In a tribute to an article by Oliver Kay in The Atheltic today, one cannot help but find themselves contemplative on the subject of Sir Alex Ferguson’s perception of his finest hour. Over the years, it seems as though the former Manchester United manager has grown less nostalgic about the unforgettable 1999 treble triumph, despite the passing of time usually stirring fond memories.
In various interviews conducted throughout the years, Ferguson has appeared to diminish the magical aura that once surrounded the treble-winning season. As the legendary manager has stated, it was a combination of luck and a near-injury-free campaign that led his team to unprecedented success. Indeed, it was Henning Berg who remained the sole player to miss the Champions League final due to injury. But, even as Ferguson appeared to downplay the significance of that fabled season, he never doubted that the team had earned their place in history through sheer grit and determination.
Yet, as the years progressed, Sir Alex seemed to suggest that the 2008 team, with their formidable line-up of Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo, Ferdinand, and Vidic, was even stronger than the treble-winning squad. He believed that only misfortune had prevented United from winning another two or three Champions League titles and at least one more treble. In spite of this, it is the 1998-99 season that remains the quintessential testament to the club’s modern history, with no English team having replicated the feat since.
Though other English clubs have won multiple trophies in a single season, the treble remains an elusive accomplishment. However, the current campaign could prove to be the exception, as Manchester City finds themselves on the cusp of glory in three major competitions. With a Premier League title race, an FA Cup final against Manchester United, and a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid ahead, the sky blues could potentially rival the Red Devils’ legendary achievement from 1999.
Ferguson’s legacy, etched in the annals of Manchester United history, will always be defined by the incredible 1999 season. As Oliver Kay astutely points out, it is important to remember the stars that aligned for United that year and how they impacted the course of English football. In an ever-changing football landscape, it remains to be seen if the treble will continue to be a feat unique to the 1998-99 Manchester United team, or if history may be rewritten by the likes of Manchester City.
With Manchester City now on a clear course for the historic treble, with the Premier League title, FA Cup, and Champions League all in their sights. This would match Manchester United’s treble-winning achievement in 1999, which remains a significant part of United’s identity. However, City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, has urged for perspective, emphasizing the difficulty of achieving such a feat and the rarity of trebles in football history.
In recent years, as wealth in football has concentrated among a small group of elite clubs, doubles and trebles have become more common. Since United’s treble in 1999, five more trebles have been achieved, including two by Barcelona and two by Bayern Munich. Despite this, English football has remained highly competitive, with no trophy guaranteed.
City has experienced the brutality of the Champions League, having been close to perfect in recent seasons but not winning the title. Their record invites criticism, but it also highlights the fact that being the best team in Europe does not guarantee Champions League success.
The teams that win the Champions League often demonstrate the ability to survive pressure during the knockout stage. This City team appears more resolute and less prone to meltdowns, potentially putting them in a better position to achieve the treble.
Winning the Champions League would not eliminate questions about City’s ownership or financial regulations, but it would remove the one argument against their claims to greatness. If City were to win the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League this season, they would match the crowning achievement of the Sir Alex Ferguson era at United.
United supporters will be watching closely, hoping their rivals stumble in their pursuit of the treble. A City treble, complete with victory over United in the FA Cup final and a first European Cup triumph, would be a significant shift in the balance of power in Manchester football.