It was an upbeat Manchester United side that took on Nottingham Forrest at the City Ground in Nottingham on the 6th of February 1999. 4 points clear in the Premier League, a 5th round FA Cup clash looming and a mouthwatering tie against Inter Milan in the distance for the Champions League. Alex Ferguson came face to face with his predecessor Ron Atkinson whose side were at the foot of the Premier League after 19 matches without a victory, ended the previous week with a win against Everton. It was top verse bottom in a clash that surely only could have one result. However it was the magnitude of the result that left jaws dropping as United stormed in a route.
United were almost at full strength going into the clash, with the strongest possible line up named, however there was space for the Swedish Jesper Blomqvist on the left hand side as Ryan Giggs was out with a hamstring injury. Forrest were desperate for points from anywhere and named duo Pierre Van Hooijdonk and Jean-Claude Darchville in attack. Andy Cole partnered Dwight Yorke in attack for Manchester United. Roy Keane was captaining United against his former club.
The boo's continued to taunt David Beckham around away Premiership grounds after his World Cup performance, but un-phased, the Englishmen strode over to take a corner won by the United midfield. Beckhams corner was poorly dealt with by the defense as the ball fell to Keane (also greeted by boo's) and his pull back was met by Scholes who in turn found Dwight Yorke to finish in between the legs of Dave Beasant. January's player of the month was on target again in just the 2nd minute. Forrest responded in superb fashion, a one two between full back Alan Rogers and Darcheville saw the left back enter the box between Ronny Johnsen and Gary Neville to finish coolly across the goal of Peter Schmeichel to equalise.
Straight away a hopeful ball from Jaap Stam astonishly found its way between defender and keeper, both too slow to track the run of Andy Cole who rounded Beasant to put United back in front. Barely 7 minutes gone and it was 2-1 to United. An uncharacteristic mistake by United saw Alan Rogers cross the ball for Van Hooijdonk who could and should have finished but Schmeichel was alert at his near post. Andy Cole had a shot cleared off his line, but after a storming start to the half, the teams went into the break with United amazingly only 2-1 up.
Immediately into the second half and United created much of the same as they did in the first half. A lovely turn and shimmy from Paul Scholes from 25 yards saw him unleash a corker from distance, beating Beasant before striking the post. However it was not long again until United maximised their advantage. More comical defending saw the ball fall at the feet of Yorke, whose very tame effort was spilled into the path of Cole. The striker this time made no mistake. Forrests attempts of finding a way back into the match were thwarted by a stubborn United defense, forcing them into long range efforts, one in particular by Andy Johnson grazing the crossbar. More good work from Beckham found Blomqvist on the left hand side, who turned John Harkes inside then out before crossing the ball for the Forrest defense to almost concede an own goal, Dwight smashing home the rebound from 4 yards. It was 4-1 United with still 20 minute to play.
While many debated which striker would be able to find their hat-trick first, Ferguson had other ideas, resting Yorke for the Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. With only 11 minutes left on the clock, at 4-1, you would think it was that time of the match were you leave and go join your mates for kick around in the backyard. The Norwegian however had other ideas.
A turn and long ball by Nicky Butt was not greeted well by Porfirio, who lashed out at the midfielder off the ball, however no one picked up the run by Gary Neville. Beckham fed the right back the ball who cut the ball across for an unmarked Solksjaer. The super-sub had done it again. The flood gates started to open and their were holes all over the field for United to exploit in the last few minutes. A 40 yard long ball by Beckham unlocked the defence for Solksjaer once again to run on to. Despite seeing the first effort saved, Solksjaer rounded Beasant who had astonishly come outside the box to finish off for his second. Suddenly Ole entered the frame to claim a hat-trick.
And entering the 3 minutes of stoppage time, incredibly it was the Norwegian who found his hat-trick. " Attack,attack,attack" roared from the away end as once again the United midfield toyed with Forrest. In an attempt to block a long range Scholes effort, the defense neglected marking duties, the forward was found with a delightful ball and in turn took one touch to control it and volley home to claim the match ball. And yet he was still not down. This time however Scholes did take on the shot as he entered the box, however his miss kick landed right in the path of Solksjaer, who calmly finished his fourth was Beasant. Forrest were put to the sword but eventually referee Paul Alcock put them out of their misery with the final whistle. A record breaking 8-1 final scoreline was simply an indication of things to come as United completed a magical season
"Beckham... into Sheringham... and Solskjær has won it!"