Manchester United boast the proud record of being the only English side to win the treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup. But that’s coming under threat from rivals Manchester City, who are two finals away from matching their historic achievement.
Erik ten Hag’s Red Devils have a chance to deny City on one of two remaining fronts in their treble hunt, with a first-ever Manchester derby FA Cup final to come at Wembley.
“I am sure that these players will give everything to beat Manchester City next week,” Ten Hag announced at Old Trafford in an end-of-season speech.
“We count on you (supporters) as well. With you on our back I am sure we have a really good chance to take the cup back to Old Trafford.”
City are odds-on favourites to win both the FA Cup and then the Champions League final against Inter, but United wouldn’t be the first side to take great pleasure in denying the opposition the treble.
Here are eight results that proved pivotal in doing so. Note: we’re only going for the ‘proper’ treble of the league title, FA Cup and European Cup/Champions League – with apologies to Jose Mourinho.
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool (1977)
The circumstances of the 2022-23 campaign are eerily similar to 1976-77, with Manchester United cast as the FA Cup final spoilers to their historic rivals.
Bob Paisley’s Liverpool had already retained their league title and were four days away from a European Cup final when they faced United at Wembley. They got the job done at the Stadio Olimpico with a 3-1 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach but couldn’t beat Tommy Docherty’s men at Wembley.
Manchester United finished sixth that season, 10 points behind Liverpool, but they produced a strong performance in the cup final, winning out through one of the most hilariously scrappy goals Wembley’s ever seen, courtesy of Jimmy Greenhoff.
“The most important thing is City don’t do it! So if we’re pushed into the background, I don’t care!” Lou Macari told The Telegraph.
— TV Football 1968-92 (@1968Tv) May 29, 2023
Brighton 2-0 Liverpool (1984)
Joe Fagan’s Liverpool claimed the League Cup, First Division title and European Cup in the 1983-84 season, but they couldn’t quite complete the set – second-tier Brighton knocked them out of the FA Cup in the fourth round.
The FA Cup did end up returning to Merseyside that season, however, after Everton beat Watford 2-0 in the Wembley final.
Galatasaray 3-3 Manchester United (1994)
In 1993-94, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United became only the second side to win the domestic double after Arsenal in 1970-71.
They were just starting their unprecedented dominance of the English game but were still some way off conquering Europe – only eventually doing so in 1998-99 after another half decade of experience and refinement.
That year they were eliminated from the Champions League on away goals in the second knockout round by Galatasaray. A 3-3 thriller at Old Trafford was followed by a goalless draw in Istanbul.
“The second leg was very intimidating,” Gary Pallister told the Independent in 2012.
“I have never experienced anything like it in my life. We were not then an experienced European team. We had won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1991 but this was almost our first Champions League experience away from home.”
Had they progressed, there still would’ve been plenty of work to do – with another group stage, a two-legged semi and a final still to come. In the end, Fabio Capello’s Milan beat Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona 4-0 in an unforgettable final in Athens.
Tottenham 3-1 Manchester United (1999)*
Manchester United famously did win the treble in 1998-99, with plenty of drama and jeopardy on all three fronts. That season Tottenham were the only side to stop United lifting silverware, with a 3-1 home victory at White Hart Lane in the League Cup quarter-finals.
A memorable David Ginola wondergoal clinched it for Spurs, who went on to win the trophy with a 1-0 victory over Leicester City in the final.
Ginola ended up winning the PFA and FWA Footballer of the Year awards over any of United’s treble-winners, despite Tottenham finishing midtable. It was thanks to moments of inspiration like this.
RETRO GOAL: 20 years ago today David Ginola vs United in the League Cup.
Wonderful strike. Wonderful hair.pic.twitter.com/nmfqV2Po3z
— A Funny Old Game (@sid_lambert) December 2, 2018
Juventus 1-0 Arsenal (2002)
Not a knockout defeat, but the result that sealed Arsenal’s fate in Europe. In the second group stage of the Champions League (hang your heads in shame for that idea, UEFA), both Juventus and Arsenal were eliminated after finishing third and fourth respectively to Bayer Leverkusen and Deportivo La Coruna. Simpler times.
That disappointment in Turin occurred in late March but Arsene Wenger’s Gunners rallied in stunning style to clinch a domestic double, winning their last 13 Premier League matches to comfortably top the table and producing a professional 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup final in Cardiff.
Portsmouth 1-0 Manchester United (2008)
Many consider Manchester United’s side of 2007-08 to be even better than the side of 1998-99, but they couldn’t quite match their achievement of the treble.
Ferguson’s side won the two most prestigious trophies – the Champions League and Premier League – but suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
Inter 3-1 Chelsea (2010)
Carlo Ancelotti led Chelsea to their own domestic double in 2009-10 in quite brilliant style. The Blues scored a then-record 103 goals en route to denying Manchester United a fourth successive Premier League title and beat Portsmouth 1-0 in the FA Cup final, a run in which they only conceded one goal in the entire competition.
But it was old flame Jose Mourinho that denied them glory in Europe. Inter beat Chelsea home and away to register a convincing 3-1 aggregate victory and themselves went on to claim Italian football’s first and only ever treble.
Tottenham 4-4 Manchester City (2019)
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City became the first side to win a domestic treble in 2018-19. They were (almost) unstoppable that year, pipping Liverpool in a thrilling title race by registering 98 points, thrashing Watford 6-0 in the FA Cup final and edging past Chelsea on penalties in the League Cup final.
But it was English opposition that denied them in Europe. Their 4-3 second-leg victory over Tottenham was something of a modern-day Champions League classic, with away goals proving the difference after a 1-0 defeat in north London in the first leg. City thought they’d won it late in injury-time – only to have their hearts broken by a late VAR intervention.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 18, 2019