United drama: Which late goals were the greatest?

by Sam Peoples

Over the years, Manchester United have treated us fans to some amazing and unbelievable late goals and dramatic comebacks in all competitions. Inspired by Danny on the RedCafe forums after his post which listed all of United’s dramatic moments ( http://www.redcafe.net/f17/uniteds-premier-league-comebacks-late-goals-327469/ ), this post will look over the best of the comebacks from 1992 and the start of the Premier League until 2011. During the last 19 Premier League seasons United have played 722 games and amazingly had a comeback in 83 games, which means that in 11% of United’s games in Premier League history have had a dramatic twist. No wonder United continue to provide some of the season defining moments which has seen them win the league 18 times and are on course for a record breaking 19th title this season.

Starting from the beginnings in 1992, let’s have a look over some of the most memorable comebacks from the seasons and remember those moments we may have otherwise forgotten.


1992-1993 Premier League season

Manchester United (Hughes 79, 90) 2-2 Liverpool

Mark Hughes has provided some important goals for United over his career in which he scored 119 goals over 345 appearances. This first comeback came against our rivals Liverpool and couldn’t have been more dramatic, with both goals from Hughes coming in the last 10 minutes of the game. Although early on in the season and not specifically defining the season, recovering from 2-0 down against the bitter rivals at any point in the season is always a positive.

Mark Hughes celebrates his equaliser

“The first goal came completely out of the blue but it gave the impetus to get going and put them under pressure. We hadn’t been playing particularly well up until then. I have been criticised in the past for not scoring enough goals and I accept that criticism to a certain extent because I haven’t been getting into the box as much as I would like to. But that’s four goals in my last three games and I don’t think anyone can complain about that.”

Southampton 1-2 Manchester United (Giggs 83, 84)

The opening Premier League season provided Manchester United with their first title in 26 years and it also gave Ryan Giggs his first accolade as he gained the PFA Young Player of the Year award at the tender age of 19. His stellar performance against Southampton was a shining example of the talent of Giggs and gave the United away fans something to celebrate with wild elation. See the video below for his cool finish which pulled United level in the game:


1993-1994 Premier League season

Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United (Cantona 52, 78. Keane 87)

What is better than a dramatic comeback away from home against your local rivals? Nothing. This was a cracking performance from United who drew on their talisman Eric Cantona to pump life back into the game after he was gifted a goal from a bad backpass. Roy Keane proved to be the opportunistic midfielder as he clattered in a square cross into the back of the net to finish off the comeback. Although again quite early in the season, it is defining moments like this which can change the direction of a whole season.


1995-1996 Premier League season

QPR 1-1 Manchester United (Cantona 90)

This one is a memorable one. This characterised the spirit of United and their never say die attitude. Cantona scored at the death of this game to force a 1-1 draw during March of the season, a result which put United on course for winning the double. The goal caused pandemonium amongst the QPR fans and some tried to run on the pitch to lynch the referee, such was the impact of Eric Cantona’s dramatic late winner.

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1996-1997 Premier League season

Wimbledon 1-2 Manchester United (Giggs 76, Cole 83)

Ryan Giggs has always a fan's favorite at United

In his landmark 200th appearance for Manchester United, Giggs scored the first of a great comeback against Wimbledon. Manchester United have had some memorable moments courtesy of Wimbledon, with none more poignant than David Beckham’s introduction to the big scene with his fantastic goal from the halfway line against Neil Sullivan. This comeback came during January, a month that has been seen Manchester United grow from strength to strength in many seasons in the post-Christmas period. The 3 points won at Old Trafford helped United gain their 4th Premier League title and continued the domination that Manchester United had established.

1998-1999 Premier League season

Charlton 0-1 Manchester United (Yorke 89)

Andy and Dwight provided United with a glistening partnership over the years

Good old Dwight Yorke. Arguably part of United’s best striking partnership with Andy Cole, Dwight scored many an important goal for United. This goal away at the Valley against Charlton was just one of them. Manchester United grabbed this dramatic late winner to secure their 5th win on the trot, a run which would see them record an 8-1 victory courtesy of Nottingham Forest only 2 games later. This season still represents the most successful in the history of Manchester United as we became the first English club to complete the treble of League, Cup and Champions League victories. Notable mention goes out to the most dramatic of all United comebacks which happened this season in the Champions League final thanks to Ole Gunnar and Teddy Sheringham, a comeback so late that Bayern Munich’s ribbons had to be taken off the trophy!

Manchester United (Sheringham 79, Beckham 90) 2-2 Leicester City

Beckham and Sheringham

It could only be at Old Trafford on the first day of the season that a dramatic last 10 minutes of the match in which the result is flipped on its head could possibly happen. David Beckham was an integral part of this treble winning campaign and his equalising goal on the opening day of the season was one of many a contribution. The golden boy of England was first and foremost the golden boy of United.

1999-2000 Premier League season

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United (Keane 59, 88)

Roy Keane slots home the equaliser past Alex Manninger

What a player Roy Keane was. An archetypal performance from the man himself turned around a 1-0 defecit at Highbury. What was even more sweet was that Arsenal were unbeaten on their home turf for 20 months up until United came and destroyed that record. Although, ending the invincible streak was even more sweet. Roy Keane was never particularly known for his goalscoring capabilities but he did pop up at crucial times to score important goals for United, with the 3-2 victory at Juventus in the Champions League the previous season probably standing out as Roy Keane’s best performance in a United shirt. This was a fantastic comeback for United at Highbury and helped them on their way to yet another Premier League title in May!

Aston Villa 0-1 Manchester United (Solskjaer 85)

Ole Gunnar-'score' Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was and still is one of my personal favorites when it comes to Manchester United players. His fantastic approach to football was rivalled only by his own ability and he chose Villa Park as a place he wanted to set his stamp. This dramatic winner 5 minutes from time in the Boxing Day fixture was part of a mixed month for United after a home loss to Liverpool and a draw away at Charlton . Although the points proved vital in a campaign where United stormed to the league title with an 18 point gap, it was victories such as this which allowed United to establish such a massive gap at the top.

2000-2001 Premier League season

Tottenham 3-5 Manchester United (Cole 46, Blanc 58, Nistelrooy 72, Veron 76, Beckham 87)

A contender for not only the best United comeback of all  time but one of the greatest comebacks of all football, this game at White Hart Lane was one of the most gripping Premier League fixtures ever. Tottenham came out of the blocks firing and stormed into a 3-0 halftime lead. A bit of hairdryer treatment from Sir Alex Ferguson was all that was needed. United came out in the second half possessed and an early goal from Cole started the comeback. If ever there was a football game that personified the cliché ‘A game of two halves’, then this was it. I can’t say anything more that the video below will not show you. What a fantastic game of football.


2002-2003 Premier League season

Manchester United (Scholes 86, 90, Nistelrooy 90) 3-0 Everton

Scholes unleashes a fierce drive for United's third

There are 90 minutes in a football game but it only takes a few seconds to score a goal. This late victory against Everton epitomised this. The ginger technician that is Scholes has popped up time and time again over his illustrious career at United and this performance was one of those times. His low strike from 8 yards out was the first goal in 4 minutes of madness that saw Ruud Van Nistelrooy tuck away a penalty and left the stage for Scholes to blast a thunderbolt into the corner of the net. A lesson in not giving up is always learned at Old Trafford and this game against Everton was yet another example of the never die attitude that bounces off the walls of the Theatre of Dreams.

2005-2006 Premier League season

Manchester United (Ferdinand 90) 1-0 Liverpool

‘Oh Goodness me, Rio Ferdinand’. Martin Tyler’s outburst at Ferdinand’s last gasp winner against our bitter rivals Liverpool embodies the  feeling toward the dramatic goal scored at the Stretford End. Gigg’s fantastic delivery was only bettered by Ferdinand’s accurate and powerful header that Reina could do nothing to stop. The goal sent the Stretford End wild in elation and celebration and the game sent United four points clear of Liverpool in second place. There isn’t a better feeling in the world than beating your closest rivals…unless you score the winner in stoppage time!


2006-2007 Premier League season

Everton 2-4 Manchester United (O’Shea 61, O.G. 68, Rooney 79, Eagles 90)

After being 2-0 down away from home, many teams would crumble and fold under the pressure of the fans and the team forcing themselves upon them. That is not, however, the attitude of United and this victory must be considered one of the best away comebacks of the United era. O’Shea bagged himself a rare goal to start the comeback and after an own goal had drawn the teams level, who else but Wayne Rooney stepped up against his old team and fired in United’s third to put us in front. Chris Eagles fired in a curled finish to the bottom right hand corner to make it 4 and make it a magic day for the United fan’s that made the journey to Merseyside. Have a look at Eagles cool finish below.


2008-2009 Premier League season

Manchester United (Ronaldo 14, 80, Macheda, 90) 3-2 Aston Villa

For me personally, this is one of the standout classic comebacks of the United era that I remember. This was a victory of epic proportions for a variety of reasons. The victory came at an extremely important part of the season with United having come off the back of an embarassing 4-1 home defeat to Liverpool. The late-winner came from Federico Macheda, the 17 year old Italian who came on as a late substitute in a move by Ferguson to change the game…and change the game he did. I remember my throat hurting for a substantial time after Macheda curled a peach of a shot into Friedel’s far corner, my reaction was rather similar to that on Skysports Fanzone (which you can see below). What an epic comeback this truly was but it is a shame that Macheda never lived up to his accolades after 2 goals in his first 2 appearances.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zd4G6jst2i4] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEjU3uhO9YQ]

2009-2010 Premier League season

Manchester United (Rooney 2, Fletcher 49, 80, Owen 90) 4-3 Manchester City

Has there ever been a Manchester derby more dramatic than this? Will there ever be another Manchester derby more dramatic than this? I doubt it. This game had everything a game could possibly have with goals being traded like commodities until a last-second winner from Michael Owen sent Old Trafford as wild as it has ever been. I remember this game like it was yesterday and I don’t think I will ever forget it, which is a testament to how rare the performance was. Owen stepped up to the plate and silenced all his critics will one swoop of the right leg and instantly became a cult hero for United fans. This match will be talked about for decades to come and it will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest games Old Trafford has seen, not many matches will be able to rival this contender for the drama of it all.


Manchester City 0-1 Manchester United (Scholes 90)

Yes Scholes! Most people thought that it was completely impossible to follow up the first derby of the season with a game equally as dramatic. Although considerably less goals went between the sticks, the game still provided a showstopper moment as one of the smallest men on the pitch stood up and fired a header past the helpless Shay Given. Paul Scholes reeled away and celebrated with his team mates and the fans that had made the short trip to the City of Manchester stadium. This video is quite funny really but I do feel sorry for the ladies in the crowd, they obviously got brainwashed by their husbands in supporting the wrong side of Manchester!


2010-2011 Premier League season

Manchester United (Berbatov 42, 59, 84) 3-2 Liverpool

This game proved to be Dimitar Berbatov’s defining moment in a Manchester United shirt. A clinical hat-trick when it was most needed showed that Berbatov had the touch and finesse on the biggest of stages. After we went 2-0 up everything was smooth running but two quickfire set pieces from Liverpool drew them level. I thought we had thrown it all away, after playing so good at the start were we really going to come out of this game without 3 points? Nope. Berbatov finished off his hat-trick with a sublime header into the bottom corner of the net to cause Old Trafford to explode like Vesuvius did in Pompeii. Was it relief or joy that I celebrated this goal with? It didn’t matter. Another dramatic winner ensured that United took 3 points.


Blackpool 2-3 Manchester United (Berbatov 72, 88, Hernandez 74)

United went to Blackpool undefeated in the season and what looked like a simple 3 points quickly turned into a shocking first half. I remember watching this game and feeling sorry for all other people who were watching it. It was a dismal first hour…then something almighty happened. I still don’t know what was different and what changed but United started to play like United. Berbatov nicked in what was seemingly a consolation goal before Hernandez neatly finished to draw level and leave the stage for Berbatov to continue his brilliant scoring form this season and grab the dramatic late winner 2 minutes from time.



Well, that was a post of the most epic proportions! I thought I was never going to finish because United had so many that I wanted to put in. Again, I want to give credit to Danny for making the original post on RedCafe and letting me use the idea for this. I will leave the voting open on this for 1 week, so place your votes and let’s see who we all agree on! Thanks for reading 🙂

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