At the Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam on Wednesday 15th May 1991, an 8pm kick-off would mark the start of 90 minutes that would make history.
The journey across the English Channel by a 15,000 strong crowd was now distant memory as the hard plastic seats were filled.
The noise was an exciting mix of football chants, with firecrackers going off all over the stadium. Streamers were strewn and curled like angelic feathers falling from Heaven. Red scarves and flags were waved at one end and blue scarves and flags were waved at the other, balloons were defying the harsh winds and floating gracefully up into the pregnant grey clouds above as the penetrating drizzle continued to fall.
After all, 23 years is a long time for any fan to see their heroes in what at the time was a very prestigious competition. The European Cup Winners Cup Final, where in its entirety had only five English football Clubs lift the silver trophy.
The smoke from the firecrackers permeated the stadium as the smell of cigarette smoke. There was an unmistakeable aroma of beer and the familiarity of 15,000 strangers all chanting the same words of a football song; I was only 13 and it filled me with such anticipation.
Could we lose it all after coming this far?
Would we win and be victorious and proud?
In the first half, Gary Pallister played a long ball to Brian McClair. Although his shot went way over the Barcelona goal, the run was fantastic. The United crowd’s roars gained crescendo and you heard the collective sighs as it was not meant to be at that moment. Later on, Paul Ince lost the ball to Eusabio who passed to a dangerous Laudrupp though his try went well wide.
You could hear the Stadium exhale in relief or disappointment depending on whom you supported.
The second half saw Lee Sharpe’s great run going slightly wide into the side netting but then a Bryan Robson free kick curled to Steve Bruce for a blinding header, that Mark Hughes got a final touch on, to make it 1-0. Oh, the cheering, the jumping up and down on the terraces, you could feel the vibrations along the concrete floors, the euphoria on the fans’ faces, turning to hug the complete stranger next to them in celebration. The second goal came when Mark Hughes made a fantastic run from almost the halfway line, the referee saw he was still onside but Barcelona’s goalkeeper was making it very difficult for a shot to be made on target. Hughes’ went so wide that for minute the doubt was heavy in the screaming voices that urged him to carry on running with what appeared to be the power of a train. His powerful right foot saw the ball in the back of the net. He ran up to the crowd and spread his arms open in a proud way, with Brian McClair running into him sideways on to throw his arms around him in a celebratory bear-hug.
Manchester United 2 Barcelona 0, shortly after, Koeman scored for Barcelona from a free kick, though when the Spanish fans cheered it sounded more like a whisper compared to our singing. Laudrupp’s attempt could well have made them louder and quietened us down, though Clayton Blackmore clearing it off the line in an emergency-defending move kept it at 2-1.
The referee blew the final whistle as Denis Irwin took a touch though it was the definitive way that he threw his arms in the air that sealed our victory. Watching the team in its entirety walking round the pitch, smiling ecstatically, waving to the fans and Alex Ferguson conducting us as we sang “Always look on the bright side of life” was something that will never be forgotten by all of us that were there on that cold and damp night.
The roar of 15,000 people as Captain Marvel lifted that beautiful yet simple looking of the silverware in the centre circle was enough to bring on a bout of Tinnitus.
A small price to pay for being part of a fantastic night in English football and a milestone in Manchester United’s illustrious career.
I’d love to know if you were there and read your thoughts on this post, that match and your memories in the Comments