2 FC Barcelona
Hughes 69, 76 Koeman 79
"Hughes' revenge on Barca"
When United arrived in Rotterdam to face Barcelona for the European Cup-winners Cup Final they hoped that this would be the match that would put an end to a 23 year spell without a European trophy.
It was the first season after the English 5 year exile in Europe from the Heysel disaster and it was fitting that Manchester United should lead the return into Europe having been the first English team in 1956 to enter the European Cup. United qualified for the competition having won the FA Cup the year before beating Crystal Palace 1-0 and Alex Ferguson was hoping to emulate his success with Aberdeen in 1983 when they beat Real Madrid 2-1.
In their run to the final, United had been impressive winning all their away games. Most notably a 2-0 win at Montpellier (having drawn 1-1 at Old Trafford) and a 3-1 win in Poland against Legia Warsaw - who had already knocked out the holders, Sampdoria, in the quarter-finals.
Barcelona scraped past Dinamo Kiev 4-3 on aggregate in the quarter-finals but beat Juventus 3-1 at the Nou Camp in the semi-final thanks to goals by Hristo Stoitchkov (2) and Jon Andoni Goikoetxea. In Turin, they lost 1-0 to progress but the result was marred by first choice keeper Andoni Zubizarreta receiving a yellow card which meant suspension from the final along with midfielder Guillermo Amor who was sent off. Star striker Stoitchkov was later injured in a Spanish league match meaning he was also unavailable for the clash in Rotterdam.
In the run up to the final United had lost 1-0 to Sheffield Wednesday in the Rumblelow's League Cup Final and lost the last 2 league games. On top of that, Alex Ferguson's assistant Archie Knox had unexpectedly left to take up a post at Rangers.
A crowd of 44,000 packed into Feyenoord's De Kuip stadium and the pundits didn't give United much of a chance. Despite their high profile absentees, Johan Cruyff's Barcelona were a class act and stood 9 points clear at the top of the Spainish La Liga. However, Mark Hughes, the player the Spaniards had rejected almost four years earlier, was to prove their downfall.
It seemed that Hughes was determined to prove that they had made a huge mistake in letting him go. Hughes attacking style of play had Ronald Koeman trapped in his own half in an unusually defensive role.
United played well in the first half, however, they failed to score. This was remedied in the 68th minute after Hughes was fouled on the edge of the box. Bryan Robson took the free kick, Bruce headed it downwards toward goal and Hughes was on hand to put the ball over the line.
Seven minutes later the Welsh International boke free from the Barca defence, after receiving a clever pass from Robson. He rounded the Barcelona keeper Zubizaretta and just when it seemed he had taken the ball too far wide, blasted the ball into the net from 20 yards at an acute angle to make the score 2-0.
In the 79th minute Barcelona pulled one back with a free kick taken by Koeman. The next 10 minutes were an anxious time for the United team, but they stood their ground.
In the last few seconds Hughes looked like completing a hat-trick when he was pulled down on the edge of the box by Nando who was duly shown the red card. A stray back-pass from Steve Bruce meant Clayton Blackmore had to make a dramatic goal line clearance from Michael Laudrup right at the death, however, United hung on to lift the trophy. English clubs where back in Europe and Manchester United where once again a force to be reckoned with in European football.