"We were ****," Nicky Butt was blunt when asked about the 1999 Champions League Final. Butt played for Manchester United in Barcelona's Camp Nou as they came from behind to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 with two dramatic last-minute goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. "I thought we'd lost the game," the former United midfielder, now at Newcastle United, continues.
"After they went ahead they hit the bar and the post. When Teddy scored the equaliser, I could only think, 'I'm knackered and now we have extra time'. Then Ole scored. We went nuts. We stayed on the pitch for an hour after the game celebrating in front of the fans. "I knew that all my mates and family were in there somewhere because I remember having to write out 50 names and addresses of all the people who wanted tickets. In the end, we were told to stop celebrating and leave the pitch so that the fans could start to leave."
United supporters, 50,000 of whom were fortunate enough to be in the Catalan capital, remember it as the greatest night in the club's history. Bayern Munich's players think otherwise. "I was annoyed at the substitutions Bayern made," recalls their captain, Thomas Helmer. "We had a 1-0 lead, Lothar Matthaus comes off and, as usual, the coach brings on Thorsten Fink for him. Look at the goal Sheringham scored. If you take Lothar off you need a strong defender in his place. We needed a defender on, who could head the ball clear. I was cross."
As Helmer joined his distraught Bayern teammates in the dressing room, the United players celebrated, with defender David May dominating. "My dad always said, 'Make sure you are near the trophy'," says May. "I saw the trophy on a chair and thought, 'I'm having that'. So I picked it up, and the rest is history. I ended up in half the pictures. "Although I didn't play in the final, I was proud of my contribution to the Treble [United also won the Premier League and FA Cup that season]. I've been criticised for getting in the trophy photos and part of me regrets doing it now. But what would people do in the same circumstances? The lads joked about it with me. "I didn't kick a ball in Europe all season, so the medal doesn't mean anything to me, it's in the bank and I don't even look at it. But I played in the FA Cup final and in some of the league games at an important part of the season. Without winning the league and the FA Cup we wouldn't have won the Treble.
"The party afterwards was a brilliant night. I could relive that night every other night for the rest of my life. Everyone was singing away, everyone was with their families." For Jesper Blomqvist, the Swedish winger, it would be his final game for United. "[The United manager Sir Alex] Ferguson was a huge asset," recalls Blomqvist, who played 38 games in the Treble-winning season. "And Ferguson's biggest quality is his belief in what he's doing. He really believes in his players and thinks that they are the best. The players start to believe that. Before the quarter-finals, he told us that Inter were not a team, but a collection of individuals and we believed him.
"He then told us that Juventus were a great team, but our players were better. He was talking about players like [Edgar] Davids, [Zinedine] Zidane, [Alex] Del Piero and [Pippo] Inzaghi! And he never ever wanted his team to give up." It worked. For United finished the decade they started in 13th place in Division One as English league and cup holders, plus European champions. 'Football eh, bloody hell!" concluded the great Scot after the injury-time finish in Camp Nou, for once struggling for words. @Email:email@example.com