With United securing their first ever UEFA Europa League trophy, we take a look at Sir Alex’s first European triumph with United – the 1990-91 UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
There are many similarities between United’s Europa League triumph and the Cup Winners. Back then, United had just won the FA Cup the previous season and started the season with great expectations but the squad was just short of being a title-winning one. The same can be said of United’s current crop. United played an incredible 58 games back then, 6 short of this season’s tally. The title winners back then were also criticized for avoiding top sides like United’s Europa League triumph has been criticized.
United began the campaign against Pecsi Mecsek. It was a comfortable 3-0 aggregate victory in United’s first European tie since the 1984-85 UEFA Cup against coincidentally Videton from Hungary. After the long trip to Eastern Europe in the first round, United faced a club closer to home in Wrexham from Wales. The time the victory margin was more comprehensive than comfortable as United ran out 5-0 aggregate winners.
United faced Montpellier in the Quarter-finals. A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford left the tie delicately poised but, two goals in the space of 4 minutes in the second leg spread out in each half secured a 2-0 victory in France and a 3-1 aggregate triumph. United had Steve Bruce score one of his 11 penalties of the season in the second leg.
With just four teams left in Barcelona, Juventus and Legia Warsaw, United got the easier draw as they were paired with Warsaw. Another long trip to Eastern Europe followed in the back end of the season. United had already clocked up an incredible number of games the season and the tie could have been lost to fatigue. But all fears were unfounded as United won 3-1 in Poland with Bruce troubling the scorers again. United secured their place in the Final with a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
The other semi-final saw Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ beat Juventus 3-2 on aggregate.
The Final itself in Rotterdam was the thing of legends. 25k United fans travelled to Netherlands. The place was packed to the rafters and about two-thirds of the stands were filled with members of the Red Army waving their flags. Pictures from the Final remain one of the most iconic moments in United’s illustrious history.
The game itself saw Mark Hughes score twice against former club and even a Ronald Koeman goal ten minutes from time could not deny United their crown. The victory sure put United back on the map if the FA Cup victory the previous season still left people sitting on the fence.
The win secured United a place in the UEFA Super Cup and which United duly collected defeating Red Star Belgrade.