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Nocturnal Magazine Page 11.
Manchester United Football Club is an English football club, based at Old Trafford in Trafford, Greater Manchester, and is one of the most popular football clubs in the world,[3] with over 330 million supporters worldwide almost 5% of the world's population. The club was a founding member of the Premier League in 1992, and has played in the top division of English football since 1938, with the exception of the 1974/75 season. Average attendances at the club have been higher than any other team in English football for all but six seasons since 1964/65.

Manchester United are the reigning English, European, and World Champions having won the 2007/08 Premier League, the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League, and the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup. The club is the second most successful in the history of English football and by far the most successful of recent times, having won 20 major honours since the start of Alex Ferguson's reign as manager in November 1986. In 1968, they became the first English club to win the European Cup, beating Benfica
4–1. They won a second European Cup as part of an unprecedented Treble in 1999, before winning their third in 2008, 40 years almost to the day after their first. The club also holds the record for the most FA Cup titles with 11.

Since the late 1990s, the club has been one of the richest in the world with the highest revenue of any football club, and is currently ranked as the richest and most valuable club in any sport, with an estimated value of £897 million (€1.333 billion / $1.8 billion) as of September 2008. Manchester United was a founding member of the now defunct G-14 group of Europe's leading football clubs, and its replacement, the European Club Association.

Alex Ferguson has been manager of the club since 6 November 1986, joining from Aberdeen after the sacking of Ron Atkinson. The current club captain is Gary Neville, who succeeded Roy Keane in November 2005.

The Manchester United team at the start of the 1905/06 season in which they were runners-up in the Second Division and promoted. Chart showing the progress of Manchester United F.C. through the English Football League system since joining as Newton Heath in 1892/93 to 2007/08. The club was formed as Newton Heath L&YR F.C. in 1878 as the works team of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Heath. The club's shirts were green and gold halves. They played on a small, dilapidated field on North Road for fifteen years, before moving to Bank Street in the nearby town of Clayton in 1893. The club had entered The Football League the previous year and began to sever its links with the rail depot, becoming an independent company, appointing a club secretary and dropping the "L&YR" from their name to become simply Newton Heath F.C.. Not long afterwards, in 1902, the club neared bankruptcy, with debts of over £2,500. At one point, their Bank Street ground was even closed by the bailiffs.

Just before having to be shut down for good, the club received a sizeable investment from J. H. Davies, the managing director of Manchester Breweries. Legend goes that Harry Stafford, the club captain, was showing off his prized St. Bernard dog at a club fund-raiser, when Davies approached him to buy the dog. Stafford declined, but was able to persuade Davies to invest in the club and become club chairman. It was decided at one of the early board meetings that the club required a change of name to reflect the fresh start they had been afforded. Manchester Central and Manchester Celtic were among the names suggested, before Louis Rocca, a young immigrant from Italy, said "Gentlemen, why don't we call ourselves Manchester United?" The name stuck, and Manchester United officially came into existence on 26 April 1902. Davies also decided it would be appropriate to change the club's colours, abandoning the green and gold halves of Newton Heath, and picking red and white to be the colours of Manchester United.

Ernest Mangnall was appointed as club secretary after James West had resigned as manager on 28 September 1902. Mangnall was charged with trying to get the club into the First Division, and fell just short of that target at the first attempt, finishing in fifth in Division Two. Mangnall decided that it was necessary to bring in some fresh faces to the club, and signed players such as Harry Moger in goal, Dick Duckworth at half-back and John Picken up front, but it was another new half-back by the name of Charlie Roberts who made the biggest impact. He cost the club a then record £750 from Grimsby Town in April 1904, and helped them to a third place finish in the 1903/04 season, just a point short of the second promotion place.

It was not long, however, before the club was at last promoted to the First Division for the first time under their new name, finishing in second place in the 1905/06 Second Division. A season of consolidation followed, with the club finishing in eighth, before they finally won their first league title in 1908. Manchester City had recently been under investigation for paying some of their players a salary over the amount allowed by FA regulations. They were fined £250 and eighteen of their players were banned from playing for them ever again. United were quick to pounce on the situation, picking up Billy Meredith (the Welsh Wizard) and Sandy Turnbull, amongst others. The new boys from across town were ineligible to play until New Year's Day 1907, due to their suspension, so it was left until the 1907/08 season for them to make a proper impact on United's bid for the title. And that they did, getting the campaign off to a storming start, with a 2–1 victory over Sheffield United, beginning a run of ten consecutive victories. Despite a shaky end to the season, United managed to hang on and finished the season nine points ahead of their closest rivals, Aston Villa.

The following season began with United picking up another piece of silverware, the first ever Charity Shield and ended with another, the club's first FA Cup title, sowing the seeds for what has become a record number of FA Cup titles. Just as they were in the club's first title winning campaign, Turnbull and Meredith were instrumental in this season, Turnbull scoring the winner in the FA Cup Final. The club had to wait another two years before winning any more silverware, winning the First Division for the second time in the 1910/11 season. In the meantime, United moved to their new ground at Old Trafford. They played their first game there on 19 February 1910 against Liverpool, but lost 4–3 having thrown away a 3–0 lead. They then went trophyless again in the 1911/12 season, which not only proved to be the last with Mangnall in charge (he moved to Manchester City after ten years with United), but also the last time the club won the First Division for 41 years, the longest they have gone without winning the league in their history.

For the next ten years, the club went into a state of gradual decline before being relegated back down to Division Two in 1922. They were promoted again in 1925, but struggled to get into the top half of the table, and were relegated again in 1931. In the eight years leading up to the Second World War, the club became somewhat of a yo-yo club, reaching their all-time lowest position of 20th in Division Two in 1934. They were promoted and relegated once again before being promoted in the penultimate season before the Second World War. They guaranteed their place in the top flight for after the war by finishing in 14th in the 1938–39 season.

History of Manchester United F.C. The Busby years (1945–1969)

1945 saw the appointment of Matt Busby to the manager's post at Old Trafford. He took an uncommon approach to his job, insisting that he be allowed to pick his own team, choose which players to sign and direct the team's training sessions himself. He had already missed out on the manager's job at his former club, Liverpool, because the club saw those tasks as jobs for the directors, but United decided to take a chance on Busby's innovative ideas. Busby's first signing was not a player, but a new assistant manager by the name of Jimmy Murphy. The risk the club had taken in appointing Busby paid immediate dividends, with the club finishing second in the league in 1947, 1948 and 1949 and winning the FA Cup in 1948, thanks in part to the locally born trio of Stan Pearson, Jack Rowley and Charlie Mitten (Rowley and Pearson both scored in the 1948 Cup Final), as well as the centre-half from the North-East, Allenby Chilton.

Charlie Mitten had fled to Colombia in search of a better salary, but the remainder of United's old heads managed to win the First Division title back in 1952. Busby knew, however, that football teams required more than just experience in the side, and so he adopted a policy of bringing in players from the youth team whenever possible. At first, the young players such as Roger Byrne, Bill Foulkes, Mark Jones and Dennis Viollet, took time to bed themselves into the side, sliding to a low of eighth place in 1953, but the team won the league again in 1956 with an average age of only 22, scoring 103 goals in the process. The youth policy set in motion by Busby has now become a hallmark of the most successful periods in the club's history (the mid-1950s, mid-to-late-1960s and 1990s). Busby's original "crop" of youth players was referred to as the Busby Babes, the jewel in the crown of which was a wing-half named Duncan Edwards. The boy from Dudley in the West Midlands made his United début at the age of just 16 back in 1953. It was said that Edwards could play at any position on the field, and many who saw him play said that he was the greatest player ever. The following season, 1956/57, they won the league again and reached the FA Cup final, losing to Aston Villa. They also became the first English team to compete in the European Cup, at the behest of the FA, who had denied Chelsea the same opportunity the previous season, and reached the semi-final, only to be knocked out by Real Madrid. En route to the semi-final, United also recorded a win that still stands as their biggest win in all competitions, beating Belgian champions Anderlecht 10–0 at Maine Road.
A plaque at Old Trafford in honour of the players who died in the Munich air disaster.Tragedy struck the following season, when the plane carrying the team home from a European Cup match crashed on take off at a refuelling stop in Munich, Germany. The Munich air disaster of 6 February 1958 claimed the lives of eight players, Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam "Billy" Whelan and another fifteen passengers, including United staff members Walter Crickmer, Bert Whalley and Tom Curry. There had already been two attempted take-offs before the fatal third, which was caused by a build-up of slush at the end of the runway slowing the plane down to a speed insufficient for take-off. The plane skidded off the end of the runway, through a fence and into an unoccupied house. United goalkeeper Harry Gregg managed to maintain consciousness after the crash, and through fear of the plane exploding at any second, he grabbed both Bobby Charlton who had made his United début less than 18 months earlier and Dennis Viollet by their waistbands and dragged them to safety. Seven United players died at the scene, while Duncan Edwards died a fortnight later in hospital. Right-winger Johnny Berry also survived the accident, but injuries sustained in the accident brought his football career to a premature end. Matt Busby was not given much hope of survival by the Munich doctors, and was even given the Last Rites at one point, but recovered miraculously and was finally let out of hospital after having spent over two months there.

There were rumours of the club folding and withdrawing from all competitions, but with Jimmy Murphy taking over as manager while Busby recovered from his injuries, the club continued playing with a makeshift side. Despite the accident, they reached the FA Cup final again, where they lost to Bolton Wanderers. At the end of the season, UEFA offered the FA the opportunity to submit both United and the eventual champions, Wolverhampton Wanderers, for the 1958/59 European Cup as a tribute to the victims, but the FA declined. United managed to push Wolves right to the wire the following season, finishing in a creditable second place; not bad for a team that had lost nine first-team players to the Munich air disaster.

Busby rebuilt the team throughout the early 1960s, signing players such as Denis Law and Pat Crerand, all the while nurturing his new generation of youngsters. Perhaps the most famous of this new batch was a young man from Belfast named George Best. Best had a natural athleticism rarely seen, but his most valuable asset was his close control of a football. His quick feet allowed him to pass through almost any gap in the opposition defence, no matter how small. The team won the FA Cup in 1963, albeit finishing in 19th place in the First Division. The FA Cup triumph seemed to reinvigorate the players, who helped the club to second place in 1964, and then went one better by winning the league in 1965 and 1967. United won the European Cup in 1968, beating Eusébio's SL Benfica 4–1 in the final, becoming the first English club to win the competition. This United team was notable for containing three European Footballers of the Year: Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best. Matt Busby resigned as manager in 1969 and was replaced by the reserve team coach and former United player, Wilf McGuinness.

History of Manchester United F.C. (1969–1986)

Manchester United badge in the 1960s and early 1970s
The coat of arms of Manchester City Council, upon which the crest of Manchester United was based. The arms are used by the club for prestigious occasionsUnited struggled to replace Busby, and the team struggled under Wilf McGuinness in the 1969/70 season, finishing a disappointing eighth, and following a poor start to the 1970/71 season, McGuinness was demoted back to the position of reserve team coach. Busby was coaxed back to the club, albeit only for six months. Results got better with Busby's guidance, but he finally left the club for the last time in the summer of 1971. In the meantime, United had lost a number of high-profile players such as Nobby Stiles and Pat Crerand.

Despite approaching Celtic's European Cup-winning manager, Jock Stein, for the manager's job Stein had agreed a verbal contract to join United, but pulled out at the last minute Frank O'Farrell was appointed as Busby's successor. However, like McGuinness, O'Farrell only lasted less than 18 months, the only difference between the two being that O'Farrell reacted to the team's poor form by bringing in some fresh talent, most specifically Martin Buchan from Aberdeen for £125,000. Tommy Docherty became manager at the end of 1972. Docherty, or "the Doc", saved United from relegation that season but United were relegated in 1974, by which time the golden trio of Best, Law and Charlton had left the club. Denis Law had moved to Manchester City in the summer of 1973, and ended up scoring the goal that many people say relegated United, and politely refused to celebrate the goal with his team mates. Players like Lou Macari, Stewart Houston and Brian Greenhoff were brought in to replace Best, Law and Charlton, but none could live up to the stature of the three that came before.

The team won promotion at the first attempt, with a young Steve Coppell making his début towards the end of that season, having joined from Tranmere Rovers, and reached the FA Cup final in 1976, but were beaten by Southampton. They reached the final again in 1977, beating Liverpool 2–1. In spite of this success and his popularity with the supporters, Docherty was sacked soon after the final when he was found to have had an affair with the physiotherapist's wife.

Dave Sexton replaced Docherty as manager in the summer of 1977, and made the team play in a more defensive formation. This style was unpopular with supporters, who were used to the attacking football preferred by Docherty and Busby. Major signings under Sexton included Joe Jordan, Gordon McQueen, Gary Bailey and Ray Wilkins, but Sexton's defensive United failed to break out of mid-table obscurity, only once finishing in the top two, and only reached the FA Cup final once, losing to Arsenal. Because of this lack of trophies, Sexton was sacked in 1981, even though he won his last seven games in charge.

He was replaced by the flamboyant Ron Atkinson, whose extrovert attitude was reflected in the clubs he managed. He immediately broke the British record transfer fee to sign Bryan Robson from his old club, West Brom. Robson would come to be touted in the future as United's best midfield player since Duncan Edwards. Atkinson's team featured new signings such as Jesper Olsen, Paul McGrath and Gordon Strachan playing alongside former youth team players Norman Whiteside and Mark Hughes. United won the FA Cup twice in three years, in 1983 and 1985, and were overwhelming favourites to win the league in the 1985–86 season after winning their first ten league games, opening a ten-point gap over their rivals as early as October. The team's form collapsed, however, and United finished the season in fourth place. The poor form continued into the following season, and with United on the edge of the First Division's relegation zone by the beginning of November 1986, Atkinson was sacked.
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FA Cup
Following 2004's victory over Millwall, United has a record eleven FA Cups to its name and has appeared in the final on seventeen occasions. United are also the only club to appear in an FA Cup final in every decade since the war.

The club first competed in the FA Cup in 1890 as Newton Heath, but were beaten 6-1 by the then League Champions Preston North End. In fact the club had to wait until 1902, when it changed its name to Manchester United, to progress beyond the Third round.

The club’s first win in the competition came in 1909 against Bristol City (1-0). The Reds had to wait until 1948 to reach another final when they beat Blackpool 4-2 at Wembley stadium. The club appeared in consecutive finals in 1957 and 1958.

United next won the FA Cup in 1963 when a Denis Law goal helped see off Leicester City 3-1. The late 1970’s saw the club reach three finals in four years, losing to Southampton in 1976, beating Liverpool in 1977 and losing an epic final to Arsenal in 1979. After being 2-0 down, they came back to score two goals in the final five minutes only to see Arsenal snatch the Cup with almost the last kick of the game.

Two more successes followed, against Brighton in 1983 and against Everton in 1985, when United defender Kevin Moran became the first player to be sent off in a Cup final. During the Nineties the club reached no less than five finals, winning four of them. In 1990 United beat Crystal Palace 1-0 after a replay, in 1994 and 1996 the club completed the ‘Double’ after wins against Chelsea and Liverpool respectively and in 1999 United completed the second part of a historic ‘Treble’ with a 2-0 win over Newcastle.

United reached the final again in 2004. After beating arch-rivals Arsenal 1-0 in the semi-final at Villa Park, they had the more straightforward task of seeing off First Division side Millwall at the Millennium Stadium. Goals by Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy (2) won the match 3-0 for United.

The Reds were back at the Millennium Stadium just 12 months later, in May 2005, seeking their 12th FA Cup win. This time, their arch-rivals Arsenal were waiting to meet them - and to exact their revenge, it seems, for the semi-final results of 1999 and 2004. United dominated the match and created the best chances but ultimately failed to kill-off the more defensively minded Gunners. Consequently the FA Cup Final was decided by a penalty shoot-out for the first time in its history, regrettably in Arsenal's favour.

The FA Cup final returned to Wembley in 2007, with freshly-crowned Premiership champions United and previous incumbents Chelsea locking horns in what seemed set to be a fitting curtain raiser for the revamped stadium. In truth, the final was a massive anti-climax as United's fatigue at the end of a long season, allied to an ultra-conservative approach from Jose Mourinho's side made for a stifling affair, which was eventually settled late in extra-time by a strike from Didier Drogba.
Premier League

United have won 17 League Championships in total, one less than Liverpool’s record haul of 18 titles. United's total includes ten Premier League titles (since 1992) and seven First Division Championships (pre 1992).

As Newton Heath the club first applied to join the Football League in 1890 only for their application to be rejected. The club were eventually granted a place in 1892 and made an inauspicious start to their first ever season in the Football League. After finishing bottom they had to win a play-off against Small Heath (now Birmingham City) to stay up.

After being relegated in 1894 the club finally returned to the First Division in 1907 as Manchester United, after changing its name in 1902, and won the Championship in 1908 and 1911. It wasn’t until the end of the Second World War, when under the leadership of Sir Matt Busby, that the club came back to life.

Now back in the First Division the club finished runners-up in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951 before winning its third League Championship in 1952. The next few years were to see the birth of the famed Busby Babes. More Championships followed in 1956 and 1957 before the tragic events of the Munich air crash, which claimed the lives of 21 people, including eight Manchester United players.

Over the next few years the club recovered to win the Championship again in 1965 and 1967. The next 26 years saw United finish runners-up four times before once again finishing top while claiming the inaugural Premier League title in 1993 and following it up with further championships in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2007.

United's most recent title triumph came in 2008. Despite a slow start, the Reds eventually clicked into gear battling it out with Arsenal and Chelsea at the Premier League summit. While the Gunners eventually came up short, Avram Grant's men pushed United all the way to the wire. A 2-0 victory at Wigan on the final day of the campaign clinched the title, United's tenth since the Premier League began and their 17th championship crown overall.
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UEFA Champions League
The Champions League is the ultimate club prize in European football. United have won the trophy three times, in 1968, 1999 and 2008. Real Madrid have the record number of wins, with nine European Cups to their name.

United first played in the European Cup in 1957. The decision did not go down well with the Football League due to the fear that it would affect the quality of domestic competitions. This was quickly quashed as the competition helped raise standards in the English game.

United’s first match in the competition was a 10-0 win against Belgian Champions Anderlecht. The Reds reached the semi-finals in both 1956-57 and 1957-58 seasons, but the club’s involvement in the 1957-58 competition, however, will be forever linked to the Munich air disaster. United’s draw in Belgrade and subsequent semi-final defeat against AC Milan were overshadowed by the tragic death of eight United players.

From tragedy came hope as Sir Matt Busby built a new team. Another semi-final in 1965-66 was followed by the club’s first European Cup success in 1967-68 when Goals from Bobby Charlton (two), George Best and Brian Kidd at Wembley gave England its first European Cup winning side against Benfica.

The club had to wait a long 26 years to compete in the competition again, now expanded and renamed the Champions League. United have played in the Champions League every year since 1994 and reached the semi-finals in 1997 before winning the Cup for a second time in 1999.

The final in Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium looked all but lost as United trailed 1-0 going into the three minutes of added time at the end of the match. Goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left Bayern devastated and United's 50,000-strong throng of supporters in ecstacy. Sir Alex Ferguson had finally emulated the achievement of his predecessor Sir Matt Busby.

European glory proved elusive for United in the following seasons. Their defence of the trophy in 1999/00 was ended by a 3-2 home defeat by eventual winners Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, while two semi-final appearances (2001/02 against Bayer Leverkusen and 2006/07 against AC Milan) ultimately ended in elimination despite United holding the lead in both ties.

In May 2008, in Moscow, the Reds sealed their third European Cup triumph - 50 years after the Munich air disaster and 40 years since the Reds' first win in '68 - with a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea. Ryan Giggs, making his 759th appearance in a red shirt, thus breaking Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time record, scored what turned out to be United's winning penalty. Edwin van der Sar confirmed United as Kings of Europe with his subsequent penalty save from Nicolas Anelka and sealed a historic double for the Reds.
History of Manchester United F.C. Alex Ferguson era, pre-Treble (1986–1998)

Alex Ferguson has been manager of Manchester United since November 1986. Alex Ferguson arrived from Aberdeen to replace Atkinson on the very day that Atkinson was sacked, bringing with him his assistant manager, Archie Knox. Although his first match in charge, against Oxford United on 8 November 1986, resulted in a 2–0 defeat, Ferguson guided the club to an 11th place finish in the league. A second place finish in 1987/88, with Brian McClair becoming the first United player since George Best to score twenty league goals in a season, may have given fans a tiny glimpse of the future, but they soon returned to mediocrity with another 11th place finish in 1989.

Many of Ferguson's signings did not reach the expectations of the fans, and the manager was reportedly on the verge of being sacked at the beginning of 1990, with many believing that defeat to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Third Round would seal his fate. A 56th-minute goal from Mark Robins won the match for United and started them on a cup run that would take them all the way to the final at Wembley, where they beat Crystal Palace 1–0 in a replay after a 3–3 draw in the original match. The following year, United reached the final of the League Cup, but lost 1–0 to former manager Ron Atkinson's Sheffield Wednesday team. However, the season was capped by the club's first Cup Winners' Cup title, beating Barcelona 2–1 in the final in Rotterdam. The Cup Winners' Cup triumph allowed the team to play in the 1991 UEFA Super Cup, in which they beat European Cup holders Red Star Belgrade 1–0 at Old Trafford. The match should have been played over two legs, but, due to political unrest in Yugoslavia at the time, UEFA decided that only the Old Trafford leg would be played. A second consecutive League Cup final appearance followed in 1992, with United this time beating Nottingham Forest 1–0 at Wembley.

Meanwhile, events were taking place off the pitch around the turn of the decade, as chairman Martin Edwards attempted to offload the club to property tycoon Michael Knighton in 1989. The £20 million deal was all but confirmed, with Knighton even taking to the Old Trafford pitch in full Manchester United kit and performing a few keepie uppies before belting the ball into the goal at the Stretford End. Knighton was given access to the club's financial records, but before the deal could be finalised, his financial backers pulled out and the deal was cancelled. However, since Knighton now had insider knowledge of the club, he was given a place on the club's board in exchange for his silence about the matter. In 1991, requiring some extra financial support in the wake of the Taylor Report, the club floated on the London Stock Exchange with a valuation of £47 million, bringing its finances into the public eye. Martin Edwards retained his position as chairman, but the club was now publicly owned.

The summer of 1991 also saw the arrival of Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, whose 17 league clean sheets gave United the best defensive record in the First Division in 1991/92, helping them to a second-place finish behind Leeds United, within whose ranks was a certain French maverick named Eric Cantona. Alex Ferguson recognised United's need for a striker as a foil for Mark Hughes and Brian McClair, and had tried and failed a number of times to sign Sheffield Wednesday striker David Hirst, but when Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson rang Martin Edwards in November 1992 to enquire about the availability of Denis Irwin, the conversation quickly turned to Cantona. To Edwards' and Ferguson's surprise, the two clubs were able to agree upon a fee of £1.2 million for the enigmatic Frenchman. Cantona's arrival provided the crucial spark for United, helping the team to their first league title since 1967. After the signing of Roy Keane from Nottingham Forest in July 1993, United won a second consecutive title for the first time since 1957 the following year, before winning the FA Cup to complete the first "Double" in the club's history. That same year, however, the club went into mourning following the death of former manager and club director Matt Busby, who died on 20 January 1994.

The 1994/95 season was to be the club's first trophyless season since 1988/89, although they managed to take the title race down to the final week of the season and reached the final of the FA Cup, where they lost to Everton. Andy Cole was signed from Newcastle United for a British record fee of £6 million plus Keith Gillespie. However, the game after Cole's United debut, Eric Cantona received an eight month suspension for jumping into the crowd and assaulting Crystal Palace supporter Matthew Simmons, who had given Cantona racial abuse as he left the field, in United's game at Selhurst Park. Cantona's suspension has been cited by some as the reason why United were unable to complete a hat-trick of league titles that season. The season's relative failure prompted Ferguson into some major restructuring of the team, selling Paul Ince, Andrei Kanchelskis and Mark Hughes and replacing them with players from the club's youth team, including David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes. After the club's 3–1 defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the 1995/96 season, television pundit Alan Hansen famously declared "you'll never win anything with kids." The new players, several of whom quickly became regular internationals for England, responded well and, buoyed by Cantona's return in October 1995, United became the first English club to have won the double twice, a feat that would be nicknamed the "Double Double".

Captain Steve Bruce left for Birmingham City in July 1996, and Alex Ferguson named Eric Cantona as the new club captain. He led the team to a fourth league title in five years in 1996/97, before retiring from football at the age of 30 at the end of the season. Teddy Sheringham was brought in to replace him, and his iconic number 7 shirt was handed to David Beckham. They started the 1997/98 season well, but they lost five matches after Christmas and finished in second place, one point behind double-winners Arsenal. After a period without a regular challenger for the league title, this marked Arsenal's arrival as genuine title contenders for the next few years.

Manchester United F.C. The Treble Season 1998–99

The 1998/99 season for Manchester United was the most successful season in English club football history as they became the only English team to win The Treble   winning the Premiership, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League in the same season. After a very tense Premier League season, Manchester United won the title on the final day beating Tottenham Hotspur 2–1, whilst Arsenal won 1–0 against Aston Villa. Winning the Premiership was the first part of the Treble in place, the one part that manager Alex Ferguson described as the hardest. In the FA Cup Final United faced Newcastle United and won 2–0 with goals from Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes. In the final match of that season, the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final they defeated Bayern Munich in what is considered one of the greatest comebacks ever witnessed, going into injury time a goal behind and then scoring twice to win 2–1. Ferguson was subsequently knighted for his services to football. Rounding out that record breaking year, Manchester United also won the Intercontinental Cup after beating Palmeiras 1–0 in Tokyo.

History of Manchester United F.C. After the Treble (1999–present)

United won the league in 2000 and 2001 but the press saw these seasons as failures as they failed to regain the European Cup. In 2000, Manchester United became one of 14 founder members of the G-14 group of leading European football clubs. The club also declined to take part in the 1999/2000 FA Cup, instead competing in the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship in Brazil, citing pressure from the FA, UEFA and the England 2006 World Cup bid committee. Ferguson adopted more defensive tactics to make United harder to beat in Europe but it was not a success and United finished the 2001/02 Premiership season in third place. They regained the league the following season (2002/03) and started the following season well, but their form dropped significantly when Rio Ferdinand received a controversial eight month suspension for missing a drugs test. They did win the 2004 FA Cup, however, knocking out Arsenal (that season's eventual league champions) on their way to the final in which they beat Millwall.

The 2004/05 season was characterised by a failure to score goals, mainly due to the injury of striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and United finished the season trophyless and in third place in the league. This time, even the FA Cup eluded them as Arsenal beat United on penalties after a goalless draw after 120 minutes. Off the pitch, the main story was the possibility of the club being taken over and on 12 May 2005, American businessman Malcolm Glazer acquired a controlling interest in the club through his investment vehicle Red Football Ltd. in a takeover valuing the club at approximately £800 million (then approx. $1.5 billion). On 16 May, he increased his share to the 75% necessary to de-list the club from the Stock Exchange, making it private again, and announced his intention to do so within 20 days. On 8 June, he appointed his sons to the Manchester United board as non-executive directors.

United made a poor start to the 2005/06 season, with midfielder Roy Keane leaving the club to join Celtic after publicly criticising several of his team-mates, and the club failed to qualify for the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in over a decade after losing to Portuguese team Benfica. Their season was also dealt cruel blows with injuries to key players such as Gabriel Heinze, Alan Smith, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. However, they were prevented from being left empty-handed in successive seasons a disappointment not endured in the last 17 years by winning the 2006 League Cup, beating newly promoted neighbours Wigan Athletic in the final 4–0. United also ensured a second-place finish and automatic Champions League qualification on the final day of the season by defeating Charlton Athletic 4–0. At the end of the 2005/06 season, one of United's key strikers, Ruud van Nistelrooy, left the club to join Real Madrid, due to a row with Alex Ferguson.

In July 2006, the club announced a refinancing package. The total amount will be £660 million, on which interest payments will be £62 million a year. This result of this new financing plan will be a 30% reduction of annual payments. On the pitch, the 2006/07 season saw United return to the attacking style of football that was the cornerstone of their years of success in the late 1990s, scoring almost 20 more goals in 32 matches than second placed side Chelsea. In January 2007, United signed Henrik Larsson on a two-month loan from Swedish side Helsingborgs, and the striker played an important role in advancing United to the semi-finals of the Champions League, with hopes for a second Treble; however, upon reaching the semi-finals, United lost to Milan 3–5 on aggregate. Four years after their last title, United claimed back the Premier League title on 6 May 2007, after Chelsea drew away with Arsenal, leaving the Blues seven points behind with two games to go, following United's 1–0 victory in the Manchester derby the previous day, making it their ninth Premiership title in the 15 seasons of its existence. However, an unprecedented fourth Double was not to be, as Chelsea beat United 1–0 in extra time in the first FA Cup Final to be held at the new Wembley Stadium; the first to be held in England since the old stadium was demolished seven years earlier.

2007/08 saw United successfully complete the European double despite a poor start to the season, finding themselves in 17th place in the Premier League after three matches. However, on 11 May 2008, United retained the Premier League title with a win over Wigan Athletic. With title rivals Chelsea only able to draw with Bolton Wanderers, United finished the season two points clear. The club also reached the European Cup final for the third time in their history, having knocked out such clubs as Barcelona and Roma en-route to the final. They beat Chelsea 6–5 on penalties in the final in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, after a 1–1 draw in normal time on 21 May 2008. With this win, they earned their third European Cup title and kept up their record of never having lost a major European final. Coincidentally, this season marked the 100th year since Manchester United won their first League title, 50 years after the Munich air disaster and 40 years after Manchester United became the first ever English side to win the European Cup. The European Cup final also saw Ryan Giggs make his 759th appearance for the club, overtaking Bobby Charlton as the club's record appearance maker.

Before the start of the 2008/09 season, United competed in and won the 2008 FA Community Shield. United beat 2007/08 FA Cup winners Portsmouth 3-1 on penalties, after the match finished 0–0 after 90 minutes.

On 21 December 2008, United added more silverware to their trophy cabinet with a win in the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup Final, defeating the Ecuadorian side LDU Quito 1–0 in Japan, Wayne Rooney scoring the winning goal.

Club crest and colours

Manchester United badge up to the most recent revision in 1998 During its days as Newton Heath, the club played in a number of different colours, the most recognisable being the yellow and green halved shirts worn from 1878 to 1892 and then again between 1894 and 1896; this strip was revived as an away kit in the early 1990s. Other kits worn by Newton Heath included a red and white quartered shirt (1892/1894) and a plain white shirt (1896/1902), both worn with blue shorts. In 1902, in conjunction with the name change to Manchester United, the club changed their colours to red jerseys, white shorts and black socks, which has become the standard for most Man Utd home kits ever since. The most notable exception to this is the shirt that the team wore in the 1909 FA Cup Final against Bristol City, which was white with a red "V" sash. This design was resurrected in the 1920s before United reverted back to the all-red shirts.

Away strips are usually white jerseys with black shorts and white socks, but other colours have been used, including a blue and white striped shirt used on and off from 1903 to 1916, an all-black kit in 1994 and 2003 and a navy blue shirt with silver horizontal pinstripes in 2000. One of the most famous, yet short lived, United away kits, though, was the all grey kit from 1995/96. This kit was dropped after Manchester United failed to win a single game while wearing it. At half-time during a game against Southampton, when United were already 3–0 down, they switched to their blue and white third kit, but eventually lost 3–1. According to the players, the grey kit was not visible enough which led to the poor results. Another famous Man Utd away kit included a reversible shirt that was white with black sleeves and gold trim on one side, and gold with black trim on the other side. This shirt was released as the last kit created by Umbro for the club before the change to Nike, and commemorated 100 years since the club had changed its name from Newton Heath to Manchester United.

The United third kit is traditionally all blue in homage to the kit that the 1968 European Cup was won in. Exceptions to this rule have included a bright yellow kit worn in the early 1970s, the aforementioned blue and white striped shirt from 1996, which proved to be a firm favourite with the fans, and a white shirt with black and red horizontal pinstripes from 2004. United have also used what were originally used as training shirts as their third kit in the past, having adopted an all-black kit in the 1998/99 season and a dark blue shirt with maroon sides in 2001 for games against Southampton and PSV Eindhoven.

Currently, Manchester United's home jerseys are red with a vertical, white broken stripe with black trim on the reverse. The stripe is adorned with the letters MUFC at the top of the bottom portion, and a silhouette of the devil from the club badge at the top of the top portion. The AIG and Nike logos are also white. A patch with the words "The Red Devils" written in white, over an image of the club badge's devil, is attached to the bottom-left of the shirt. The club crest sits on a red shield of the same shape on the left breast. The away kit is white with blue piping around the side and back of the neck and down the sides of the body. The trim on the front of the neck is red. The letters "MUFC" are on the back of the collar and the club badge is located on a white shield over the left breast. The third shirt is royal blue, with sponsors' logos in white. Around the club badge, which sits on a blue shield, the words "May 29th 1968 40th Anniversary" are embroidered. Like the away shirt, the letters "MUFC" are on the back of the collar, while the inside of the collar is adorned with the coat of arms of the City of Manchester, in a design inspired by the tickets used for the 1968 European Cup Final. The away and third shirts are worn with blue shorts.

The Manchester United crest has been altered on a few occasions, but the basic form remains similar. The badge is derived from the crest of the city of Manchester. The devil on the club badge stems from the club's nickname "The Red Devils", which was adopted in the early 1960s after Matt Busby heard it in reference to the red-shirted Salford rugby league side. By the end of the 1960s, the devil had started to be included on club programmes and scarves, before it was finally incorporated into the club badge in 1970, holding its unmistakable trident. In 1998, the badge was once again redesigned, this time removing the words "Football Club".
Manchester United v Chelsea 'Penalties' CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL (CLICK)
FIFA Club World Cup Final-- Manchester United vs LDU-- Manchester United Champion
FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008 final Victory ceremony
Man Utd Celebration Winning - FIFA World Cup 2008
Cristiano Ronaldo Wayne Rooney Japan Interview
Manchester United Soccer Weekends   "click"
Dimitar Berbatov is a classy and complete centre-forward, pairing the ability to ruthlessly and regularly find the net inside the box with the aptitude to create moments of sheer magic outside it.

Sir Alex likes players with plenty of charisma in the way they play, and the Bulgarian’s languid style is instantly recognisable on the field. It’s also an approach that has drawn comparisons with former United talisman Eric Cantona. Like the captivating Frenchman, Berbatov loves to entertain with the ball at his feet. United fans are in for a real treat with the Bulgarian in a United shirt in attack alongside Wayne Rooney, Carlos
Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo et al.

Berbatov started out at Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia. He joined The Armymen aged 17, following in the footsteps of his father, Ivan, who also played for the club. After making his debut aged 18 in the 1998/99 campaign, he went on to score 14 goals in 27 league matches the following season.

His talent quickly attracted attention from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen, who made their move for the Bulgarian front man in January 2001 after an impressive start to the season for CSKA. Berbatov – national team captain and Bulgarian Player of the Year in 2002, 2004, 2005 and

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a penalty as Manchester United went five points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Everton.

Ronaldo converted from the spot two minutes before half-time at Old Trafford after Mikel Arteta was adjudged to have tripped Michael Carrick.

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar set a new English league record for time without conceding a goal, breaking the previous mark of 1,103 minutes, as the visitors rarely threatened to beat the Dutchman.

Either Liverpool or Chelsea can reduce the gap to two points when the teams play at Anfield on Sunday, but the champions will have a game in hand.

Everton visited Old Trafford on the back of draws against Liverpool (twice) and Arsenal, and showed the organisation and tenacity that has made them so hard to beat.

The talismanic Tim Cahill started despite a bruised foot picked up against Arsenal on Wednesday, as David Moyes picked an unchanged line-up.

Everton have thrived on a consistency in selection from which Moyes's counterpart across Stanley Park, Rafa Benitez, could learn a thing or two, and the visitors looked comfortable until Ronaldo's breakthrough two minutes before the break.

The outstanding Carrick made a purposeful forward run and, as he entered the area, was caught by Arteta and stayed on his feet until Tony Hibbert tackled him cleanly.

The appeals were muted but referee Mark Halsey awarded the penalty for Arteta's trip. Everton were furious but Ronaldo was not about to let them off the hook, clipping the ball down the middle as Howard dived out of the way.

It was the Portuguese's 14th goal in half an injury-interrupted season - not a bad return given the constant attention devoted to his supposedly sub-standard performance and attitude.

Ronaldo showed all the ambition and ability that saw him crowned the world's best player, attempting skills that few others would even consider.

Exhibit A was a remarkable toe-poke hit with no backlift that scuttled through the Everton box, beat Howard but came back off the inside of the right-hand post.

While Van der Sar extended his Premier League clean sheets record to 12 in a row, his opposite number Tim Howard also excelled himself.

Howard, himself a former Old Trafford keeper, produced a superb close-range stop to deny Carlos Tevez from close range on 12 minutes, and he reacted sharply to a deflected Ronaldo effort to tip it over.

As well as winning the penalty, Carrick was in ambitious form. He sent a left-foot volley just wide after 33 minutes after collecting a majestic scooped through ball from Ronaldo, then forced another fine save from Howard with a drive from the edge of the box.

Early in the second half, Carrick might have had another penalty, when Joleon Lescott tripped him close to goal - this time referee Halsey waved play on.

Tevez may find himself back on the sidelines next weekend, when Wayne Rooney is scheduled to make his return from injury. The Argentine did little to help his cause with a wayward finish after he controlled a low cross from the right.

Tevez, who celebrates his 25th birthday this week, clearly knew he had to make an impact but, on two occasions in the second half, did so to the detriment of his team - ignoring better-placed team-mates to try long-range shots.

Premier League - Ronaldo sends United five clear Sunday 1st Feb. 2009
Man Utd v Everton
PREMIER LEAGUE - Sunday 8th February 2009 : West Ham United v Manchester United

Ryan Giggs rolled back the years to send Manchester United top of the Premier League, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win at West Ham.

The 35-year-old struck just after the hour mark with a piece of brilliance, cutting inside from the left flank, beating two men and finishing low past Robert Green.

The champions increased their consecutive clean sheet record to 13, but were made to work hard by an impressive, industrious West Ham side.

Gianfranco Zola picked the same team for the fourth consecutive match, while Alex Ferguson made three changes - bringing in Giggs, Paul Scholes and Rafael da Silva for Ji-Sung Park, Darren Fletcher and the unwell Gary Neville.

Carlos Tevez received warm applause on his return to Upton Park, but produced a quiet performance and will surely return to his familiar position on the bench when Wayne Rooney returns against Derby County in the FA Cup next weekend.

West Ham showed all of the organisation and resilience that their coaching team of Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke has given them, denying the champions time on the ball and limiting their goalscoring opportunities.

Carlton Cole might have celebrated his call-up to the England squad with a goal on 13 minutes, when he was released down the right channel and sprinted away from Rio Ferdinand.

But instead of shooting with power, Cole attempted a cute chip and Van der Sar made a comfortable catch.

A minute earlier, Lucas Neill also came close to ending United's run of defensive perfection when he volleyed goalwards but, after a brief fumble, the goalkeeper held on to the ball.

Then Jack Collison had a chance, as the young Welshman collected the ball and turned into shooting position, but took one touch too many and Ferdinand eventually scrambled it away.

At the other end, the visitors dominated the statistics but only once genuinely threatened Green's goal before the break.

Giggs played a free-kick on the right low to Scholes 25 yards out, and he dragged his first-time shot off-target. However, an instinctive sidefoot from Cristiano Ronaldo redirected the ball towards the top corner and Green made a superb reflex save to palm it away.

The goal came when Giggs received a perfect crossfield pass from Scholes on the left, then turned inside beyond two flailing challenges and sent a right-foot shot into the bottom corner through a sea of legs.

It was Giggs's first goal of the season, and ensured he has now scored in all 19 of his league campaigns.

There after United were comfortable, passing the ball around with Dimitar Berbatov proving an unusually effective defensive influence.

Scholes and Giggs have had to put up with reduced playing time in the twilight of their careers, but they still possess match-winning quality and between them turned one point into three.

Those extra two points are the margin by which Ferguson's side lead Liverpool with a game still in hand, to be played against Fulham in 10 days' time.
Nocturnal : Match Report
Alex Ferguson: "I think the clean sheets have been a topic but we haven't changed the emphasis of our game - today we played some fantastic stuff with our attackers. What the defence have been doing is concentrating on their job, and to be fair Edwin van der Sar is a fantastic goalkeeper. You can see the way he is motivated by the challenge of these clean sheets. We felt we should have the most experienced team we can.
Untouchable Manchester United "best team in the world" says Gianfranco Zola
Gianfranco Zola hailed Manchester United’s new Touchables as the "best team in the world" after being beaten by a Ryan Giggs collectors’ item.   Giggs maintained his record of scoring in all 17 seasons since the Premier League’s formation with the 62nd-minute winner - a rare right-foot shot - to send United back to the top.   Goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar set a new British record of 20 hours and 12 minutes without conceding a League goal, beating Bobby Clark’s 38-year-old record at Aberdeen.   West Ham boss Zola shared a bottle of red wine with his counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson last night - and then admitted he could not see United surrendering pole position on the title run-in.   Zola said: "We may have lost, but we were probably playing the best team in the world. They have everything needed to win the title again.   "They punished us for the only mistake we made in the match, so I can only be complimentary about them. I knew it would be very difficult if United scored first, and Sir Alex has done a great job as always."   Fergie celebrated going two points clear of Liverpool, and extending United’s unbeaten run to 13 games, by reserving a special tribute to Giggs.
FA CUP - Derby County vs Manchester United 1-4 Goals Highlights 15.02.09.         Goals from Nani (29) Darron Gibson (44) Cristiano Ronaldo (48) Miles Addison (56) Danny Welbeck.
MANCHESTER UNITED VS Fulham 21st February 2009.
Nocturnal : Match Report
Fulham Vs Manchester United

Man UTD will be looking to keep the pressure on Arsenal this week by beating a Fulham side who are battling for relegation safety, Fulham remain 4 points from safety and they have only won 3 games all season. Man United have been in tremendous form as of late but the Reds are having some fitness problems with Giggs, Vidic & Evra all in doubt and with a Champions League game midweek he may have to rest a few players.
26 Round: Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers (21/02/2009)
Manchester United extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to eight points after a 2-1 win over a gutsy Blackburn side at Old Trafford.

Man Utd v Blackburn

United started the match in top form, and when Wayne Rooney got on the end of Nani's cross on 23 minutes it looked as if they would cruise to an easy victory.

But Roque Santa Cruz's well-taken equaliser on 32 minutes got the visitors back in to the match, as they belied their lowly league position and took the game to the champions.

A second-half free kick by Cristiano Ronaldo gave the lead back to United on 59 minutes, however, as United attacked hard.

Blackburn's best efforts looked as if they would bear fruit as they hit the post and should have had a penalty, but the hosts held on to earn the three points after a thrilliing end-to-end final 15 minutes.

United started the match showing phenomenal quality in their passing and dribbling, with Ronaldo and Nani switching effectively between the two flanks and creating several early chances.

Ronaldo put in an excellent service for Rooney and Berbatov, while Paul Scholes tried his luck with shots from long range on three and 12 minutes.

It was Nani's brilliant play on the right that set up the opening goal, however, the Brazilian linking well with Rafael Da Silva before hitting an inch-perfect cross to Rooney in the centre on 23 minutes.

The England striker almost saw the ball cut out by Blackburn captain Ryan Nelsen, but the defender's foot only clipped the ball, serving to make the chance even simpler, and Rooney buried the ball in the net.

At 1-0 it looked as if the hosts might run away with it, an impression that was confirmed when Morten Gamst Pedersen squandered a free-kick on the half-hour mark by smashing a supposed cross a clear 20 yards past its intended targets.

But just two minutes later all negative thoughts were forgotten as Santa Cruz showed why he attracted so much interest during the transfer window: getting on to the end of a ball from Andre Ooijer, the Paraguayan rounded United's second string keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and found the net from an acute angle.

The goal was so much against the run of play that it seemed to jar the hosts, who took several minutes to settle down while Blackburn seemed astonished to have equalised.

They recovered towards the end of the first half, with a headed goal by Jonny Evans that was disallowed for Ronaldo having pushed a defender elsewhere in the box.

The second half began in thrilling fashion, with Ronaldo going close with a long-range effort before Blackburn ran up the other end for Andre Ooijer to put in a cross that none of the waiting players could quite connect with.

Ronaldo showed his best and worst, being at the centre of most attacks as well as committing a cynical dive, for which he was booked.

And it was the winger who scored again on the hour mark when United won a free-kick after Nani was floored on the left of the box. The kick itself was a fantastic strike from a tight angle, flying with plenty of power into the roof of the net and past the outstretched hands of Robinson.

Blackburn gave plenty in reply, hitting the post on 64 minutes before Pedersen was denied what seemed to be a clear penalty two minutes later when he was pulled down by Evra.

The penalty - as well as the possible red card for Evra - seemed clear to all except the referee, but Blackburn never came closer for all their tireless efforts over the final 25 minutes.

Yet United kept attacking too, and it was the hosts who had the lion's share of chances, with Berbatov and Rooney going close on 87 and 90 minutes.

The result saw Blackburn stay in the bottom three for now - a bitter end to what must have been a frustrating game for Sam Allardyce's side - while Alex Ferguson's United continue to set the standard at the top of the Premier League
Nocturnal Magazine: Champions League - Ferguson hails old foe Mourinho
Sir Alex Ferguson has praised old foe Jose Mourinho ahead of Manchester United's Champions League clash with Internazionale on Tuesday.

More Stories Injury-hit United sweat on defenders
United hold no fear for Mourinho
United travel to the Giuseppe Meazza for the first leg of their last-16 tie - and manager Ferguson cannot wait to lock horns once again with Inter counterpart Mourinho.

"He's one of the best coaches in the world: amazing," said Ferguson of the former Chelsea manager.

"I knew of him when we played Porto in 2004 but it wasn't until Jose went to Chelsea and called himself the Special One that I began to take notice of him.

"But don't forget he was self-anointed! When he called himself that people sat up and I did too. But his achievements were there to be recognised.

"I don't know everything about Jose or what he does on the training ground, but you can't deny his success in winning the UEFA Cup with Porto as well as two or three domestic titles in Portugal.

"Then he won the Champions League with them - and that takes some doing at a club like Porto.

"After that he won the two titles at Chelsea. It will be good going, too, if he wins the title in his first season at Inter - so he has made his mark alright.

"He came in and said he was the Special One and we were thinking, 'who is this?' After that his team were thinking they'd better win and they got off to a start like nothing on earth.

"Everyone was chasing their tail for two seasons so we had to do something about it - and that's what we did.

"Jose was the instigator of the Chelsea team without question. He gave them a resilience and a winning mentality that has put them on to that higher level and it made it hard for us to compete against them."
NOCTURNAL : Premier League MATCH REPORT - United battle for points at Newcastle : Wed. 4th March 2009

Manchester United came from a goal down to beat a spirited Newcastle United side 2-1 and extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points.

Peter Lovenkrands stunned the champions - and no doubt sparked excitement in certain parts of London and Merseyside - with a ninth-minute opener following a horrendous goalkeeping error by Edwin van der Sar.

But Wayne Rooney put the visitors back on level terms on 20 minutes - his ninth in nine games against the Magpies - before Dimitar Berbatov made United's increased pressure count with what proved to be the winner on 56 minutes.

It was far from United's most convincing performance of the season - for that Newcastle can take some credit - but nevertheless the result saw Alex Ferguson's side pull away again from their nearest rivals Chelsea and Liverpool, who had given their own title hopes a boost with victories 24 hours earlier.

United's big guns were recalled for the trip to Tyneside, with Van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Park Ji-Sung, Berbatov and Rooney all returning after having missed the weekend's Carling Cup triumph.

But it was the men in black and white who first caught the eye as the assembled Toon Army were given a reminder of what it was like to follow Newcastle during the nineties - the first half was full of cavalier attacking play from the hosts who had their illustrious guests rattled on a number of occasions.

From the first whistle, they got at Alex Ferguson's side, Obafemi Martins in particular looking in the mood and up for the fight. The Nigerian signalled his intent in just the second minute with a run and shot that flew wide of the upright and then again on 13 minutes with a low drive into the side netting.

In between, Lovenkrands broke the deadlock and by doing so became the first player to beat Edwin van der Sar in 1,310 minutes of football.

That record was an incredible testament to the Dutchman's form - and that of his defence - this season but the keeper was entirely to blame for failing to preserve it longer.

Van der Sar, in an entirely uncharacteristic aberration, slipped a Jonas Guterriez cross right into the path of Lovenkrands, who had the simple task of slotting home from close range. He will not score an easier goal all season.

Newcastle continued to press forward but in truth, the reigning champions looked just as likely to score and it came as no surprise when Rooney levelled 11 minutes later following a delightful piece of individual skill.

The England striker's first touch was exquisite, controlling and turning in one swift movement before firing past Steve Harper from the edge of the area, albeit with the aid of a slight deflection.

Soon after United has a big penalty shout turned down by referee Steve Bennett after Dimitar Berbatov's cross clearly struck Sebastien Bassong's arm. Ball to hand, and not the other way round, was the official's verdict.

The remainder of the first half was played out at an incredible pace and with an intensity that rarely dropped. Chances fell at both ends, most notably to Martins following a goalmouth scramble sparked by a poor van der Sar punch, and then to Nemanja Vidic, who somehow conspired to direct a close-range header high and wide from Michael Carrick's corner.

Almost inevitably, the pace after the break slowed slightly as United began to assert their authority and take control of the game.

And the champions' increased pressure told before too long with Berbatov converting Park's cross after Steven Taylor had made a hash of an attempted chest back to his keeper.

The goal knocked the stuffing out of Newcastle and for the next half-hour United were irrepressible, Rooney firing over before he and Ronaldo teed up Berbatov to force Harper into action from the edge of the box.

Rooney could have grabbed a second on 79 minutes when, with Harper off his line, he opted to try and find the top corner, rather than square to a team-mate in a better position. It proved to be the wrong decision and his effort drifted over the bar.

For all United's dominance of possession, Newcastle still posed a threat on the break and Martins, who gave Vidic and Rio Ferdinand problems throughout, was only denied a late equaliser by a sharp Van der Sar stop.

That proved to be the last chance of the game, leaving Ferguson's side to edge closer to number three of five possible trophies this season.

As for stand-in Newcastle boss Chris Hughton, he will have to report back to Joe Kinnear on a performance that was full of spirit but one which ultimately left his team mired deep in relegation trouble, just a point above the drop zone.
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          NOCTURNAL MATCH REPORT - Wednesday 11th March 2009

Inter have lost their last three Champions League games against English opposition.

Jose Mourinho's Porto eliminated Manchester United at the same stage of the competition in the 2003/04 season, the Portuguese side then progressed to the final, where they managed a comfortable win over Monaco (3-0).

Manchester United's only two previous clashes with Inter came in the 1998-99 CL campaign when they won 2-0 at Old Trafford and drew 1-1 in Italy on the way to the Treble.

United have lost only one of their last seven Champions League clashes with Italian teams.

In the last four years, the title holders have gone out at the Last 16 stage in the following season.

Inter have won none, drawn two and lost two of four Champions League games against English opposition at the San Siro.

The Italian champions have won only two of their last eight Champions League matches.

Man Utd have gone 19 Champions League games unbeaten, equalling the record held jointly by Ajax (1994-1996) and Bayern 2001-2002.

However, the holders have won only two of the last seven Champions League games outside of penalty shoot outs.

Man Utd have allowed their opponents just 14 shots on target, conceding only three goals - the joint-best defence in the competition alongside Juventus.

Inter had the worst record of the 16 qualified teams, earning only eight points in the Group Stage.

That said I would still like   Jose Mourinho to be the next United Manager but I don't Sir Alex will be handing over this great team for many year yet!!
Champions League - Manchester United v Inter Milan
Well Done Edwin Van Der Sar Yet Another Clean Sheet
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Champions League Fc Porto vs Manchester United 0-1 Ronaldo Goal
Champions League - Ronaldo bullet fires United past Porto
Wed. 15th April 2009.

A stunning long-range strike from Cristiano Ronaldo sent Manchester United into the Champions League semi-finals with a 1-0 win at Porto.

The Portuguese powered home a spectacular drive in the sixth minute as the holders secured a tense 3-2 aggregate victory.

United became the first British side to win at the Estadio do Dragao in 23 attempts over 41 years, and their reward is an all-Premier League semi-final against Arsenal.

After a month of shambolic defending and uncertainty, this was the solid, secure United that earlier this season set a record number of consecutive Premier League clean sheets.

Rio Ferdinand must take much credit for this on his return from a groin injury. While he did not have an outstanding game individually, his constant communication appeared to imbue his colleagues with improved positional sense and confidence.

Nemanja Vidic, in particular, looked much improved from his poor displays against Liverpool, Sunderland and the first leg against Porto.

Porto fielded the same starting 11 that performed so admirably at Old Trafford a week earlier, but were without their charismatic coach Jesualdo Ferreira, who served a touchline ban.

The punishment was the result of a misguided appeal against a sanction from earlier in the competition, and Ferreira opted not even to turn up to the stadium, leaving his assistant Jose Gomez to his own devices.

United failed to control the first leg, allowing Porto to snatch a late 2-2 draw, but grabbed the return fixture by the scruff of the neck. Or rather, Ronaldo did.

The winger has been widely criticised for performing below his best this season, but for all the carping he remains a fairly useful player - if not the world's best, then certainly still in the top 10.

He has 20 goals to his name this campaign and has lost none of his sense of occasion.

After five minutes of barracking from the Porto fans - a product of his former association with rivals Sporting Lisbon - Ronaldo unleashed a firecracker from nearly 40 yards that whooshed past Helton into the top-left corner.

In an instant, all the angst about Mariano Gonzalez's late equaliser in the first leg disappeared.

United had regained the aggregate advantage and could once again lead from the front. Although Porto improved as the half went on, they were reduced to half-chances - the best of these came to Bruno Alves who beat Vidic in the air but sent his header just wide.

United fans held their breath when Wayne Rooney pulled up in pain on 37 minutes after a challenge from Rolando.

The England striker has had a tough history against Portuguese opponents. He suffered a broken metatarsal against Portugal at Euro 2004, then another following a Paulo Ferreira tackle versus Chelsea in 2006. Then he was sent off - after an intervention from Ronaldo - for a stamp at that year's World Cup, again against Portugal.

While United could have been forgiven for fearing the worst, the 23-year-old hobbled around briefly before shaking the injury off.

Porto created little in the second half, but the knowledge that a single home goal would send the holders out meant jitters crept in.

United have not forgotten the late Costinha goal that allowed Jose Mourinho's Porto to topple them in 2004, and the failure to add more breathing space made for a tense finale.

Edwin van der Sar's horribly bobbled clearance on 82 minutes typified the anxiety, yet in truth he had little to do except make some routine saves from Hulk and Lisandro Lopez.

After the pyrotechnics at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, this was much more like the tense, tight Champions League we know.

But United know what it takes to win and did just enough to set up an all-English semi-final.

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Manchester United booked their place in the Champions League final thanks to two early goals against Arsenal at the Emirates which helped them to a 4-1 aggregate victory.

Ji-Sung Park's eighth minute opener and Cristiano Ronaldo's 11th-minute free kick put the tie almost beyond the home side in the opening few minutes, while Ronaldo's second just after the hour mark put things beyond doubt.

Robin Van Persie's late penalty gave the home side a consolation goal in a 3-1 scoreline on the night - but Darren Fletcher's red card in the spot kick incident took the shine off a superb night for United.

The home fans' raucous cheering had helped boost their team to a lively start in the first five minutes, but optimism quickly turned to gloom for the Gunners when Kieran Gibbs slipped in the box to allow Ji-Sung Park to slot home the opening goal on eight minutes.

The goal gave the visitors a commanding 2-0 aggregate lead that meant Arsenal needed to score an improbable three goals; yet just three minutes later, the highly improbable target of three became all-but-impossible four as Cristiano Ronaldo fired in a 41-yard free kick that beat Manuel Almunia purely for pace.

The stunned Arsenal team now faced not so much an uphill battle as an assault on the north face of Everest, but United clearly had no intention of resting on their lead.

Instead, their fluid passing and movement allowed the hosts little time on the ball, and their tireless closing-down of the gutsy Arsenal attack force meant that every time the Gunners managed to find the door slightly ajar it was quickly slammed in their faces.

And with the sound of the visiting fans' victory chants filling the Emirates already, it was United who came closest to adding to the scoring in the remainder of the first half. Rooney's 18th minute strike forced Almunia to tip the ball around the post, and Ronaldo's powerfully-struck 32nd minute free kick was well held by the keeper.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger seemed unwilling to make drastic changes to chase the game at half-time, and after the re-start it was United who continued to look the more likely to score.

Ronaldo's left-foot effort demanded a terrific save from Almunia on 52 minutes as the visitors seemed comfortably in control, and as the hour mark loomed the Arsenal tactics finally opened up a little.

Yet as they did so, United struck again: Ronaldo released Park from an Arsenal corner, who charged up field and released Rooney on the left.

The England striker, who was playing as a left-winger on the night, released the flying Ronaldo down the centre with a perfectly-weighted ball, and the world player of the year made no mistake in burying the ball in the roof of the net with unstoppable power.

With the tie decided beyond any doubt, the pace of the game died down in the final 20 minutes, though to their credit Arsenal continued to push hard for a consolation strike with Samir Nasri and Van Persie particularly effective.

And it was the latter's run on to a ball into the box which saw Fletcher sent off: the defender's lunging challenge from behind sent the Dutchman flying on the edge of the six-yard box. Though it was a highly-risky tackle, replays showed that Fletcher had made contact with the ball - yet the referee sent him off and he will miss the final.

Van Persie converted the penalty brilliantly, yet it was purely academic and none of the Arsenal players even bothered to make the usual show of clamouring to pick the ball out and rush to get the game restarted.

The sides played out the remainder of the match in relative calm, and though Emmanuel Adebayor had half-chances in the final few minutes the affair had begun to take on all the urgency of a training match.

For Arsenal, the result ended their hopes of lifting a first trophy since 2005.

For United, a superb performance over the two legs will give them every hope of becoming the first side to retain the Champions League trophy.
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