“Even if you only saw it on TV, you don’t much like football, and can’t even stand Manchester United, it was a two minute miracle you will tell your grandchildren about. The final 120 seconds of the 1999 European Cup Final in Barcelona were simply the most breathtaking in sporting history. The two minutes transcended sport. It was an object lesson in life. What those late goal scorers, Sheringham and Solskjaer and 11 other players achieved in those moments inspired me. Because of those two minutes, I will always know that if you keep trying, you can succeed.”- Jonathan Margolis Daily Mail
It was May 26th in 1999 at Nou Camp in Spain, venue for the Champions league finals between Bayern Munchen & Manchester United. Few minutes left till Pierluigi Collina to blow his whistle to put Man Utd out of their Misery & allow Bayern, who had been in front since the 6th minute, lift the trophy. UEFA president, Lennart Johansson, made his way into the dressing room were the UCL trophy was being decorated & the name “BAYERN MUNCHEN CHAMPIONS 1999” was about to be engraved on the trophy. As Mr. Lennart Johansson stepped out the tunnel he was bemused. “What just happened? Why are the champions crying & the losers rejoicing?” he said. Little did he know that he had just missed the greatest 120seconds in the history of Champions League football. “I can’t believe it!” he replied after being told what happened. Oh what happened within the 120seconds he was in there? I’ll need a book to explain that but I’ll summarize.
Bayern had led for over 80mins of the match through a Mario Basler freekick & had dominated a Man Utd side who were without key central midfielders Paul Scholes & Roy Keane due to suspension. They hit the United woodwork twice so it was pretty obvious they owned the match. Two substitutes were thrown in by Sir Alex Ferguson in a move of total desperation. England’s Teddy Sherignham & the Norwegian popularly called “The Baby Faced Assassin” & “Super-Sub”, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It was end of 90mins & Pierluigi Collina had instructed that 3mins be added for stoppages. In the first min of stoppage time Teddy Sheringham equalized for Man Utd after a Man Utd corner was poorly cleared and sent back into the box by Ryan Giggs. Bayern players were both perplexed & filled with fury. They had to endure another 30mins with these men. Both coaches started drawing up plans on how to claim victory in the 30mins extra time about to be played BUT The Baby Faced Assassin had other ideas & forced Bayern to concede a corner in the 3rd min of stoppage time. Beckham ran to take the corner kick and the entire crowd held their breath as Beckham placed the ball on the ground and took some few steps back. . . “Is this their moment. It’s Beckham…In to Sheringham.. AND SOLSKJAER HAS WON IT. Manchester United has reached the promise land. Ole Solskjaer. The two substitutes have scored the two goals in stoppage time” screamed the emotional commentator as the Norwegian grabbed a late winner and immediately slid across the turf mimicking Mario Basla’s earlier celebration. The Bayern players were stunned. Some slumped & started weeping. Hearts were broken. Referee Pierluigi Collina literally had to drag some Bayern players, who were filled with nothing but utter despair, to see out the remaining seconds of the game. Those 120 seconds have been ranked the 4th greatest moment in Sports History by Channel 4.
That was the moment Solskjaer stole the joy of the Bayern Munchen fans & the hearts of the Red Devils’. Oh now you know why his first name is “Ole”. The significance of his goal? Man Utd became the first club side to complete the Treble (UCL, FA Cup & the EPL), Alex Ferguson was knighted by my home girl Queen Lizzy & for the first time in my real-nigga life, I wept. Tears of joy, people. Watching it now still gets me mushy. Relieving those moments while George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” plays in the background. Watching Samuel Kuffour weep like a baby while punching the floor in pure misery. Watching the 6ft4 Carsten Jancker collapse in anguish while weeping, (though not as much as Kuffour, Kuffour must have bet his wife on that match). Watching the young Neville brothers, Phil & Gary, run around together, offering sarcastic consolation to the Bayern players & seeing them get rejected. Bliss. Funny what a goal can do. That curly-haired Norwegian lil bastard.
This is the common reason why Solskjaer is being worshipped by Man Utd fans but that’s not my reason. My reason came in April 1998. Man Utd, 1st in the league & 1 point above Arsenal (Man Utd had played two games more) were up against Newcastle in a must win match. The score line was 1-1 after 90mins and Man Utd had a freekick. Throwing caution to the wind, the entire Man Utd team packed themselves in the Newcastle half as they attempted to grab a late winner but the move backfired & Newcastle’s Rob Lee broke & sprinted forward in a solo counter-attacking move. Just then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was about 10yards behind him started to run after him. Solskjaer knew he couldn’t make a clean tackle from his position, he knew Man Utd couldn’t afford to lose & he knew an emotional Lil RJ was somewhere in Africa pleading the blood of Jesus. What did he do? He cynically brought down Lee right in front of the penalty box, stood, hands akimbo & waited to be sent off. As he walked to the tunnel after receiving the red card, Man Utd fans around the stadium stood & applauded him. Dirty move, yes, but that was a man willing to give up anything, take the fall & ‘die’ for his team rather than watch them lose. A classic selfless act. That was the moment he became my hero.
I would love to tell you about the match were he came in as a sub and scored 4goals in 10mins (a feat YOUR favorite footballer of all time has/will NEVER done/do) but we’ll leave that for later. Now Solskjaer is retired & he’s the manager of his childhood club, Molde FK, and in his first season as manager he helped them win their first ever Norwegian League title in the club’s 100 years of existence. Yea, no big deal in that. Just one of those things a god does when he’s feeling bored.
“There have been greater players than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in Manchester United, with all due respect, but in all my life I’ve never seen a player more loved by the fans than the Norwegian. There’s a reason for that” – Bryan Robson