Man Utd vs Liverpool – 1999 vs 2005: who had the better team and what was the better achievement?

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Manchester United and Liverpool. Historically, they are England’s two most successful clubs. Their fans are unwavering in their support for their teams and for every argument you could make in favour of one club, there is always a counter argument for the other.

For every Sir Matt and Sir Alex, you have a Bill Shankly and a Bob Paisley. For every George Best, you have a Kenny Dalglish. For every 19 League titles, you have 5 European cups. For every Munich, you have a Hillsborough. For every Old Trafford, you have an Anfield and for every 1999 there is a 2005.

For me 1999 trumps 2005 but both were the best finals of European Cup history. In 1999 it was Man Utd’s smash-and-grab with two last-minute goals, then six years later Steven Gerrard and co. roared back from 3-0 down to win on penalties after an early second half blitz.

The 1999 final was the culmination of 13 years of Sir Alex’s regime. It wasn’t just the European Cup at stake; they were playing for the Treble. On top of that, it ended over thirty years of hurt since their last European triumph and was Peter Schmeichel’s last ever appearance for United. The night’s opposition were mammoth too; a win for Bayern Munich would have meant they would have won the Treble instead.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, the day of the match coincided with what would have been the late Sir Matt Busby’s 90th birthday. Add all these ingredients together and you definitely have a recipe for a match that Gordon Ramsay himself wouldn’t be able to serve.

I won’t belittle Liverpool’s 2005 triumph. To go into the match as underdogs, go 3-0 down but still manage to snatch victory is a feat bordering on the superhuman. What I will say is that the squad then manager Rafael Benitez had at his disposal was both largely inherited from his predecessor, Gerard Houllier, and was significantly weaker than Man Utd’s 1999 squad.

In 2005, Benitez hadn’t even been at Liverpool for a year; the players he had at his disposal were virtually all from Houllier’s reign, thus he’s arguably deserving of most of the credit. Benitez had almost no time to properly instil his footballing philosophy into the minds of his players. This may have been a good thing as in 2007 final, (same opposition, same competition and same stage), it was AC Milan who emerged victorious against a team that had the benefit of training with Benitez for three years. Could it be that the 2005 final was won not because of Benitez, but in spite of him?

It must also be remembered that while United’s 1999 team was all-conquering, this Liverpool side virtually sacrificed their entire season for their chances in Europe; they finished 5th in the league and crashed out in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup to lower league opposition.

The final factor I’ll throw in Man Utd’s favour is the fact that you could just hear the desperation of the world (or at least everybody associated with Manchester United Football Club) encapsulated by Clive Tyldesley: ‘Can Manchester United score, they ALWAYS score’.

It was as if the players heard Clive and suddenly remember that Manchester United do always score; no sooner had those words left his mouth had Sheringham equalised. No sooner had the euphoria of being level set in had the match been won with that goal from Ole Gunnar Solskjær. The comeback finished; the mission complete.


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University of Essex student.


  • pete says:

    Your article sucks. Totally Biased

  • Gorse Hill Red says:

    There is no real comparison really is there? 1999 was unprecedented in English football while many English teams have won the European cup like Liverpool in 2005 dramatic or not.

    Once a team manages a proper treble i.e. the EC, League and FA Cup then make comparison but comparing an all-conquering United side of 1999 against an over achieving Liverpool side of 2005 is plain daft.

  • dave says:

    As a Liverpool fan, I will be honest.

    Uniteds team is about 250 times better than Liverpools.
    Uniteds achievement was greater because they also won 2 other trophies including the league, an unbelievable achievement.
    The fact is that the 2005 European Cup Final is the greatest European Cup final of all time. I watched it again a few weeks back and still couldnt believe what actually went on in that game, even excluding the goals. It was mayhem.

    • I’m not a fan of either team but you’re right; both games were exceptional. Obviously as a Liverpool fan you would have enjoyed the 2005 final more as well. I saw it a while back too it was an epic match, the excitement never disappears no matter how many times you watch it!:) Cheers

  • Joe says:

    1999 was a culmination of flukes. 2 injury time goals against Liverpool in FA Cup, a Bergkamp missed penalty in 90th minute of FA Cup, 2 last minute goals in european final. It has been proven a fluke by Uniteds failure to dominate Europe – somethng the great Liverpool, Real, Milan and Barca sides have all managed.

    Also, todays winners don’t hold the same honour as the competitions are all seeded – meaning that the first tough game could potentially be as late as the semi final.

    2005 CL final was arguably the greatest match in the modern era of the sport – you aint beating that with a flick of Ole Gunnars toe.

    • Just because the match is close to ending when a goal is scored, it doesn’t make that goal a fluke. Or should all goals scored in the 80th+ minute be regarded as flukes? Also Bergkamp’s penalty was saved, not missed. Saving a pen requires no less skill than scoring one thus that wasn’t a fluke either. Yes Man Utd haven’t won many CL’s since but that doesn’t make 1999 a fluke. By your logic Liverpool’s 2005 triumph was also a fluke as they have also haven’t been dominating Europe for many decades now. Also I think to call that match the ‘greatest match in the modern era of sport’ is going a bit far. Was an amazing match don’t get me wrong but not the best ever.
      This isn’t a shot at you mate honestly. I’d love to hear your reply it’s about time this website had a healthy debate! I need constructive criticism too haha! Cheers!

  • As writer of the article I want to thank Gorse Hill Red and Dave for their well-written comments. Much appreciated! However Pete is quite obviously an idiot, how is this biased when I have acknowledged both sides of the argument? I won’t have morons like you judging my work when you’re in the wrong.

    • John Fleming says:

      Unfortunately ‘Dimitri’ your article does claim elements of bias and is in parts a load of bollocks… I don’t buy this whole ‘he inherited houlliers squad of players’ nonsense! Are you saying liverpool would have won even if he was still in charge? You are foolishly undermining the role of a coach! Secondly, I’m sorry but I just don’t see the comparison.. 1-0 to 2-1 or 3-0 to 3-3 IATA winning on pen’s.. And don’t spurt the crap about united scoring 2 in so many minutes, they had plenty of time before that!! And finally, though I don’t want to really distract from the topic, comparing (which principally is what you have done) two disasters is just plain wrong, no need!

      • Why did you put my name in inverted commas as if it is a quote of some sort?
        I didn’t compare the two disasters. Please point out where I said one was more tragic that the other. I was merely pointing out that both clubs have a rock-bottom point in their respective histories.
        You fail to spot even the denotations to my words. I said they scored 2 in 2 minutes because guess what, they scored 2 in 2 minutes.
        Talk about bias, you have completely dismissed Man Utd’s achievement and bigged-up Liverpool. At least I acknowledge both sides.
        Honestly though, are you really going to argue that the 2005 squad wasn’t virtually all inherited. If you want to have a proper debate then I’ll be only too happy to do that but if you’re going to pick at my work with flawed arguments then I can’t take you seriously.

        • John Fleming says:

          I don’t see a lot of validity in the fact that he did, yes, inherit a lot of players but my point is would those same players have pulled that off under houllier? Much has been said about rafas half time team talk and the impact it had. I think if you asked the players who was responsible almost all, if not all, would say the win was down to rafa and his brilliant tactics and belief. And if you want to be really picky, alonso who equalised, was bought by rafa. Anyway, while I admit both we’re great comebacks from the best two British teams of all time, I just can’t find a comparison to coming back from 3 nil down to a Milan side playing ‘out of this world’ as the commentators said. Just my view

  • Olivetti says:

    what crap , ‘stating the obvious’ my left nut ,
    UTD was dominant in the EPL , it was getting ridicuolus , they were buying players at hefty price tags and were seeming running away with titles in ENG , season after season , it was the CL they coudnt win in , so fergie spent more money and won the CL, WOW , this was a story off ‘sooner or later’

    Now LVP , they werent even the fourth best team in the PL and went on to conquer Europe and went back again to the final the next season , with a team that was even good enough for third in the Pl.

    this is a no brainer , benitez achived more in 1 season in europe then Fergie had in 13 seasons in europe ,so sour grapes right there
    1 vs 13 years
    gee whiz –

    AC Milan VS Bayern Munich –
    Bayern was not dominating Europe has much AC had in those specific periods ,

    so i think this is obvious , or you want me to argue the point , Treble season Vs Undefeated Arsenal …LOL

  • Paul says:

    Ok Heres what I think. The Final was The Greatest “Final” ever but not the Greatest Match Ever as In Quality but one of the best for sure…Now The Liverpool Team wasnt the Liverpool Side Ever. In Fact the Liverpool Team 2007-2009 was Far Better so In reality Call me Crazy but The Liverpool of Alonso Mascherano Gerrard Torres Reina Hyypia Carragher Riise…should have won the Champs League and I do think that Team was as good as The Man Utd Side of Beckham Scholes Keane Giggs Schmeichel. I do think The Midfield of Gerrard Masch and Alonso would have Slightly edged it in terms of possesion had the two sides met…One Reason I would give is that The EPL was More Competitive back then then in 1999. Only Arsenal Besides United Were Great Chelsea though a very good team were Inconsistent. Same cant be said of 2008 2009 or the period of time between 2005 and 2009 where english teams reached the champions league final on a consistent basis. SO Man Utd 1999>Liverpool 2005 no Doubt it but Man Utd 1999=Liverpool 2009

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