Manchester United are aiming to join an elite band of teams to have won all three of UEFA’s major club competitions as they continue their campaign in the UEFA Europa League.
The Red Devils will face Russian outfit Rostov in the round of 16 on 9 and 16 March after successfully navigating their way past St-Étienne this week. Already boasting a 3-0 first-leg lead, José Mourinho’s charges made sure of progress by triumphing 1-0 in France, Henrikh Mkhitaryan grabbing the only goal.
Should they get past Rostov, United will take another step closer to adding the one trophy missing from their collection of major European titles.
Their first came in 1967/68, when Sir Matt Busby led a team featuring George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton to European Champion Clubs’ Cup glory, which they experienced again under Sir Alex Ferguson in 1998/99 and 2007/08 – the Scot having steered the club to European Cup Winners’ Cup success in 1990/91.
Only four teams have lifted each of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League and European Cup Winners’ Cup. UEFA.com recounts that proud quartet’s distinguished record.
The first club to claim all three titles, Juventus’s name was first engraved on a European trophy in 1977 when they beat Athletic Club to claim the UEFA Cup. A side containing the likes of Paolo Rossi, Michel Platini and Zbigniew Boniek went on to taste more glory in the coming years. The Bianconeri fell at the final hurdle in the 1983 European Cup but bounced back to lift the Cup Winners’ Cup the following campaign.
They then won the 1985 European Cup, though this was a triumph overshadowed by the Heysel Stadium tragedy that unfolded at the final against Liverpool. Two more UEFA Cups were already under lock and key by the time they reached the European summit once more, wrestling Ajax’s crown off them with a penalty shoot-out victory against the Amsterdam team in the 1996 showpiece.
Using the template set by coach Rinus Michels and inspired by Johan Cruyff, Ajax’s brand of ‘total football’ overwhelmed opponents at the start of the 1970s. They picked up the European Cup three times, the latter two coming under Romanian Ştefan Kovács, though it was not until Cruyff returned as coach and led a side to Cup Winners’ Cup glory in 1987 that they increased their European haul.
Marco van Basten scored the only goal against Lokomotive Leipzig in that Athens final, yet it was a new generation that Louis van Gaal steered to UEFA Cup success in 1992, edging out Torino in the two-legged decider on away goals. Much of that team was still in place three years later when Ajax defied the odds to win the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern carried on from where Ajax left off. Restricted to their 1967 Cup Winners’ Cup triumph against Rangers until the mid-1970s, Bayern then ran riot. A side driven by Uli Hoeness and Franz Beckenbauer landed three successive continental titles courtesy of final victories against Atlético Madrid – 4-0 in a replay – Leeds United and St-Etienne.
However, the Bavarians did not get their hands on that most coveted prize again until 2001, when they had Oliver Kahn to thank for a heroic display in the penalty shoot-out against Valencia. By that time, they had already completed their European ‘treble’ with a two-legged defeat of Bordeaux in the UEFA Cup showpiece. They then racked up their fifth European Cup success by edging Bundesliga rivals Dortmund at Wembley in 2013.
The most recent members of the club, Chelsea completed their treble by clinching the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League in back-to-back seasons earlier this decade. The first London outfit to lift the European Cup, they overcame Bayern on penalties in the German side’s own stadium under Roberto Di Matteo in 2012 – before, with Rafael Benítez at the helm, Branislav Ivanović struck in added time against Benfica to spark more scenes of celebration a year later.
That came after the Blues had first made their mark on the continental stage as Cup Winners’ Cup champions in 1970/71, John Dempsey and Peter Osgood scoring in a 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid in a replayed final. Club legend Gianfranco Zola then made the difference when they repeated that triumph against final opponents Stuttgart in 1998.