Christmas cheer for Roy Keane: When Mayfield's finest ensured Man United were world champions

1999 when the season when the Red Devils conquered the world
Christmas cheer for Roy Keane: When Mayfield's finest ensured Man United were world champions

Roy Keane of Manchester Utd breaks through against Juventus in 1999. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/ALLSPORT

THE 2022 FIFA World Cup has concluded and an unlikely hero to emerge from the showpiece event is Cork’s own Roy Keane.

His sharp tongue delivered a cutthroat analysis that trended across the planet, with millions taking in his words on England’s defeat to France and Brazil’s dancing against South Korea.

The former Manchester United captain is a world champion in his own right as he helped the Red Devils win the 1999 Intercontinental Cup against Palmeiras in Japan. Keane scored the only goal of the game at the National Stadium in Toyko, and this delivered the one title that repeatedly eluded English clubs.

Up until that point, no team from the country had won the right to say they were the best team in world club football.

Wolverhampton Wanderers did claim it after they beat Hungarian side Honved at Molineux in December 1954 but this was just the words of manager Stan Cullis.

United played in the Intercontinental Cup, the predecessor to the FIFA Club World Cup, and it pitted the winners of the Champions League and Copa Libertadores against one another.

FRUSTRATED

The tournament repeatedly frustrated English clubs, while their European counterparts like Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Ajax regularly lifted it.

In 1968, a heavily fancied Manchester United participated and lost to Estudiantes de La Plata over two legs.

Liverpool should have been the text English team to play in the competition but they declined the opportunity to play Boca Juniors in 1977.

They were supposed to meet in the following year’s final but scheduling issues meant that they couldn’t agree a date for the fixture.

Nottingham Forest, under the leadership of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, played in the 1980 edition of the tournament and lost 1-0 to Nacional from Uruguay at the National Stadium in Toyko.

Liverpool were the next team to attempt to win the Intercontinental Cup and this ended in a 3-0 defeat to Brazilian side Flamengo in 1981. Aston Villa then participated and were beaten 2-0 by Peñarol.

Liverpool’s hopes of finally lifting the trophy were dashed by Argentinean heavyweights Independiente in 1984.

The European Cup returned to England, and Old Trafford, thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s injury-time winner against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou in 1999. That secured a 2-1 come-from-behind win for United and an elusive treble.

That November, United travelled to Tokyo to take on Palmeiras and they went out trying to achieve what some of the great club sides over the previous decade had failed to do.

The likes of Barcelona’s Dream Team and AC Milan in 1995 had failed to bring home the trophy.

Unlike the modern-day FIFA Club World Cup, where the European teams tend to dominate, there was no guarantee that United would get a result in Toyko.

Keane led the team out alongside Denis Irwin at the National Stadium and they faced a group that included two members of the Brazilian team that won the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

Brazilian club Palmeiras' forward Faustino Asprilla (20) tries to reach English club Manchester United defender Gary Neville. Picture: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara
Brazilian club Palmeiras' forward Faustino Asprilla (20) tries to reach English club Manchester United defender Gary Neville. Picture: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara

There was also a young Roque Júnior, who would win the tournament in 2002 and the Champions League with AC Milan in 2003.

Palmieras’ pedigree showed as they had 15 shots and four were on target. United had to be clinical if they were to have any chance, and that opportunity fell to Keane in the 35th minute.

It came from a cross delivered by Ryan Giggs on the left flank and the ball went over the head of the Palmeiras goalkeeper. Keane was unmarked inside the box and he drove this in for United.

He ran away fist-bumping after hitting this in before getting hugged by David Beckham at the sideline.

That was his side’s only shot on target of the game and it was enough to win United the Intercontinental Cup and the tag ‘world club champions’.

Manchester United players are cheered by Japanese fans during a cup ceremony after Manchester United's 1-0 win over Palmeiras at the Toyota Cup in 1999. Picture: AP Photo/David Guttenfelder
Manchester United players are cheered by Japanese fans during a cup ceremony after Manchester United's 1-0 win over Palmeiras at the Toyota Cup in 1999. Picture: AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

Keane’s goal also delivered the one trophy that was missing from Ferguson’s cabinet.

The legendary coach had won everything up until that point; even the European Cup Winners Cup.

That allowed him entry into the UEFA Super Cup, where United beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0 at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils would go on to repeat this achievement in 2008 when they defeated in LDU Quito in the FIFA Club World Cup final. But, that was at a time of European superiority in the competition and winning was expected of the Champions League winners. That victory in Tokyo ended a decade that belonged to the red half of Manchester.

Not only did it make sure that they won every piece of silverware that was available to them, but it earned them the biggest title available in club football.

It all came from Keane, who made sure to turn in a cross in the middle of the first half.

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