Manchester United is a club whose greatest achievements were often secured at dying moments of a season or an individual game. Ole is going to need to channel every nugget of wisdom he inherited from Sir Alex and do it when it counts.
What separated Sir Alex Ferguson from simple greatness into legendary GOAT status was his ability to consistently get results when his teams’ backs were against the wall, and arguably when the stakes were the highest. From Fergie’s first trophy at United to the Treble, this legacy was built on getting results in what he so famously coined “Squeaky Bum Time”.
The earliest example of the phrase in print is in a quotation by Ferguson, printed in The Daily Express newspaper, 18th March 2003, in an article headed ‘Fergie just can’t stop playing his mind games‘:
“They [Arsenal] have a replay against Chelsea and if they win it they would face a semi-final three days before playing us in the league. But then they did say they were going to win the Treble, didn’t they? It’s squeaky bum time and we’ve got the experience now to cope.”
Here are some of the best examples of Fergie getting results against the odds:
1990 FA Cup
The pressure was bearing down on Fergie in his 4th season at United. The team finished the lowest in the league since being relegated, 13th place, and finishing without a trophy would have likely led to his sacking. An FA Cup win, the first of five that Ferguson won during his time at Old Trafford, came in May against Crystal Palace, as United won 1-0 in a replay.
11 Days in May 1999 – The Treble
Arguably the greatest sporting achievement ever, United’s securing of the historic Treble is the ultimate definition of performing when it counts most. Manchester United secured the Premier League title, the FA Cup and the Champions League over a period of 11 days in late May.
To this day, the 1998-99 season remains the greatest team in this club’s illustrative history. A team that only lost four games all season, went undefeated for the entirety of their Champions League campaign against the likes of Barcelona, Bayern and Juventus. Let’s take a look at those decisive 11 days in May 1999.
May 16, 1999 – Premier League Title Secured: United come back to win against Spurs on the final day of the season thanks to goals from Beckham and Cole:
May 22, 1999 – FA Cup Final: After beating Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal (including Giggs’ famous solo goal) on their way to the final against Newcastle, United cruised to victory thanks to goals from Sheringham and Scholes:
May 26, 1999 – Champions League Final: The final piece of the Impossible Dream was secured just 11 days after coming from behind to win against Spurs. United’s run in the Champions League that year was arguably the most impressive aspect of the insanely successful season.
United were in the group of death along with Barcelona and Bayern; finishing 2nd place after going undefeated in the group stage with big away draws in Barca and Munich. United prevailed past a strong Inter Milan team in the Quarterfinals, before famously coming from behind to win 3-2 in Turin against Juventus.
Keano and Scholesy were both yellow-carded and subsequently missed the final at the Camp Nou. After going down early in the final to Bayern Munich from a set piece, United went into stoppage time at the end of the game down 1-0 and won a corner…
2007-08 UCL & EPL Double
The greatest Manchester United team I’ve had the fortune of witnessing in the flesh, the 07-08 United side is 2nd only to the Treble winning team in terms of best Fergie sides ever.
A United side that would win four out of five Premier League titles in a row, the 07-08 United side gazumped Chelsea in both the league and UCL. After losing at the Bridge in the 3rd to last game of the league season, United won their last 2 games to edge out the title by 2 points.
Then 11 days later, again, United headed to Moscow to face Chelsea for Champions League glory. After Ronaldo earned United a deserved lead, Lampard scored a slop goal at the end of the 1st half to tie it up . After an eventful extra time period that saw Drogba sent off, the game went to penalties…
Winning when it matters most is in the DNA of every successful Manchester United team. This season has had its ups and downs, and while a point on Sunday will suffice, a strong victory to end the league season allows us to finish 3rd place and remind our rivals that Manchester United are back!
Glory, Glory, Man United!