The Unique Class of ’92
“You’ll never win anything with kids” said reputed BBC football pundit Alan Hansen referring to Fergie’s Fledglings, after a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa during the 1995-1996 season.
Before the start of the aforementioned season, Ferguson had sold his old guard to make way to a group of young talented players which included the likes of Giggs, Beckham, Butt, Scholes and the Neville brothers (often nicknamed the Class of ’92). Despite trailing 12-points behind leaders Newcastle, those kids (led by the famous captain Eric Cantona) managed to fight back and win the title. They also won the FA Cup that year, thanks to a 1-0 win against rivals Liverpool. All six of them played in that final. It was the club’s first Double since 1967.
During the 1996-1997 season, the Class of ’92 was once again instrumental in United’s fourth title in five years. That year, they lost to Borussia Dortmund in the semifinals of the Uefa Champions League. At the end of that season, United’s leader, Eric Cantona, decided to retire.
Without the influential Cantona, Fergie’s Fledglings failed to win any trophy in the 1997-1998 season. Yet, the following season would become the most successful in the history of Manchester United, as the Red Devils completed the Treble, becoming the first English club to achieve that feat (and the second European club since PSV Eindhoven). During the season, they went undefeated since December, a total of 33 games in all competition. The managed to avoid defeats against Liverpool (in the FA Cup 4th round), Arsenal (FA Cup semifinal – thanks to a Ryan Giggs wonder goal in the 85th minute), Juventus (semifinal of the Uefa Champions League – both at Old Trafford and at Delle Alpi). The Red Devils produced the most dramatic come-back in their history during the final of the Champions League when they scored twice in the stoppage time to win the trophy. Legend has it that the Uefa president Lennart Johansson left his seat before United’s equalizer to hand over the trophy to Bayern’s players. The trophy had already been decorated with Bayern ribbons. While emerging from the tunnel, the Uefa president was stunned. United managed to win the game. He famously declared: “The winners are crying and the losers are dancing.”
Playing together, those lads managed to win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two Community Shield trophies, the Intercontinental Cup and the Uefa Champions League trophy.
Speaking about this generation, Sir Alex Ferguson confessed:
“I have been fortunate to work with many exceptional young players, but the class of 92 was unique. For so many of them to stay together and succeed at the highest level is a great tribute to their talent and this club’s belief in the power of youth. I am convinced that no group of players will ever make such an impact on the English game as those boys have done – and continue to do.”
The Class of ’92 initially included only Beckham, Giggs, Butt and Gary Neville (as they managed to win the 1992 FA Youth Cup), but the likes of Scholes (who played in the final of the 1993 FA Youth Cup) and Phil Neville were included as a homage to one of the finest generation of footballers in British football.
As I look to the picture attached to this post, I feel proud to have seen all of them play together. Personally, I have so many fantastic memories regarding Fergie’s Fledglings. To name only a few:
– Giggs’s goal vs Porto (quarter-finals of the 1996-1997 Champions League tournament),
– United’s win vs Juventus (group stage of the 1997-1998 Champions League tournament). Del Piero put the visitors in front after only 1 minute. In the 38th minute, Giggs made a glorious run on the left, crossed the ball into the penalty area and Sheringham equalized. Scholes rounded the keeper to give United a 2-1 in the second half and Giggs scored United’s third in the 89th minute. Simply brilliant! Zinedine Zidane scored the consolation goal in the dying seconds, thanks to an amazing free-kick.
– In the opening day of the 1998-1999 season, United were down 2-0 against Muzzy Izzet’s Leicester. In the final minutes, Teddy scored a goal for United from Beckham’s cross and into stoppage time, David Beckham struck a fantastic free-kick to salvage a point. I am still touched by this because Beckham was booed almost every time he touched the ball. Yet, United’s no. 7 had his way.
– Same season. Clash with Leeds at Old Trafford. It was the 77th minute when Nicky Butt received a pass from Phil Neville to give United a 3-2 win. Previously in the game, at 1-1, Paul Scholes had a moment of genius when he assisted Keane’s goal.
– United’s draw vs Barcelona at Old Trafford during the fantastic 1998-1999 season. Giggs, Scholes and a brilliant David Beckham free-kick gave United a draw.
– United’s wins vs Brondby in the group stage (6-2 away and 5-0 at Old Trafford) during the same season.
– Scholes’s goal vs Internationale at Giuseppe Meazza in the 88th minute during the quarterfinal of the 1998-1999 Uefa Champions League tournament.
– Giggs’s goal vs Juventus at Old Trafford during the semifinal of the same tournament,
– United’s unbelievable win at Delle Alpi. Inzaghi scored twice for the Italian giants in the first 11 minutes, but United managed to bounce back and win the game. One of United’s best games in the history of the Uefa Champions League.
– I’ll never forget that final against Bayern played at Camp Nou. NEVER!
– Scholes’s goal vs Newcastle in the 1999 FA Cup final,
– Beckham’s free-kick vs Arsenal in the 1999 Community Shield,
– United’s win at Deportivo during the first leg of the quarterfinal of the 2001-2002 Champions League. Beckham scored a screamer at the Riazor stadium. Of course, I recall the second leg of the clash, when United won 3-2, thanks to Solskjaer and Giggs.
– the amazing clash between United and Real Madrid at Old Trafford, when substitute David Beckham managed to score twice to give United a 4-3 win (second leg of the quarterfinal of the 2002-2003 Champions League). Unfortunately, Real Madrid qualified. What would have happened if Beckham had played from the start?
And many, many more fantastic memories. Garry Neville’s partnership with Beckham on the right wing was legendary.
Unfortunately, all good things came to an end and Beckham left for Real Madrid (2003), Butt for Newcastle (2004) and Phil Neville for Everton (2005).
Scholes, Giggs and Gary Neville all stayed with Manchester United to end their career there, at Old Trafford. Giggs has won more major trophies than any other player in English football history. It’s no wonder he has been voted United’s greatest ever player.
42,000 fans gathered at Old Trafford to thank Gary Neville for his fantastic commitment to the club. Giggs, Becks, Scholes, Butt and Phil Neville played in Garry’s farewell match at Old Trafford against Juventus, paying homage to England’s most capped right-back.
For me, it was fantastic to see all of them playing together like they used to for so long.
Perhaps, United should give all of them (together or separately) a generation’s farewell match. They all deserve it, especially Ryan Giggs.
The whole town of Manchester should give them all a final standing ovation as they are legends!
In the end, I want to reiterate my eternal gratitude towards God. To have seen Fergie’s Fledglings play together so many times, leaves me speechless. Words are useless to describe this generation of players. At their best, they were simply divine.
All hail the unique Class of ’92, Fergie’s most beloved pupils.
PS. Wouldn’t it be great for Giggs and Scholes to win another Champions League? Please share your thoughts and memories regarding these players.
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