s no denying that being a United fan can often lead to a frustrating time- undeniably more than made up for by the end product. Just look at United’s three greatest triumphs and you’ll realise what I mean.
The European cup win in 1968 came in extra-time, the 1999 win came in injury-time and the 2008 win was courtesy of sudden-death penalties. Not exactly a walk in the park by any means.
Here’s a top ten list of united’s greatest last-gasp winners in my own personal order of merit.
10. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Vs Liverpool , FA Cup 4TH Round, 1999. Before he was ‘putting the ball in the German’s net’ Solskjaer was busy doing the same thing to every United fan’s favourite giro hunters from up the M62. Future United injury-time winner Michael Owen- we’ll get to him later- put the visitors ahead after only 3 minutes. With only a few minutes left, United equalized through the King of Pornography Dwight Yorke. The game seemed to be heading for a replay until Solskjaer decided he didn’t fancy a trip to Liverpool –and who can blame him? Almost as good as the goal was the sight of Liverpool assistant boss Phil Thompson rushing onto the pitch at full-time to remonstrate with the referee as a chorus of ‘sit down Pinocchio’ rang out amongst the Old Trafford faithful.
9. John O’Shea Vs Liverpool Premier League 2007. With United and Chelsea neck-and-neck at the top of the table and with Paul Scholes sent off, it looked as though Liverpool may take all three points and help keep the title at Stamford Bridge. With Rooney going off injured for O’Shea the omens did not look good. However despite it looking as though United may just get a draw they went one better thanks to the most unlikely hero. O’Shea explains:
“The winner in the 90th minute at Anfield in front of the Kop, Gary Neville has told me that it’s his dream and I have just gone and done it.”
Many a United fan would agree.
8. Mark Hughes Vs Oldham Athletic FA Cup semi-final, 1994. Before doubles were almost expected at Old Trafford, United seemed to be heading towards their first in the 1993-4 season. A defeat to Aston Villa in the League Cup final had scuppered the chance of a domestic treble- but surely a double would be more than enough recompense. A draw against relegation battlers Oldham- who would subsequently lose that particular skirmish- seemed a formality for a team that was on its way to a second successive title.
Even the suspension of Eric Cantona didn’t seem enough to stop United from steamrolling over their poor –sort of- neighbours from Lancashire. Footballing colossus Neil Pointon gave Oldham the lead and they seemed to be on their way to a fairytale victory until a certain tree-trunk thighed Welshman did what he does best –volleyed an unstoppable shot past a hapless ‘Keeper to save the day for United. Incidentally I was a young teenager behind the goal who ended up with a bloody nose following some over-exuberant hugging from the stranger sat next to me. Brilliant.
Continued on page two.