The relationship between Manchester United and the Champions League is a historic one. After a sustained dominance in England and Europe, the club missed out on the ultimate European competition for the first time in the Premier League in 2014. This disappointment marked the first time in 18 seasons that the club wouldn’t be playing in the Champions League and the first season with no European football since the 1989-90 season.
Next season will mark the second time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired that the club will enter the season in the Europa League group stages. But their European pedigree is undeniable, and that is reflected in the Europa League odds for the coming season. United are the 11/2 favourites to win the competition with various bookmakers, which is a distinctively lower price than the next best option of Arsenal at 8/1.
The main aim of the 2019-20 season for Manchester United is to get back into the competition that they have won three times in their history, and the European League could be an alternative route into that competition. Throughout the seasons Manchester United in Champions League has been a consistent trend, and their best players have excelled in the competition. This same theme dates back to their first win with players such as Sir Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law guiding to team to success in 1968, and the same with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and David Beckham in 1999 and Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008. United will be looking forward to seeing the next stars that can add a fourth Champions League success to the history of the club.
Manchester United Champions League History
- 1956-57: Semi-finals
- 1957-58: Semi-finals
- 1958-63: N/A
- 1965-66: Semi-finals
- 1967-68: Winners
- 1968-69: Semi-finals
- 1969-93: N/A
- 1993-94: Round 2
- 1994-95: Group stage
- 1996-97: Semi-finals
- 1997-98: Quarterfinals
- 1998-1999: Winners
- 1999-2000: Quarterfinals
- 2000-01: Quarterfinals
- 2001-02: Semi-finals
- 2002-03: Quarterfinals
- 2003-04: Round of 16
- 2004-05: Round of 16
- 2005-06: Group Stage
- 2006-07: Semi-finals
- 2007-08: Winners
- 2008-09: Runners-up
- 2009-10: Quarterfinals
- 2010-11: Runners-up
- 2011-12: Round of 16
- 2012-13: Round of 16
- 2013-14: Quarterfinals
- 2014-15: N/A
- 2015-16: Round of 16
- 2016-17: N/A
- 2017-18: Round of 16
- 2018-19: Quarterfinals
Manchester United Champions League Winner
Manchester United in Champions League 1967-68
The Red Devils finally reached the final of the competition in 1968, after being knocked out in the semi-final stage on four occasions in the past ten years. The famous side narrowly missed out on the league title as they finished second, but they more than made up for that shortcoming in the final in London; in one of the best European Cup finals in the history of the competition. The Red Devils overcame stiff tests against Hibernian, FK Sarajevo and Gornik Zabrze to make it to the semi-final stage of the competition.
Here they came up against the European heavyweights Real Madrid. George Best scored in the first leg to give the English side the advantage before a gripping 3-3 drawback in Spain saw United go through to the final. In the showpiece event, United were taken to extra time with the score deadlocked at 1-1. Bobby Charlton had put United ahead before a late Jaime Graca goal set up a nervy extra period. The fitness of United was the telling factor in the additional 30 minutes as Best, Brian Kidd and Charlton scored in the first ten minutes to put United on their way to a history-making 4-1 win to secure a first Champions League triumph.
It was extra special for United manager at the time, Sir Matt Busby and a few of the other Red Devils players who were involved in the Munich Air Disaster ten years earlier. On that fateful night in February, United were travelling back from a Champions League tie in Munich. After two attempts, the captains tried again, and disaster struck. Of the passengers, 23 passed away; including 21-year-old Duncan Edwards. Along with United players, there were journalists, staff and flight staff on-board that lost their lives. It remains the darkest day in the history of Manchester United, and something that all players are taught about when they join the club.
Manchester United in Champions League 1998-99
It was 31 years later when United would get their hands on the famous European trophy again, but it would be no less dramatic. The Red Devils went into the game as the 2/1 outsiders against Bayern Munich despite winning the Premier League and the FA Cup in the two weeks leading up to the final in Barcelona. Sir Alex Ferguson was attempting to achieve something with his team that had never been done before; a treble. United had to overcome 12 fixtures in order to reach the final of the competition, and that started early in the season in a qualifier against LKS Lodz. The Red Devils won the first leg 2-0 after goals from Andy Cole and Ryan Giggs, before settling for a 0-0 draw in Poland. Their reward for overcoming that stiff test was a place in the group of death alongside Barcelona, Brondby and eventual final opponents, Bayern Munich.
No team scored more goals than United in the group stages, as they recorded 20. Their unbeaten record ensured them of a place in the next round by finishing second. After beating Inter Milan in the quarterfinal stage, they were rewarded with a semi-final clash against Juventus. A late Giggs goal at Old Trafford salvaged a 1-1 draw before a night in Turin that fans would never forget. The Red Devils trailed 2-0, before goals from Roy Keane, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole saw United claim a famous 3-2 win and a ticket into the final.
The 1999 Champions League final remains one of the best in the history of the competition. United trailed after Mario Basler fired the Germans’ into the lead after five minutes, and the Red Devils were fortunate not to be more behind as Munich struck the post and cross-bar. However, the never say die attitude that had become synonymous with this famous team came to the fore, as two goals in the 91st and 93rd minute from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer meant that it was glory for United.
Manchester United Champions League Records
- Manchester United Champions League winners – 3 (1967-68, 1998-99, 2007-08)
- Manchester United Champions League finals – 2 (2008-09, 2010-11)
- Manchester United Champions League Semi-finals – 6 (1956-57, 1957-58, 1965-66, 1968-69, 2001-02, 2006-07)
Manchester United in Champions League 2007-08
Fittingly, United were crowned European champions for the third time in the year of the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster. After winning the Premier League, United would go into their final against Chelsea in Russia as the overwhelming 1/1 favourites to lift the trophy. The Red Devils were boosted in their pursuit of glory by the talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo, who capped a glorious season by scoring 42 goals. This team was the brainchild of Sir Alex Ferguson, as he brought young players like Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney with this end goal in mind.
The Manchester United Champions League group in 200708 contained Roma, Sporting Lisbon and Dynamo Kyiv, and the Red Devils were comprehensive by winning all but one of their games to top the standings. United went onto beat Lyon and Roma to set up a tantalising tie against the up-and-coming Barcelona. After a 0-0 draw in Spain, bookmakers made the Spanish giants narrow favourites to progress. However, a Paul Scholes goal from 30 yards was the difference and set up the first ever all-English Champions League final.
The weather in Russia was fitting for two English sides as it was a non-stop downfall from the first whistle. It was United who struck first when Ronaldo headed past Petr Cech in the Blues goal. However, Chelsea fired back on the stroke of half time as Frank Lampard burst through the middle of the United backline before slotting past Edwin van der Sar. The match entered extra time and with the teams still, level it entered the dreaded penalty shootout. Ronaldo missed for United, which handed John Terry the chance to win the European Cup, but his effort bounced back off the post. Three penalties later after Ryan Giggs had scored on the night that he broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s appearance record, Nicolas Anelka’s spot-kick was saved by van der Sar and United were three-time champions. The Red Devils haven’t won the Champions League since this night in 2008, but they have been very close on a couple of occasions.
Manchester United Champions League Squad Records
- Most appereances: Ryan Giggs, 145
- Most goals: Ruud van Nistelrooy, 35
- Most assists: Ryan Giggs, 39
- Most yellow cards: Paul Scholes, 26
- Most red cards: Roy Keane, Nicky Butt, Darren Fletcher, Nemanja Vidic, Eric Cantona and Paul Ince, 1
Manchester United In Champions League Final
Manchester United in Champions League 2008-09
The period of Manchester United history between 2006 and 2013 is especially unique with United fans. Since during this time, the Red Devils won an astounding 14 trophies, and in 2009 they almost became the first team to ever win back-to-back European Cups in the modern era; something that was later achieved by Real Madrid. After securing the Premier League title, League Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup, United had one final chance to win silverware against Barcelona. The bookmakers didn’t fancy United’s chances and priced them as high as 3/1 with injuries taking their toll on squad selection and question marks surrounding the future of Ronaldo.
Earlier in the competition, United had eased past Celtic, Villarreal and Aalborg in the group stages, before swatting aside Porto and Inter Milan to reach a semi-final with Arsenal. United made easy work of the Gunners by beating them 4-1 on aggregate; including a 3-1 away win at the Emirates. The Red Devils ultimately fell short in their hopes as they came up against a resurgent Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona side and were well-beaten 2-0. It would be the last time Ronaldo would play for United, but not the last time the two European giants would do battle in the final of the Champions League.
Manchester United in Champions League 2010-11
United would again meet Barcelona in the showpiece event of the 2010-11 season, but this time the bookmaker’s made the Red Devils huge 5/1 outsiders to lift the Champions League trophy. Barcelona were getting better every season, while the 2010-11 United side was lamented as the worst team ever to win the Premier League title. Dimitar Berbatov finished the season as the top scorer for the club but was ruthlessly left out of the starting line-up in place of Park Ji-Sung.
The Red Devils eased through the group stages after winning four of their games and drawing the remaining two. United beat Marseille and Chelsea before beating Schalke 6-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals. However, the final once again went the way of Barcelona at Wembley, as Messi, Pedro and David Villa goals cancelled out the first-half strike from Wayne Rooney.
Manchester United Champions League 2018 Campaign
Last season’s Champions League run had its fair share of ups and downs for the club before they were once again beaten by Lionel Messi’s Barcelona in the quarterfinal stage. The Red Devils defied all odds to get to that stage, as bookmakers priced United at a massive 30/1 to progress from their round of 16 tie against PSG after losing the home first leg. However, two goals from Romelu Lukaku gave United a glimmer of a chance, before the Red Devils were awarded a penalty in the final second of the game. Marcus Rashford calmly slotted the ball past Gianluigi Buffon to give United something to build on in the Europa League next season.
The difference between United and Barcelona in the quarterfinals was clear for all to see. The Red Devils lost 1-0 at Old Trafford before two Messi goals put Barcelona on their way to a 3-0 win in Spain. However, Solskjaer would have undoubtedly learnt more about his players from playing against the best opposition, and that is why they remain the team to beat in the betting odds for the 2019-20 Europa League.