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Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK

Glorious United crowned champions

Andy Cole provides the final touch to give United victory - and the title

Manchester United 2-1 Spurs

Manchester United secured their fifth championship in seven years with victory at Old Trafford on a nerve-shredding final day of the season.

Chris Owen: "United collect their fifth title in seven seasons"
Jubilant scenes erupted at the final whistle as, for the first time since the days of Sir Matt Busby, the famous club won the title at their own ground.

[ image: Peter Schmeichel signs off at Old Trafford in triumphant fashion]
Peter Schmeichel signs off at Old Trafford in triumphant fashion
United manager Alex Ferguson addressed the crowd at the end, thanking the supporters for their efforts in cheering the side to glory.

Goals from David Beckham and Andy Cole proved enough to give Ferguson's team the three points they needed to claim the crown, as second-placed Arsenal beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Highbury.

But throughout the 90 minutes the result was never totally secure and Tottenham, who had taken a shock lead through Les Ferdinand, were never out of the match.

With United's edgy players missing a host of clearcut chances, Spurs continually threatened to snatch the draw that would have handed the trophy to their local rivals Arsenal.

But United hung on during a scrappy finale to take the first piece of silverware in their quest for an unprecedented treble of league, FA Cup and European Cup.

Crucial period

[ image: Les Ferdinand nips ahead of Ronny Johnsen to score for Spurs]
Les Ferdinand nips ahead of Ronny Johnsen to score for Spurs
The crucial goals came either side of half-time, as first Beckham smacked a clinical 42nd minute equaliser and then early in the second period Cole put the home side ahead with a piece of individual skill.

Arsenal fans were facing the unusual experience of supporting their arch rivals - and they can have no complaints as Tottenham proved tough opposition for United to break down.

But Spurs' chances of upsetting the United party suffered a major blow when their most potent weapon, double Footballer of the Year David Ginola, was forced off in the opening minutes with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Jose Dominguez.

Peter Schmeichel, playing his last game in front of the adoring Old Trafford faithful before leaving the club in the summer, was presented with a commemorative plate before the game by Ferguson.

[ image: Gary Neville and goalscorer David Beckham take the acclaim]
Gary Neville and goalscorer David Beckham take the acclaim
But the keeper was left glum-faced in the 24th minute as Tottenham went ahead against the run of play.

Steffen Iversen flicked a long-ball through for Ferdinand, who held off the challenge of two defenders and stuck out a boot to send the ball spinning over Schmeichel.

The big Dane was left flailing helplessly in his own goalmouth as the ball sneaked over the line.

Spurs solid at back

The opener came from nowhere as United dominated proceedings.

They could have taken the lead after just four minutes, but Tottenham's in-form keeper Ian Walker kept out Dwight Yorke's near-post effort from Ryan Giggs' low left-wing cross.

[ image: Spurs celebrate the opening goal]
Spurs celebrate the opening goal
But Walker made an almighty blunder three minutes later when he smacked a clearance straight at Yorke and turned in horror to see the ball ricochet towards the goal.

But luckily for Tottenham - and Arsenal - the ball hit the post and rebounded to safety.

Giggs headed straight at Walker from a corner and then Yorke blazed well wide after being sent clean through on the keeper.

But Spurs had not travelled to Manchester just to lie down and die, and they had their own early chances, Iversen hooking a 15-yard effort over the bar before Ferdinand snatched his surprise goal.

After going behind United continued to push on and Walker pulled off a stunning double save, first parrying Scholes' blistering drive, then denying Yorke from point-blank range.

Seconds later United had an even better chance, but this time Beckham headed over from Giggs' cross.

Beckham to rescue

United were piling on the pressure and three minutes before the break they finally breached Tottenham's last-ditch defending.

Giggs and Scholes sped the ball from the left flank into the right-hand side of the area where Beckham provided a superb finish, sending a swerving shot past Walker and into the top corner.

The introduction of substitute Cole at half-time for former Spurs star Teddy Sheringham, who was barracked by the visiting fans throughout, proved decisive.

Just two minutes after the restart Gary Neville played the ball forward from the right, Cole killed it with his first touch and then sent a sublime lob over Walker and into the net.

The home fans were now in ecstatic mood, as they began to scent the first leg of their cherished treble.

Scholes misfires

Walker continued to keep Spurs in the game, however, as he twice frustrated Scholes, first diving to his left to keep out a header and then stopping a sharp shot with a one-handed save.

But, as news of Nwankwo Kanu's goal at Arsenal began to filter through, it became clear the one-goal lead might not be enough - and Iversen came close to destroying the United dream, but Schmeichel saved his shot.

A third goal suddenly seemed imperative - and Yorke so nearly provided it with an overhead kick that flashed just over the bar.

Nervy climax

Again the chances were coming thick and fast, and Scholes and substitute Nicky Butt both missed from glorious chances.

Such was the profligacy of the United frontmen that a nervy atmosphere began to develop around the famous stadium, with Spurs ever capable of snatching a late equaliser.

But in the end Tottenham were unable to do Arsenal the remarkable favour required of them.

It was Ferguson's fifth championship as manager - matching Sir Matt's historic achievement.

Now this United team are on course to go one better than their counterparts from the Busby era and secure the first ever treble.


Man Utd: Schmeichel, G. Neville, May, Johnsen, Irwin, Beckham, Scholes, Keane, Giggs, Yorke, Sheringham. Subs: P. Neville, Van Der Gouw, Butt, Solskjaer, Cole.

Tottenham: Walker, Carr, Edinburgh, Scales, Campbell, Anderton, Freund, Sherwood, Ginola, Ferdinand, Iversen. Subs: Baardsen, Dominguez, Sinton, Clemence, Young.

Referee: G Poll (Tring)

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