The English language dictionary defines luck as “success apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions”.
All football fans, however, know it’s actually just a byword for Manchester United Football Club. Which begs the question: just what the hell could they have done to enjoy the sheer amount of good fortune they have on countless occasions over the years?
Request fans to have their fingers crossed at all times? No way. Use the power of positive thought? Laughable. Have they made a deal with the devil? That’d be quite befitting, actually.
Their latest great escape came on a famous night in Paris, when United defied all the odds – and European football history – to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals.
The circumstances in which it was achieved were so mind-bogglingly jammy, you’d be having it on your morning toast for decades to come had you been able to bottle it up.
But where does Marcus Rashford’s VAR penalty rank in the list of United’s flukiest last minute luckouts?
10. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vs Liverpool (1999)
An archetypal United comeback at the death. Victory in the FA Cup fourth round against their nemesis was secured by Solskjaer, who enjoyed the good fortune of Liverpool defenders failing to read the flight of the ball and it falling JUST right for him.
A last-gasp Solskjaer winner in a 1999 cup game; why do we have a feeling something similar will crop up later on in this list?
9. Paul Scholes vs Man City (2010)
Two big slices of luck to note in United’s dramatic victory at the City of Manchester Stadium:
1) Gabriel Obertan being involved in the build-up and not cocking it up.
2) A 5ft 7ins Paul Scholes popping up unmarked and somehow scoring a header from the penalty spot.
* Check it out here.
8. Nemanja Vidic vs Sunderland (2008)
Another crucial three points snatched in the dying seconds, in a season where they narrowly beat Liverpool to the title. But the manner of how it happened is a farce – a speculative Carrick shot is deflected, hits the post, then rolls perfectly into the path of centre-back Nemanja Vidic who taps it home.
What’s he even doing up there?
If that happened on FIFA, you’d have thrown your controller at the wall before the ball had even touched the back of the net.
* Check out the goal here.
7. Robin van Persie vs Man City (2012)
At the home of the then champions, the Dutchman’s free-kick took a huge deflection off Samir Nasri in the wall as United moved six points clear of their noisy neighbours at the top of the table. Horrendous misfortune for City, although it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke than Samir…
* RVP’s goal is here.
6. David Beckham vs Middlesbrough (2000)
In a game where Middlesbrough missed a penalty (an incident probably better remembered for Roy Keane well and truly losing his sh*t with referee Andy D’Urso), Becks bagged a winner very late doors. But, only because Mark Schwarzer temporarily forgot how to keep goal.
What are the odds of that happening as the clock winds down at Old Trafford, eh?
* See the goal from beautiful Becks here.
5. Federico Macheda vs Aston Villa (2009)
With the title pendulum swinging in Liverpool’s favour, Sir Alex Ferguson threw on the 17-year-old debutant – mainly because the kitchen sink was out injured. Literally nobody could’ve predicted what happened next, with the unknown Italian netting a curling stunner just as he was slipping over in the box. Fluke.
* Where is Macheda these days? Anyway, his goal is here.
4. Steve Bruce vs Sheffield Wednesday (1993)
The last-gasp goal which gave birth to the phrase “Fergie Time” and sent Man United on the way to their first Premier League crown in 1993.
It’s typical lucky United, with Gary Pallister’s cross (a rare term if ever there was one) getting a massive deflection up and onto Bruce’s bonce in the 96th minute to win it. Obscene.
* Brucey sure did know how to use his noggin and here’s his goal.
3. Michael Owen vs Man City (2009)
As the clock ticked into the 394th minute of stoppage time, Michael Owen took time out of his busy schedule in the treatment room to clinch yet another dramatic victory of Man City. Sir Alex described the encounter, which ended 4-3, as “probably… the best derby of all time.”
We’d be inclined to agree, if by ‘best’ he actually meant ‘luckiest’.
* Honestly, it’s amazing he was fit at the time! Here’s Owen’s goal.
2. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vs Bayern Munich (1999)
Almost 20 years before he oversaw the VAR fluke in Paris, the Norwegian happened to be stood in the right place at the right time to stick out a leg and complete United’s Treble.
Is he the luckiest footballer ever?
1. Marcus Rashford vs PSG (2019)
Get a load of this one. In a tie in which PSG should’ve been long out of sight, Diogo Dalot’s crap shot hits a player whose back is turned, the ref plays on, is then instructed to watch the incident back on VAR (which has only been introduced from this stage of the competition), clearly sees it’s not a penalty in every angle known to man, then inexplicably awards a penalty – which Rashford duly dispatches.
In doing so, United become the first team in European Cup and Champions League history – at the 107th time of asking – to overcome a 2-0 or greater home first-leg deficit.
Makes you sick, doesn’t it?
* Relive Rashford’s winner here.