MM’s top five… Sporting moments of 21st Century on Manchester soil

By Michael Kelleher

This week MM takes a look at the top five sporting moments of the 21st Century that have taken place in Greater Manchester.

Manchester is a renowned sporting haven and there were many marvellous moments to choose from.

Impact, significance and most importantly drama were taken into account and these are the reasons these five stand out from the rest.

5. Scholes’ screamer breaks Barcelona resistance in 2008 Champions League Semi-Final

April 29, 2008: After a 0-0 draw in the first leg against Barcelona, veteran Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes sealed a famous win with a quality 25-yard strike at Old Trafford.

The goal was enough for Alex Ferguson’s men to advance past a star-studded Barcelona line-up that boasted the likes of Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Xavi, Iniesta and Samuel Eto’o.

The Red Devils went through to the final in Moscow where they defeated domestic rivals Chelsea on penalties to win their third European crown.

Scholes, 38, has scored 155 goals for United in 713 appearances but none were more important or more memorable than that one.


4. Vaughan leads the way with a vintage 166 in the 2005 Ashes Third Test against the Aussies

August 11, 2005: England captain Michael Vaughan was much-maligned entering the 2005 Ashes series as his poor form had led to criticism from media and fans.

He silenced all his critics however on the first day of the third Test at Old Trafford with a magnificent 166 to help England secure a valuable draw.

Vaughan went on to become the first England captain to lift the Ashes since Mike Gatting in 1987 after victory in the fourth and a draw in the fifth and final Test.

His Old Trafford innings was pivotal in England dethroning a golden generation of Australian players which included the likes of Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee.


3. Cometh the hour, cometh the man – David Beckham’s dramatic free-kick against Greece sends England to the World Cup

October 6, 2001: England captain David Beckham sent England through to the 2002 World Cup finals with an iconic 30-yard free-kick against Greece at Old Trafford.

With one minute left in injury-time, the Manchester United winger stepped up knowing he needed to score if his side were to finish ahead of old rivals Germany in Group Nine.

He duly obliged, securing a 2-2 draw and England’s passage to Japan and South Korea in the process.

The goal capped a remarkable journey of redemption for Beckham who was lauded as a national hero, four years after being vilified for getting sent off against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.


2. Underdog Hatton shocks the world by defeating legendary champion Kostya Tszyu

June 4, 2005: Hyde boxer Ricky Hatton announced himself on the global stage when he beat IBF light-welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu at the MEN Arena.

Tszyu – long recognised as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing – retired on his stool prior to the twelfth round, ending his ten-year reign as champion.

The fight itself was a memorable back and forth war with the indomitable Hatton eventually wearing down his older, more celebrated opponent in front of 22,000 ballistic fans.

The victory launched Hatton to boxing super-stardom and he subsequently fought some of the sport’s biggest names but none of his fights were as compelling or significant as that one.


1. City leave it late – but it’s more than worth the wait as they clinch first league title for 44 years

May 13, 2012: Needing a win to secure the league, Manchester City trailed 2-1 heading into injury-time at home to QPR and looked to be on course for a heart-breaking final-day collapse.

However last-gasp strikes from Edin Dzeko and Argentine striker Sergio Aguero lifted City fans from suffering ‘Same old City’ to rapture and left United hearts broken.

City had long languished in the shadow of city rivals but the Reds were denied a record 20th league title in the cruellest of fashions on the most dramatic day in Premier League history.

It was an iconic moment that will live forever in the memory and a fitting conclusion to a roller-coaster season which saw the City-United rivalry rise to unprecedented heights.

Picture courtesy of Stuart Grout, with thanks

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