Since 73 days ago and Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Ajax, this club has won each trophy there is at least once. Europa League (or former UEFA Cup) was missing, and it was missing for some time now.
Man United won their first European Cup in 1968, almost 50 years before they would win the final piece of the puzzle. Yet, people often forget those first ones, especially if you are fan of Red Devils – they have won a lot of trophies. Still, that does not mean we should forget United’s first UEFA Super Cup win. And just that, it is also the only one to the day.
A One Match Win
It was autumn of 1991. United have previously won Cup Winners Cup, first of six international trophies won under Sir Alex Ferguson. The opposition were Crvena Zvezda (Red Star), European Champions. To many fans in England, it was a fairly unknown Yugoslav team with almost all of their players coming from Yugoslavia. That also meant many players with names hard for pronunciation.
Mark Hughes, Paul Ince, Gary Pallister, young Ryan Giggs, Peter Schmeichel and the Co. were opposed to mostly unknown youngsters used to winning titles wherever they appear – Dejan Savicevic, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Vladimir Jugovic, the experienced striker Darko Pancev and others.
The match was supposed to be played over two legs, but UEFA decided that the match at Old Trafford would be the only one, as the civil war was tearing Yugoslavia apart at the time. It was a match played on a not so great pitch, something more usual for the pre-Sky Sports-Premier League era, but it still had its heroes and heroics.
The only goal was scored after 67 minutes of play through Brian McClair, punishing vibrant Belgrade side which did enjoy more time on the ball, showing their lovely football skills. Yet, though Savicevic enjoyed one of the games when he was almost unplayable, United fought hard. Schmeichel was incredible in goal, something he will continue doing right until that magical night in Barcelona in 1999, and he managed to keep it safe.
The Wait Goes On
Manchester won and without the return leg in Belgrade, the second European title in Ferguson’s era was secured. Yet, it remained the only Super Cup United have won. In 1999, after beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League final in an incredible fashion, United fell short to Lazio in a 1-0 loss, as Sinisa Mihajlovic was once again part of the opposition side.
United had to wait nine years for the next European trophy, one secured in Moscow, again in an astonishing fashion, beating Chelsea on penalties after dancing on the edge of abyss during the penalty shoot-out of the Champions League final. Yet, it was exactly the Russian side beating United in the Super Cup final. Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny scored for Zenit in their 2-1 win, while Nemanja Vidic’s goal was not enough to wake up his side. Man United had to wait again.
Is It Time?
Now, United will have their fourth chance of winning the Super Cup for the second time. Yes, it is a fairly irrelevant trophy, but it is a trophy a team can play for only if they have won one of the two bigger European trophies the season before. And Manchester United have done that.
Now, they can start a promising season in a promising fashion, by winning a European trophy in their first match of the season, in Skopje on Tuesday, against European champions Real Madrid. And who knows, just maybe, Manchester United might play in another UEFA Super Cup next summer.