Legends 98/99: Ronny Johnsen

Ronny Johnsen. Norwegian footballer who played in central defence and as defensive midfielder has been perhaps a rather fringe figure in the history of United. I wasn’t aware of his presence at United until I started looking in-depth at the 1998-1999 squad.

The Early Years

Ronny Johnsen, a Norwegian spent his youth back at home. Starting his youth years in Eik-Tonsberg as striker. Pretty much like our Rio now. Starting to play as a striker, he was retrained by his coach at Eik-Tonsberg as a central-defender.

Solkjaer, Ronny Johnsen and Sheringham

Solkjaer, Ronny Johnsen and Sheringham

Playing as striker was all that Ronny wanted which prompted him to move to the main league: Tippeligaen by signing for Lyn and later Lillestrom. He played mainly as striker for Lyn but used more as a central defender at Lillestrom. After his stints in the top-tier of the Norwegian league, he moved to Besiktas.

Besiktas and United

He spent one season at Besiktas playing 22 games for them. Sir Alex Ferguson, approached Besiktas for Ronny as early as 1995 but the move didn’t materialise until after the 1995-1996 season. Following the transfer, the Norwegian spent a total of 6 years at our beloved United playing 99 matches in total.

At Manchester United

Playing for a total of 6 years for United, he had quite a successful career. Bought from Besiktas in 1996, Sir SAF wanted him to partner Stam in the defense. He played a lot of games in the centre back role as a successor for Steve Bruce and even filled up for the defensive midfielder role. Until he was released in 2002.

He played a lot of games for United for the first three years at United. In the first season at United, Ronny played 37 matches which is a great number considering the players we had in the defence during that time. The following season, he played a total of 28 matches with 4 goals to his name. But perhaps his best season was in the treble year: playing 3o matches in the defense with Denis Irwin and Jaap Stam, he scored 3 goals.

On pitch for the FA cup final and the UEFA Champions league final of 1998-1999 he was a consistent player for us. The best game of his career was against Juventus in the treble year when he played in the central midfield for us and got us through one hell of a semi-final game. Another great thing was that matchup gave United their first victory in Italy; winning 3-2 against the Zebras.

Ronny Johnsen with Neville, Scholes, Giggs and Cole

Ronny Johnsen with Neville, Scholes, Giggs and Cole

Post-United

His path out of United was prolonged after the treble year. The season after the treble was pretty bad for him with long-term injury with less than 10 matches played for us in the league. Following that his playing time continued decreasing with injuries. The final season for him came in 2001-2002 when he was released from United. From United, Ronny joined Aston Villa. A season with the Villans and then a move to Newcastle came where he didn’t play as much. His final games came for Valerenga back in Norway.

In the early years, he played as winger, striker and midfielder for the Norwegian national team. Later on, he found consistency in playing in the central defense. He played a total of 62 matches for his homeland and throughout the 1998 World Cup.

Legacy

Its of importance that Stam and Johnsen were perhaps the first template to the later partnership of the Ferdinand and Stam. A strong man with a ball-playing defender. Sir SAF’s first example of a strong technical idea for United’s defence. That has been consistently followed by United under Sir Alex Ferguson. To be frank, he is one of the most under-rated players in the United squad just because he was eclipsed by the strengths of Stam, Neville and Denis Irwin. He played an important role for United during the treble year and he is a United legend.

You can follow Ronny Johnsen in Twitter here: https://twitter.com/JRonnyJohnsen

Legends 98/99: Gary Neville

Gary Alexander Neville

The right-back who held his own in the United squad for a remarkable 19 years. A hardworking, intelligent and downright passionate, 1-club man, Gary Neville can never be forgotten.

The Beginnings

A 1-club footballer, Gary Neville started off as a cricketer. Unbelievable. Being born in Bury, Greater Manchester, he supported United all his kiddie life. After school, a young Gary Neville joined the Devils in 1991 as an apprentice. There started the journey of a man who went on to become United Captain for 5-years.

He was a part of a select of group of outstanding players, the Fergie’s Fledglings; something compared with the Busby Babes. It took him 4 years after joining to become a consistent pick in the starting lineup for United in 1994-1995 season.

The Treble Year

The treble year was important because that was the year the whole of Fergie’s Fledglings played together with sprinklings of experience among them. Important and a regular fix in the team were the Neville brothers and importantly the man we’re talking about now. Gary Neville, played 34 matches for United in the league and a total of 54 matches that season scoring 1 goal that season in a 3-1 victory against Everton. With that single goal, he also had 8 yellows and 1 red which came in the match United drew with Tottenham 2-2 away. He was an important part of the team, putting in effort to keep the clean sheets which helped us win the treble.

What more?

After 2005, captaining United until 2011, Gary Neville was a complete United player; passionate, hard-working with a never-say die attitude. Now, he is a Match Analyst on Sky Sports and has given us brilliant insights into many games.

A hardworking, technically brilliant and smart footballer; Gary Neville was, for nearly 2 decades, a perfect RB. Combining to deadly effect with Beckham and then playing out of position as Centre Back, he has done it all for United. An one-club man. He is a true United Legend and one of the consistent players we have seen.

Legends 98/99: Peter Schmeichel

Peter Schmeichel

Road To United

Starting at Brondby FC as a professional footballer, Peter Schmeichel successively won 4 championships out of the 5 he played for them. And in 1991, he was voted the 10th best Goalkeeper in the world. That season, he was instrumental in taking Brondby to the Semi-Finals of UEFA Cup. Keeping goals out of his net and getting them past FC Torpedo Moscow in the penalties. That was the last season at Brondby after which he was signed by Alex Ferguson who remarked after signing him as the:

Bargain of the century.

At a little over half-a-million pounds, it was surely an inspired buy.

1992 Euros

We fans are finicky in a way that we remember the World Cup winners but not the Euro winners. And 1992 belonged to Denmark and one of the main players spearheading that was Peter Schmeichel. Ironically, Denmark never qualified for the Euros but they replaced Yugoslavia who were under UN Sanctions.

The group stages saw them progress with a loss to Sweden, draw to England and win against France as runners up to their group. The knock-out stage saw them play against The Netherlands. Peter Schmeichel’s wonderful goalkeeping through the match got them a level scoreline at at extra time after saving a close range shot from their opponents. The penalty shootout saw the Dutch player van Basten’s kick saved by the Great Dane letting them through into the finals.

Again, Schmeichel was at his best; saving multiple shots from the Germans and putting a great display before the Danes scored their goals. Denmark ended up winning 2-0 against Germany, earning them the 1992 Euro trophy. Each of the match report in the UEFA website show how important Schmeichel was for his national team. His exploits during the 98/99 season gave him the title of ‘The World’s best Goalkeeper of 1992’.

Double Save against Barcelona

Double Save against Barcelona

At United

After the Euros, Schmeichel led United’s quest to win the first Premier League after 26 years with 22 clean sheets in the 92/93 season. Season after season he was instrumental in keeping United’s defense strong and organized. Schmeichel was extremely strong in commanding the penalty box and organizing the defence. That and his awesome presence at the goal was indeed a formidable sight. He even scored for United against Volgograd in the UEFA cup.

Revisiting the Treble Year

Getting to watch the 98/99 season live on TV would’ve been a brilliant gift but sadly, I can’t. Instead, I rewatched the season review of the greatest United season ever. Thanks to really shady defence we let the goals in but as the season progressed, things started to change. Clean sheets began showing up giving us the league.

Dane in full flight.

Dane in full flight against a Bergkamp

penalty.It was not all of that in league but the UEFA and the FA cup that counted. Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus; so many extraordinary saves and push-aways to keep the score in favor of United. It was sheer brilliance. The pick of the matches would be the one against Arsenal; it gets remembered for the superb goal from Giggs. But before that, 2 reflex saves from Peter; one from the penalty and the second from a distance helped us seal the deal to get the FA cup.

Match after match, he was phenomenal in his time from 1991 to 1999 at United. Signing off with a Treble, he did all he had to do with United. The treble year was probably his best at United; so many important saves in the Champions League and the premiership. With all of his performances, the Dane will be surely remembered for being a driving force for United. A formidable presence at the back with a goal to boot, he set up and controlled United’s defense superbly.

Looking back, Peter Schmeichel was an integral part of the start of the domination of United in the Premier League. He has become a benchmark for all the goalkeepers signed after that. It is of no wonder that the people SAF signed in that position couldn’t live up to the levels set by the Dane until we got Edwin van Der Sar. But that is a story for another day and another blog post.

Weekly Series: Revisiting 98/99 – The Legends

The trophy is back in our closet. 4 more matches and we can kiss it and do whatever we want to with it. And most importantly, we’ll have lots of time to concentrate on the beauty of the summer transfer window. We can spread rumours of Ronaldo coming back to us, Samir Nasri getting killed by a football or in general rant about needing a defensive midfielder next season to complement Michael Carrick.

Sadly, we are not going to do any of those. As of now, we have a single plan to create a series of posts on the team of 1998-1999. The kids who made men swallow their words by winning the treble. We’ll be revisiting the men who made history and now reside in our books as Legends.

I wasn’t even aware of Football when that happened. and I hope to be able to do justice to the whole series. I won’t be doing the series single-handedly though; my good friend, Rdzzl will be writing about them as well. Our plan is to make this a weekly affair while we write other pieces.

Before I end this update, I will release a small hint about the first player in the series: He is a Great Dane and here is the link to the post: Click Here

Cheerio,

HornberryFields