Unsurprisingly, the first thing to report is Man Utd’s seemingly unstoppable march. Alex Ferguson’s first silverware of the season was secured in March with a comfortable win in an entertaining League Cup Final. Paul Scholes not on the scoresheet this time, but they still managed to sweep aside Leeds in extra-time
United followed this up with an FA semi-final victory to keep them on course for an unprecedented quadruple. A tricky final awaits against Kenny Dalglish and his Blackburn team after they overcame Villa in the other Semi
On their day, Toro were capable of hammering anyone, as this performance away to second place Verona showed
Antonio Paganin was a bit of a controversial choice for man of the match really – part of defence that shipped 4 goals at home…but maybe he shone among the wreckage
Despite results like that, inconsistency plagued us for the rest of the season. The lack of a decent goalkeeper and no top-level striker meant that we lost a lot of games we should have won. Here are a couple of examples in consecutive games against other top-4 teams
Back in the Premier League, competing on all four fronts was always likely to take a toll on United, and sure enough, their first defeat came at Easter. Liverpool would have been the last team they would have wanted to lose to though, especially as they were kept bay at by a man-of-the-match performance from Liverpool’s saxophone playing, cash-in-the attic presenting, United old-boy
United lost again in the Champions League Semi’s, a Bayern – PSG final in store in May
There is English representation in one European final though. Chelsea overcame a mediocre league campaign to hammer Stuttgart at home in the Cup-Winners Cup semi-final
In the meantime, over in Belgium, we’re doing OK, but OK isn’t good enough with Standard obliterating the league and winning every week. We also lost on penalties to Lierse in the cup Semi-Final. Antwerp didn’t put up as much of a fight in the final, mind.
I thought we’d breeze the league this year, 2nd place isn’t terrible for my first season in Belgium, but we need the title next season. I’m guessing the board will be feeling the same way too.
While our continental cousins underachieved, Doncaster went the other way. Easter-time saw back to back matches against league leaders Swansea, once in the league and once in the Auto Windscreen/JP Paints or whatever you want to call it final. The Swans had been powered to the top of the league by their daunting, all Welsh, strike -force (and Jan Molby)
We put in arguably our best performance of the season at Vetch-field and became the first team to stop them scoring at home.
But for a man-of-the-match performance by Roger Freestone, we would have won more comfortably. Our winning goal came from the boot of our 21 -year old Zambian forward who was making a name as a super-sub for us. A few days later, we met at Wembley, this time the result on the pitch didn’t go our way, but the board (and me, to be honest) were more focused on the £500,000 windfall from gate receipts which wiped off our debts and will give us money to spend in the summer
The defeat didn’t affect our league-form though. The win at Swansea was the start of a 7-match winning streak at the end of the season which saw us catapulted into the automatic promotion places, scoring 24 goals and conceding just 4 in the process. Andy Mainwaring was in particularly good form, scoring 8 goals in 4 games in April.
With money to spend and Division 2 football to look forward to, it’ll be a busy summer at Belle Vue
The first trophy of the Italian season went to Inter in an unusual 2-legged final. Losing 2-0 after the home leg, they won 3-0 at the Delle Alpi thanks to goals from Ronaldo (the original), Simeone and Youri Djorkaeff.
Serie A came down to the same two teams, Juve coming out on top this time
As for the Premier League, United eased to the title, despite one more defeat. A mention for the Crazy Gang as well, finishing above the likes of big-spending Blackburn and Chelsea
United completed the domestic treble with a 2-1 win over Blackburn
The Cup Winners Cup was settled by a hat-trick from new signing Kennet Anderson
And free-scoring PSG won a one-sided Champions League final, helped by on Oliver Kahn red card
Oh and finally, a sad denoument to the club season..no doubt he’ll be back though. The Hammers, however, have got a year out of the top-flight to look forward to
The summer of 1998 is just around the corner, which means a World Cup in France, to follow next..