Manchester United Champions League History

Wed 08 June 2022 | 13:30

Manchester United have been a force to be reckoned with over the past few decades, but what is their record in Champions League? Read on to find out more about the Manchester United Champions League history.

Since the inception of the Champions League in 1992,

Manchester United

have been at the forefront of some of the competition's greatest matches.

Manchester United Football Club is an English professional football club based in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester.

The club was formed in Newton Heath in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR F.C. and played its first competitive match in October 1886, when they entered the First Round of the 1886–87 FA Cup. The club was renamed Manchester United F.C. in 1902 and moved to Old Trafford in 1910.

The club has won a total of 66 major trophies, including the League Championship a record twenty times (a record thirteen times in the Premier League era), the FA Cup twelve times, the League Cup five times, the Community Shield a record 21 times (including four shared titles), the European Cup three times, the UEFA Europa League once, the European Cup Winners' Cup once, the European Super Cup once, the FIFA Club World Cup once and the Intercontinental Cup once.

The club has also never been out of the top two divisions of English football since entering the Football League.

Manchester United Champions League History:

In the following article, we are to go through their

UEFA Champions League history

and see how the club has performed throughout these years in one of the most lucrative football competitions on the planet.

Road to the 1st title:

In 1956–57, Manchester United became the first English club to enter European competition, entering the European Cup, following the Football Association's refusal to allow Chelsea to enter the previous year.

Interestingly, Manchester United outperformed almost all of the European clubs in their debut season in European Cup. They eliminated Anderlecht after two matches, and one on aggregate by a 12-goal deficit. Next, they were facing the German Club,

Borussia Dortmund


The Red Devils well once again the winners after a 3-2 win against the German club in the first game, at Old Trafford, and a 0-0 draw in the second leg. In the quarterfinals, Athletico Bilbao from Spain was their opponent, and tough opponents they were.

The first game in Spain ended with a 3-5 loss for the English Club. But in the second leg, Manchester United bounced back and won the game 3-0 at Old Trafford thanks to goals by James Berry, Thomas Taylor, and Dennis Viollet.

They'll each to the semi-finals that year and they were facing the defending champion,

Real Madrid

, the champions of Spain. This was as far as United went in their first season in European competitions as Real Madrid beat them 5-3 on aggregate.

They almost mirrored their performance in their second experience at European Cup. They eliminated Shamrock Rovers, and Dukla Prague, 9-2 and 3-1, on aggregate, respectively.

United then, went to the quarterfinals where they have to meet again Red Star Belgrade. It was a very difficult round for Manchester United, but in the end, the Red Devils won the red stars.

Now they were in the semi-finals again; this time against Milan, the champions of Italy. United started the round very well as they won 21 at home and at Old Trafford; Ernest Taylor, and Dennis Viollet scored the goals for United.

United fans were happy to see the possibility of going to the European Cup finals in their second year at the competition. Unfortunately for them, 80,000 fans at San Siro Stadium on May 14th, 1959 helped Milan to win the second leg 4-0 and left United fans in awe.

After these two experiences in the European competitions, Manchester United did not participate in any European competitions for 5 years, due to the events of the Munich air disaster in which British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport, West Germany, resulting in the death of 20 people and multiple injuries, 8 of them being Manchester United players.

They finally did qualify for UEFA Cup Winners' Cup for the 1963-64 season due to their championship in the FA Cup. Although Manchester United was not successful in the competition and they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the hands of the Portuguese club, Sporting CP, 4-6 on aggregate.

The next season they participated in a new competition, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. They were once again eliminated oh, this time in the semi-finals round by the Hungarian Club and the eventual champions of the tournament, Ferencváros.

In the 1965-66 season, Manchester United came back to the European Cup competition after almost a decade of absence. In their previous two runs in the competition, they were the semi-finalists and the third time was not an exception.

They eliminated Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi, simply known as HJK from Finland, 9-2 after two matches in the preliminary round. Then, they eliminated the German club war w Berlin to qualify for the quarter-finals and face Benfica.

After two hard-fought games in Portugal and England, Manchester United was able to qualify for the semi-final of the European Cup competition once again after winning the game 8-3 on aggregate. In the semi-finals, Manchester United had to stand against The Underdogs of the competition from Yugoslavia, Partizan FC.

United lost the game two-nil in the first leg, but in the second leg and in front of 62500 fans, they won the game at Old Trafford. Unfortunately, they won the game 1-0 and thus lost the round 2-1 to Partizan Club.

However, Partizan was not successful in the final as they were beaten by Real Madrid in the final and the Spaniards were crowned Europe's champion for the sixth time.

After that United was once again absent from the European Cup for one year but they came back in the competition for the 1967/68 season with one of the scariest looking attacking Duos of the previous century; The Lawman, Dennis Law, Captain Marvel,

Sir Bobby Charlton

, and the infamous Belfast Boy, George Best.

United won the first round thanks to a 4-0 win at Old Trafford against Hibernians. They won the second round, again thanks to a win at the home game where George best and John Aston jr. scored to seal the victory for United.

They are next opponent, in the quarterfinals, was the Polish club called, Gornik Zabre. Although everyone thought it would be an easy game for United, they really suffered in the second leg game against the Polish Club but in the end, they were victorious 2-1 on aggregate. 

Manchester United was in the semi-finals of the European Cup for the fourth time and they were facing the six-time champions of the competition, Real Madrid. In the first game at Manchester oh, it was George Best's goal that gave United the lead in the 36th minute and the game ended with that only goes.

The second leg was however not as boring as the first one; Real Madrid scored three goals in the first half at Santiago Bernabeu and Madridistas were singing songs between the two halves.

But Manchester United bounce back and tied the game at 3-3, eliminating Real Madrid from the competition and moving forward to the final game for the first time in their history.

The 1968 European Cup Final was the final match of the 1967–68 European Cup, the premier club football competition in Europe. It was played at Wembley Stadium in London, England, on 29 May 1968 between Manchester United and Benfica.

Both sides went close in a goalless first half before Manchester United took the lead from Bobby Charlton's header eight minutes into the second; however, Jaime Graça's 79th-minute equalizer meant the match went into extra time.

Manchester United then scored three times in seven minutes in the extra period; the first was a solo goal from

George Best

, followed by a header from Brian Kidd on his 19th birthday. Charlton scored his second in the 99th minute, as Manchester United triumphed 4–1.

With this win, Manchester United became the first English club to ever win the European Cup competition, a year after Celtic had become the first British team to do so.

The win also marked the culmination of Manchester United's 10 years of rebuilding after the Munich air disaster; two of the team, Charlton and Foulkes, were survivors of the crash.

Road to the 2nd title:

After this championship, everyone thought that the United team is going to flourish even more. But on the contrary oh, it was actually a descending for them.

Their golden spot was turning old, their goal scorers were not able to keep up their previous stats, and their game plan was obvious to their opponents.

Thus, Manchester United went on to an 8-year trout of European competitions. Even after these eight years oh, they were not able to go through European cups, but Stu go to a smaller UEFA competition called the UEFA cup.

From 1976 until 1986 Manchester United participated in UEFA cups and 2 Cup Winners' Cups, but they were not able to conquer any of them.

In 1987, with the arrival of Sir Alex Ferguson, things were about to change. Ferguson had a very firm philosophy in his football style; he wanted an attacking team that's our fast on the sides and compact in defense.

Although it did take Ferguson and United to install this methodology into their football, when they did, however, they were able to compete with any opponents. United found themselves back in the Cup Winners' Cup for the 1990-91 season.

After playing eight games against teams from Hungry, Wales, France, and Poland, United found themselves in the final of the competition against the Spanish side of Barcelona. It was

Sir Alex Ferguson

's first European final with the Red Devils and they won the game 2-1 thanks to a brace from Mark Hughes.

Due to this win, they had to play the

European Cup winners

, Red Star Belgrade in the European super cup.  United was once again the winner of the match with a goal that was scored by John McClair, to secure two European titles for United in less than 6 months. But still, United was out of the European Cup competition.

Finally, after winning their first premier league title after almost 30 years oh, United was granted the opportunity to compete in the

UEFA Champions League

for the first time in the new format. Unfortunately for them, they were eliminated from the competition in the second round after a 3-3 draw against Galatasaray but were eliminated because of the away-goal rule.

The year after that, they were also eliminated in the group stage after finishing third in Group A of the competition behind the underdogs Goteborg and Barcelona.

In the 96-97 season, Manchester United was finally able to repeat their previous success and reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. After a successful group stage, they got to the quarter-finals where they had to meet with Porto Portugal and the Englishmen were able to eliminate the Portuguese 4-0 to reach the semi-finals, where they had to meet with the German side of Borussia Dortmund.

Manchester United lost the game at Westfalen stadium 1-0 so they hoped they could come back to Manchester. But in the second game oh, it was the German team once again that play the better game and after scoring in the eighth minute, defended very well against United to secure their spot in the finals, leaving Manchester United One Step short of a European cup final again.

It was during these years that the famous class of 92' players of the United was growing to a more mature status.

David Beckham

, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky butt, and the Neville Brothers we're all starting for Manchester United, regularly, from the 97-98 season.

That season United did a good job in the group stage but unfortunately were eliminated in the quarterfinals against Monaco, once again because of the away-goal rule after a 1-1 tie. But this was the last game before the 98-99 season when United won the treble.

For many Manchester United fans, the 1998-99 season is their best season ever. It was the year when they won the Premier League for the fifth time in 7 years, and the FA Cup for the third time in seven years but what makes this season specifically special is their Champions League run.

Since Manchester United had not won the league in 1997–98, they faced a qualifier to enter the 1998–99 Champions League. Manchester United was drawn against Polish champions ŁKS Łódź and won 2–0 on aggregate, goals from

Ryan Giggs

and Andy Cole in the first leg at Old Trafford giving them the victory.

In the group stage, Manchester United and Bayern Munich were drawn into Group D, along with Spanish champions Barcelona and Danish champions Brøndby, in what was soon known as the "group of death".

United found themselves bottom of the group after the first round of matches; Manchester United played out a 3–3 draw at home to Barcelona after twice giving up the lead. Matchdays 3 and 4 saw double-headers, with Manchester United taking on Brøndby.

Manchester United beat Brøndby 6–2 in their first match at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, then battered them again, 5–0, at Old Trafford two weeks later. On matchday 5, United played their second match against Barcelona – their first trip of the season to the Camp Nou – and again the two sides played out a 3–3 draw.

Qualification for the quarter-finals was only guaranteed for the group winners, meaning that both United and Bayern had to play for victory in their final match against each other at Old Trafford.

United took the lead just before half-time through a

Roy Keane

strike from just outside the penalty area; however, Hasan Salihamidžić equalized Bayern in the 55th minute and the game finished as a 1–1 draw.

The result meant that Bayern finished as group winners, but United's points total was enough to see them go through as one of the two group runners-up with the best record.

In the quarter-finals, Manchester United was paired with Group C winners Inter Milan. Two Yorke goals gave United a 2–0 win in their first leg at Old Trafford, and in the second leg, Nicola Ventola pulled a goal back for Inter, but Paul Scholes secured United's passage to the semi-finals with a late away goal.

United again came up against Italian opposition in the semi-finals, facing Juventus, who had beaten Greek side Olympiacos in the quarters. The first legs finished with a draw; Giggs scored in injury time to secure a 1–1 home draw for Manchester United after

Antonio Conte

had put Juventus ahead midway through the first half.

In Turin, Manchester United fell behind early, as Filippo Inzaghi scored twice in the first 11 minutes. Goals from Keane and Yorke before half-time leveled the tie but gave United the advantage on away goals, before Cole secured victory with the winning goal seven minutes from time, as the game ended 4-3, in favor of Sir Alex Fergusen’s boys.

In the 1999

UEFA Champions League Final

, Manchester United was playing against their group stage opponents, Bayern Munich of Germany, once again.

The game was played at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, on 26 May 1999, and veteran referee, Pierluigi Collina had the duty to officiate the match.

He, later, has cited this match as one of the most memorable of his career, and described the noise from the crowd at the end of the game as being like a "lion's roar".

Six minutes into the match, Johnsen fouled Bayern striker Jancker just outside the area, and Basler placed a low free-kick around the United wall to score the first goal, as Schmeichel was caught flat-footed.

Although they were now a goal down, United began to dominate possession but failed to create any clear-cut chances as the Bayern defense remained strong and well-organized. The German team started the second half in a more positive mood and tried to win back the momentum.

With the game seemingly drifting away from the English side, Ferguson introduced Solskjær with 10 minutes remaining. The substitute immediately forced Kahn into a diving save with a header; it was the closest United had come to scoring all game.

Bayern Munich’s fans were singing their famous “Singen und tanzen” chant as United won a corner just as the fourth official indicated three minutes of injury time, and with so little time left for an equalizer, Schmeichel ventured up to Bayern's penalty area.

Beckham flighted the corner in just over Schmeichel's head, Yorke put the ball back towards the crowded area, and the ball arrived at the feet of Giggs on the edge of the area. His right-footed snap-shot was weak and poorly struck, but it went straight to Sheringham, who swiped at the shot with his right foot and nestled the ball in the bottom corner of the net.

The goal was timed at 36 seconds into injury time. It looked as if, having been behind for most of the match, United had forced extra time. Less than 30 seconds after the subsequent kick-off, United forced another corner.

Beckham again swung the corner in, finding the head of Sheringham, who nodded the ball down across the face of the goal. Solskjær reacted fastest, stuck out a foot, and poked the ball into the roof of the Bayern goal for United to take the lead with just 43 seconds of the three minutes of injury time to play.

United won the game 2-1 and was crowned the champions of Europe for the second time, and it was the captain,

Peter Schmeichel

who lifted the trophy.

To this date, those last minutes are one of the most intense and electrifying moments in any Champions League final, and the substitutes, who both scored the goals, are considered one of the best decisions by Sir Alex Fergusen as a manager.

The victory completed a treble-winning season for Manchester United after they had won the Premier League and FA Cup.

Road to the 3rd title:

After the treble, United was able to prove themselves one of the best teams all around Europe and they were the indisputable champions of England for the next two seasons.

In Europe, however, United's success went as far as semi-finals; two times after their championship, once in the 2001-02 season, and once again in the 2007-08 season. They were eliminated by the hands of Bayern Leverkusen and the eventual Champion, Milan, respectively.

During these years Manchester United tried to buy Young talents from all over Europe and England to replace their previous generation of players; Cristiano Ronaldo,

Wayne Rooney

, Carlos Tevez, Park Ji-sung, Nemanja Vidic, and Rio Ferdinand were all part of the United team that won them another UEFA Champions League in 2008.

Manchester United was drawn in Group F along with Roma, Sporting CP, and Dynamo Kyiv for the 2007–08 UEFA Champions League season.

United guaranteed their qualification for the knockout stage a week before the end of group matches as they have had 15 points from their previous five games; 5 wins, 12 goals scored, and only three conceded.

Their last group match was against Roma in Rome which ended with a tie and both teams qualified for The Knockout stage.

In the first knockout round, United was drawn against Lyon. They drew the away leg 1–1, thanks to a late equalizer from Carlos Tevez, before winning the second leg 1–0 – Ronaldo scoring the only goal – to ensure a 2–1 aggregate victory and a place in the quarter-finals, where they were again drawn against Roma.

United went to Rome and secured a 2–0 win with a first-half header from


and a second-half goal tapped in by Wayne Rooney. United went on to secure the tie in the second leg with a 1–0 win, their record 11th consecutive home Champions League win.

The semi-final pitted United against Barcelona, the first leg at the Camp Nou saw United spend most of the game defending, while Barcelona tried to pass the ball around them, finally resulting in a goalless draw.

The second leg at Old Trafford was played at a higher tempo, and United won 1–0 thanks to a goal from Paul Scholes after 14 minutes. United scored 19 goals en route to the final, Ronaldo scoring seven of them, more than any other player.

Manchester United was to play against their home side Chelsea in the finals at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for Manchester United in the 26th minute with a header from a cross by Wes Brown, but Frank Lampard equalized shortly before half-time.

The second half and most of the extra time passed without incident until Chelsea's

Didier Drogba

was sent off for slapping Nemanja Vidić four minutes from the end.

The game went to the penalty shootouts and it was a rollercoaster of emotions for both teams; Ronaldo missed Manchester United's third kick, giving John Terry the chance to win the title for Chelsea, only for his shot to hit the post when he slipped as he was about to kick the ball.

Edwin van der Sar then saved Nicolas Anelka's effort from Chelsea's seventh kick to secure Manchester United's third European Cup title.

United repeated their success of reaching the final again in 2009 and 2011, but they were defeated both times by

Pep Guardiola

’s Barcelona.

After the retirement of Sir Alex Fergusen in 2013, the club failed to repeat any of its success in Europe. Although they did manage to win the Europe League under Jose Mourinho, United’s Champions League best journey went only as far as the quarter-finals.




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