Rhodri Giggs’ guide to Man United’s Champions League final XI of 1999

Rhodri's inside track on the nice guys and the knobs from one of United's finest teams...



If you watch footage from Manchester United’s 1999 treble-winners video or DVD, when the final whistle goes after the FA Cup semi-final I’m one of the first fans who’ve run onto the pitch to jump on Ryan. You can see it on the DVD – at the end, there’s me with a Stone Island cap leaping on top of him. Then, in the crowd in the Champions League quarter-final against Inter Milan, I can pick myself out on the footage again.

For the Champions League final, I was also there, but didn’t make it onto the DVD. I went to Lloret de Mar for a week and travelled to Barcelona from there. I remember it for being a drab match, but then spending the last five minutes or so on the floor being trampled on because after we’d scored our first goal, the equaliser, everyone in the crowd was just going crazy. Just as we managed to get back on our feet, the second one went in. It was brilliant.

As for the team, there was a ruthless side to everyone in that changing room, and there had to be. With Roy Keane and some big characters there, they’d tell you things in no uncertain terms. That’s what made them winners. So without further ado, here’s how I remember the guys that played in that famous match at the Nou Camp, plus one or two others from that team…

Peter Schmeichel

For me the greatest ever Premier League goalkeeper. He shouldn’t have left when he did – if you asked him now he’d probably tell you he made a mistake. By far the best keeper I’ve seen at Old Trafford and a nice man as well. He was always nice to me; I played golf with him a few years ago (and won).

He was quite mellow when I met him – but he could hit a ball!

Gary Neville

I’ve always liked Gary Neville. He does my head in a bit but as a person he’s a nice bloke. He’s intense in his job, but he’s pretty chilled otherwise. Most of them are control freaks – and he’d probably tell you that about himself.

But when I’ve seen him he’s been pleasant and I always seem to have got on with him. He’s alright, Gary.

Ronny Johnsen

I didn’t have much interaction with Ronny – we probably said hello once or twice but that’s about it. Like the other Scandinavian players in the side, he was quiet and kept himself to himself – a family man. They all were, to be honest, including Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Jaap Stam

I’ve never really had a conversation with Jaap Stam, although of course I’ve seen him around the place. As a player, he’s up there as one of the best centre halves United have had, perhaps behind only Rio Ferdinand.

Gary Pallister and Steve Bruce were a good pairing, and still great defenders. If you got one-on-one with either of them, you would have thought that maybe you had a chance of beating them. But Stam’s pace and ability on the ball were something else. For me, he was the second-best we’ve had after Rio.

Denis Irwin

What can I say about Denis Irwin? He was probably the best fullback United have ever had: he could play on the right or the left. He was a family man and a great bloke, nice to speak to, very pleasant and scored goals as well. Top player.

He got on with his job, which he did very well.

Ryan Giggs

Ryan played on the right in the Champions League final because Roy Keane and Paul Scholes were banned, which is why the midfield looked a bit odd. But he’d played in that position before; he could play anywhere across the midfield without a problem – even though his right foot will never be as good as mine.

David Beckham

He was one of the best passers of the ball around. Him and Scholesy could put it on a sixpence, so Becks could play in central midfield – as he did in the final – no problem at all. He played there a lot when he was younger, and he was the type of player who could play anywhere.

Off the pitch, he was always very nice to me. A top, top bloke. All the attention he got could easily change someone, but it didn’t. All the Class of 92 lot had good parents and had good upbringings, so they were good people.

Beckham was treated unfairly by United. 100%. The guy never stopped working and never stopped performing. What he did outside the game never affected his football, so I don’t know what the problem was. But there was only one boss at that time.

Nicky Butt

I like Nicky Butt. He’s one of the lads, probably Ryan’s closest friend. I’m good friends with his brother, who’s about a year younger than me. Good parents, good upbringing, and that bodes well for him.

Jesper Blomqvist

I always used to see Jesper out on the town. I would be about the place and I’d see him, usually wearing some funky gear, some clothes that I wouldn’t wear. But he’s a really nice bloke.

Dwight Yorke

Yorkie loved a night out. He was a party animal. Played hard, worked hard and enjoyed life. Always smiling and good to be around.

Andy Cole

I really got on with Andy. He was a top player. I knew him and I knew his wife as well. I’ve got a lot of time for him and Yorke. As a pair they just clicked, on the pitch and off the pitch.

It was a blessing because it worked.


Teddy Sheringham

Edward. What do I say about Edward? He was a class act, Edward. He always nice to me, and he had the same birthday as me as well.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Brilliant bloke. He’d talk to you. Even when I was playing football, he’d ask me how it was going and stuff like that. He’s really nice and I hope he gets the United manager’s job permanently.

People say he’s a soft touch, but he’s not. If you cross him, he’ll be able to deal with you. You can see it on the field: get on the wrong side of him, well, these are cut-throat people, they don’t get to the top by being softies.


Roy Keane

I like Keano. He’s a strange character, but not in a bad way. He keeps himself to himself, but I always liked him when I met him off the pitch.

He’s a bit of a comedian. He’s a bit like a Conor McGregor, I suppose; he’s got the mouth, but he can back it up.

Phil Neville

Pass. I don’t like him. Never liked him. As I person I think he’s rude. Never liked him, never spoke to him and never will.

United are 22/1 to win the 2018-19 Champions League

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