Class of 99
Geoff Shreeves speaks exclusively and extensively to former Manchester United strikers Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer about their memories of the 1999 season.
By Rob Parrish - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsrobp. Last Updated: 12/02/13 7:01pm
Manchester United's legendary strike-force of 1999 are permanently etched into the rich history of the Premier League giants.
Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all made key contributions to the most successful season in the club's history as Sir Alex Ferguson's men lifted the UEFA Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup over 11 glorious days in May.
Ferguson has hinted that his current crop of forwards - Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck - are the closest he has come to matching the famous four of 14 years ago.
Sky Sports reporter Geoff Shreeves has spoken exclusively and extensively to the 'Class of 99' about their memories of that season, how they worked together as partnerships, coping with the competition for places and their opinions of the men who are now filling their boots.
"We never played together, virtually all week. We didn't work on anything, we were just two natural people doing what they believed was right on the football pitch."
Andy Cole Quotes of the week
Solskjaer will forever be regarded as the team's super-sub, with his contribution from the bench at Camp Nou securing European glory for the Red Devils, although he reveals to Shreeves that he has never watched the entire match since.
Sheringham was also on target as United snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Bayern Munich with two injury-time goals, but the former England international admits that his form had been poor for long periods of the 1998/99 season until the dramatic denouement.
Yorke and Cole were regularly Ferguson's first-choice pairing for the key games and enjoyed an almost telepathic understanding at times, although Cole insists that their on-field unity did not come from training ground practice, as they were often pitted against each other.
Two natural people
One goal which stands out is Cole's strike against Barcelona in a 3-3 draw in their Champions League meeting in November 1998, but he told Sky Sports: "Everyone really talks about the one against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. People say 'it must have been rehearsed, you must have done that in training'.
"The majority of time in training we played on opposite teams - that was the crazy thing. Come Friday, we used to play England v Rest of the World. We never played together, virtually all week. We didn't work on anything, we were just two natural people doing what they believed was right on the football pitch."
Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lift the Champions League trophy
Yorke was always aware that Sheringham and Solskjaer were waiting in the wings to step into the side, and he feels the competition for starting spots kept everyone at the top of their game.
He said: "That is the beauty of being at United, you have to be on your toes every game, every training session, if you're not that is the sort of quality waiting in the wings to take your place.
"Whenever they were called upon they were ready to pounce and they were ready to take opportunities. It was very difficult to keep those guys happy, they stayed there because they liked the challenge."
"I realise now I was a fantastic sub for him. He wanted me to work for 20 minutes like it was a full 90. I had 20 minutes to put 90 minutes work in."
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Quotes of the week
With the benefit of hindsight, Solskjaer accepts that he slotted into Ferguson's plans to perfection, giving the United boss 100 per cent commitment when he was called on from the bench.
He admitted: "You want to play all the time, but I always respected the players I had with me. I realise now I was a fantastic sub for him. He wanted me to work for 20 minutes like it was a full 90. I had 20 minutes to put 90 minutes work in.
"It was just in me to do my best whenever I could."
Sheringham's memories of the campaign are perhaps the least fond, with the former England international admitting the campaign, which ended on such a high, was perhaps bitter-sweet due to what had gone before.
He said: "It was a very frustrating season for me. For Manchester United it was fantastic, but for me, personally, up until the last two weeks of the season I was very frustrated.
"I got three goals up until that stage. I lost my place, couldn't get in the side, it was only until the last two weeks of the season I started the last game. I was rested for the FA Cup final and came on after six minutes, then didn't get a place in the starting line-up for the Champions League final and then came on and scored a goal in that.
"It was a delightful ending for me, but frustrating all the way through."