Hello! Welcome to CM3, fledglings! There may some familiar Newton Heath faces, but a whole new game and AI to get accustomed to. Our fiendish friends Andrew @KingoftheRooks Chapman and Dave @cm9798 Black have challenged the Blog Squad to emulate Sir Alex Ferguson’s class of 99, and win the treble. What could go wrong?
Rules. (Yes, rules). 🥱
- Original Man Utd 1998/99 squad only – no new signings!
- No WibWob allowed – tactics with arrows only. 😭
I’ll come clean, after downloading CM3 and getting to grips with it, I did start with a WibWob formation. Andrew disapproved. I also tried a host of tactics whilst playing my first few games, including the keeperless one engineered by CM9798 enthusiast @9798Nikolai, (and proved by both Phil Neville and Winston Bogarde in recent blogs). Anyway, it didn’t turn out too well…
So.. off we go! We inherit a squad of 48 players, and I settle on my chosen ‘first team’, bringing in youngsters Richie Wellens, David Healy, Luke Chadwick and Alex Notman (recalling him from a loan spell at Aberdeen).
With WibWobbing is not allowed, I give a cursory look at the coaching set-up, allocating the right coaches in the right places. The default is every coach on every discipline… can’t image Steve McClaren being adept in goalkeeping coaching?!
For pre-season I arranged a tour of France and two friendlies against Premier League opposition in Nottingham Forest and Coventry. I’ll save you the game-by-game breakdown, but you can see a mixed-bag of results. I rotated heavily trying to blend youth and experience whilst learning the tactics.
Our first competitive fixture is against Arsenal in the. I opt for what I think will a strong side. Out of our striking options – Cole, Yorke, Solskjaer, Sheringham, Healy and Notman – its Cole and Ole that get the nod up front. Gary Neville – who will slot in at center half for my chosen formation – has a knock, so Wes Brown starts. In real-life Arsenal ran-out comfortable winners, 3-0. Could our lads fair any better?
Unfortunately it’s not to be. Whilst I was bringing on subs ready for penalties we were punished by a late goal after a tentative start.
If there were any positives, they are marred by the news Giggsy is out for 2 months. It means Blomqvist and Chadwick will battle out for the AML slot..
In the league, we also have a rocky start, with a draw at Boro. Jesper is hauled off on the hour mark, and Luke Chadwick given a chance.
It’s followed by a 2-0 loss away to Sheffield Wednesday. My strikers struggling to find the net, could be a problem!
Manchester United’s victory in the Champions League in 1999 set a record as the first (and still only) team to come through qualifying to go on an lift the trophy. Our campaign will have to follow suit, playing the exact same team in qualifying! We start with a disappointing 1-1 draw in Poland at LKS Lodz, but do at least get an away goal.
The return leg at Old Trafford goes our way and finally we see a striker score a goal! Dwight Yorke opens his Man Utd account at the fifth time of asking! We go into the Champions League group stages.
Yorkey follows up his Champions League goal but getting us underway at Leicester. Finally!
Yorke makes it three-in-three at former club Villa. Luke Chadwick has been playing on the left wing recently, and improving with every game. Phil Neville has also come-in as an unfamiliar left-sided DMC. Butt and Keane both out-doing each other with yellow cards meant at shift, but welcome surprise!
Our fifth league game sees us undone by an Alan Shearer equalizer after Alex Notman scored from attacking midfield.
After five games we need to make up seven points already! Early pace-setters Chelsea, managed by Gianluca Vialli, and spearheaded by Gianfranco Zola and Tore Andre Flo, are five-from-five!
Giggsy is back for our first Champions League group game, home to Benfica. He takes 10 minutes to show us what we’ve missed! Our final goals is from 16 y/o Jimmy Davis, off the bench on his debut. I can’t get any strikers – other than Yorke – to score, so have tried Healey and now Jimmy to put pressure on the established players.
A vital win at Anfield with Yorke and Giggs scoring again ensures our season is (finally) starting to move in the right direction and show some consistency.
It’s misery for Giggs again, as he’ll sit out another month – after being so effective on his return!
A 2-0 win at Spurs, with an early Ginola injury, almost replicates the end-of-season 1999 win in real life. Substitute Andy Cole scores what turns out to be the winner.
Another Champions League group stage win, this time at Lens, comes courtesy of a late Ole Gunnar Solskjaer goal. “And Solskjaer has won” it replays in my mind on repeat. It’s Ole’s first goal of the season – and at the end of September!
Routine league wins over Nottingham Forest (1-0; Solskjaer again) and Leeds (2-1;Yorke and Beckham) are followed by a stinging defeat at the hands of West Ham. A 19 y/o centre half by the name of Rio Ferdinand is named Man-of-the-match. Peter Schmeichel was sent off, and subsequently banned for two games. Over to you, Raimond Van Der Gouw!
It means after 10 games played now we are up to fourth. Wimbledon are the surprise package this time leapfrogging Chelsea. We manage to make up three points on the leaders.
In Europe we lose away to Athletic Bilbao, but still find ourselves top of the group at the halfway stage.
We win the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, another late European goal. I like that we make a habit of this 😁!
Its a stressful game as we visit top-of-the-table Wimbledon. Stand-in goalie Van Der Gouw concedes four in the first half before David Healy gets off the mark on the stroke of half time. 4-1 down at halftime and reserve goalkeeper on a 3! I go for broke going to two at the back, and three up front. We score a quickfire double as the second half kicks off. I actually think we can do it.. until Raimond flaps again and we lose 5-3.
As we are in Europe we have to wait until the fourth round to enter the League Cup. We win 4-0 at division three Cardiff to ensure it’s a banana skin avoided. I’m thankful as Raimond doesn’t have much to do!
Back in the league its high-flying Chelsea next. Schmeichel is back, and we are given a gift as Greame Le Saux sees red for hacking down Paul Scholes on the edge of the area. Golden Balled David Beckham converts the direct free-kick and we win 1-0!
We follow with league wins at Blackburn (2-1; Beckham nets both), and Southampton (4-0; Solskjaer, Chadwick, Healy ). Giggs is injured again btw… It means after 15 games the pack closes up even more… just a point now, though the Gunners have a game in hand.
We beat Benfica 1-0, and stand-in winger Luke Chadwick scores again to eusure we qualify from the group. Getting the win early means I can play the reserves against Lens in the final game.
I risk my reserves in the League Cup Quarter final away to division 1’s Chesterfield. The lads are helped by an early red card and we produce a solid display to win 3-1. The goal scorers have an average age of 17…
Arsenal prove once again they are the team to beat after a second half masterclass at Old Trafford. The lads are distraught, but there’s still more than 20 games to go!
We draw our final Champions League game 0-0. I rest most of my outfield players, so am happy to avoid defeat. We are handed a tough Quarter Final tie at Inter Milan – once again replicating the same draw in real life! I love how the randomness of the game comes up trumps again and again..
In the league we beat Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough thanks to an early Solskjaer goal. We follow with a 1-1 draw at Everton and a Paul Scholes goal.
We follow the ‘Boro game by dispatching Charlton (3-1; Solskjaer  and Giggs) and Coventry 3-0. Ryan Giggs scores again to prove his value and the importance of me keeping him fit!
The dropped points at Arsenal and Everton means after 20 games, Chelsea are once-again six points clear. We have managed to leap-frog Wimbledon. I tell the lads there are a lot of games to play yet!
We start our FA Cup campaign with a routine 2-1 win at First Division Watford. I say routine… Watford got a shock lead and we had to battle for the win. Still.. its into round 4! After the game, disaster strikes.. FFS! In Raimond we trust?
Aston Villa visit Old Trafford next, and I make the shock decision to leave Raimond Van Der Gouw out… In goal goes youngster Paul Gibson. Good luck, lad! Gibson gets a clean sheet and an 8 rating. #result!
David Beckham puts Newcastle to the torch in the next game with another free kick. It’s a second 1-0 win on the trot, but we don;t mind! (Shouts of “ATTACK” ring out around Old Trafford. We follow with an FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Oxford United, and I got strong. Becks and Ole do the damage in a resounding 4-0 win.
We draw Liverpool in the League Cup Semi Final. Remember in 1999 it’s over two-legs, so I play a strong side with the hope of taking control of the game. It doesn’t work out like that… Jari Litmanen scoring against us again!
We exact revenge on Sheffield Wednesday after they humiliated in game week 2. That man Francesco Sanetti scores against my side again. He’s scored three against me this season, after (real life) only scoring one in five games in his one and only season in the Premier League in 98-99. Youngsters Notman and Healy score our goals.
After beating Wednesday, Mussie Izzet puts on a show for Leicester as they score four past us a Filbert Street. It’s so bad ex-Utd youngster and pantomime villian Robbie Savage scores. Golden Balls tries his best from right wing to assert ourselves on the game. Too little, too late.
We follow the loss at Leicester with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Everton, courtesy of a 90th minute Dwight Yorke goal. Andrew Cole scored the other, in what was his first league goal of the season.
It’s the League Cup semi-final (leg 2) and after Jari Litmanen scored an away goal in the first leg, it means we need to score at Anfield. 1-1 at halftime and I tell the lads to keep going. Liverpool score on 63 minutes to make it 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate. I go for broke!
Yorke, Cole, Sheringham, Solskjaer and Notman all aiming for the box, with Ryan Giggs to the by-line. Remarkably – it works! Cole scores on 78 minutes to give the lads hope before a Sheringham double sees us through to the League Cup final!
I lose another league game in the aftermath – this time Spurs beat us 3-2 at White Hart Lane. What’s happening to our league form?!
I call up the Blog Squad’s Matt Wills after the game and have a cry after seeing this lad running down the left wing…
Two defeats in three means we slip down to fifth – although the teams around us also drop points. We are only four points off the pace (with a game in hand).
We get back to winning ways at Forest mostly thanks to the clumsy Carlton Palmer. Ole and Yorkie firing us clear.
A 1-0 win at West Ham follows – Nicky Butt the unlikely hero.
It’s Champions League Quarter Final time now, and our back five of Stam, Ronny, GNev, Keane and Butt manage to park the bus effectively before Luke Chadwick scores another 90th minute goal to give us a narrow win. The clean sheet could be invaluable here! GNev gets a rare MoM award for his efforts. #FergieTime?
We are given a gift in the FA Cup Quarters – being drawn against Conference side Telford. I take the risk to rest as many players as I dare. Cole and Sheringham do the damage, and we comfortably win 3-0. It’s another cup semi final!
Our rested team host league leaders Liverpool in a must-win (must not lose) game at Old Trafford. I tell the lads we’ve the mental edge after the League cup victory. Beckham scores another free kick on 39 minutes before Jari Litmanen scores against us again! He loves playing Utd! Cue wild celebrations as hard-man Jaap Stam rises from a Beckham corner to score an 83rd minute winner.
Three league wins on the bounce means the pack closes in, Wimbledon have a chance to go top if they win their game in hand by a couple of goals.. Could they do a Leicester?
The Champions League anthem blares around the San Siro for our Quarter Final, second leg. I look down the line of my XI shows me they are determined, focused and composed. It’s another defensive masterclass, with Inter restricted to shots from distance as our defensive midfilders mop up again and again. It’s not pretty, but a Champions League Semi final at Barcelona awaits!
We are getting to the ‘business end’ of the season, and the League Cup Final! We hold our familiar foes Arsenal at bay for 80 minutes – protecting a lead from a Scholes screamer. Extra time is too much to ask of our tired legs as Arsenal claim thier second Wembley scalp over us!
Back to the Premier League, and a 2-2 draw with Leeds is played out with a heavily rotated squad. Some of the lads are approaching 50 games already, so need the break. Alex Notman scores the brace to show he’s ready to contribute in the run-in. After Leeds, its a topst-turvy tie away to Derby County. The ten men of Pride Park nearly pull off a shock draw, but Paul Scholes fires in late (again), to ensure we don’t drop more valuable points.
We’ve now played 30 games. Arsenal are starting to drop away, but anyone one of Liverpool, Chelsea, Wimbledon or us can still win it!
Speaking of Wimbledon… I don’t know what they’ve been smoking down in Selhurt Park, but they’ve set up a very industrious team! Dean @Emsonite will be pleased!
Thankfully we follow with a routine win at basement team Southampton. Notman, Chadwick, Ole and Healey score in a 4-0 win.
I saved some legs for the Champions League Semi Final first leg tie with Barcelona. It seems the lads really are ones for the big occasion, and a 3-1 win. Peter Schmeichel is 90% fit and a week away from full fitness following his groin tear. I don’t hesitate in recalling him! The away goal does with Barcelona hope in the return fixture at the Nou Camp. Alex Notman has played his way into the team in recent weeks, so I’m glad he performed on the big-stage, too.
A European hangover means it’s heartache in the FA Cup Semi Final. Two-down in half and hour, and three down after an hour. I replacate our League Cup tactics that put Liverpool to the sword, but it’s too little, too late. Roberto Di Matteo showing he too is a man who loves the big occasion.
A Fergie-time Dwight Yorke goal sees us snatch victory away at Blackburn Rovers.
It means after 33 games, and despite the Wimbledon defeat in game-week 31, we rise to the summit of the Premier League. Could timing be everything?
We grind out a 1-0 win over fellow title-challengers, and FA Cup destroyers, Chelsea. It means we keep a hold of top spot from Liverpool. Exciting, right?
The Champions League Semi Final, second leg, does not disappoint either! Luis Enrique scores an early goal to ensure Barca are within one of victory. We do not create much – as I (wrongly) – set up defensively. Patrick Kluivert scores what everyone thinks is a late 90th minute sucker-punch. From kick off Barca retreat deep – they should know better! GNev is brought down on the right by the corner flag, and everyone, including Schmeichel piles forward…. GNev whips it in and at the back post rises.. Alex Notman?! YES!! ITS IN!! 2-1!! “FULL STEAM AHEAD ROME” Clive Tyldesley screams to the millions watching on ITV.
The big games come one after another, as its serial cup winners Arsenal. It means my last three league games have been against the top sides around us… If this were Fergie, you know he’d be on the blower to the FA’s Executive Director David Davies, and all over him in the media. It makes no matter, as we get our first win over Arsenal this season – and what a time to do it!
I’ll call the 30th April Darren Anderton Day as no less than five players are injured. What’s this AI playing at? Yorke, Giggs, Solskjaer, Blomqvist and Stam out for 1-3 weeks. Nothing major, but all at the wrong time!
It means a depleted team are forced out at Everton, and the squad still manages to deliver! Henning Berg, standing in for Stam gets a rare goal, in a 3-1 win.
The victory leaves us 4 point clear of Liverpool with two to play. A top-two finish and Champions League football is guaranteed and the title is in our own hands!
I mean…. LADS! The Great Dane has a howler on 10 minutes and Coventry get an unlikely win at Highfield Road.
At the full time whistle there are cheers and celebrations in the away end as the news filters around the ground in of events at Hillsborough… Portable radios to ears and jubilation erupts on the pitch..
My nemesis Francisco Sanetti puts Liverpool to the sword, and we can’t be caught! CHAMPIONS!
We win our final league game against Charlton to ensure we end the season on a high. Liverpool fail to win again so the table looks more comfortable than it was!
There’s double-delight for Wimbledon as they leap-frog Arsenal into fourth place (though not Champions League in 1999), and then go on to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup! Fairytale stuff from Joe Kinnear’s men.
Finally, it’s here… the Champions League Final. No Bayern Munich this year, its Juventus. After a 10-day break Giggs, Ole and Stam are fit again and Yorkie is at 90%. It means everyone is at least available for the final. I make the tough decision to play Paul Scholes ahead of Alex Notman for this one in the attacking midfield role. I’m left to rue it, as both he and the 90% Yorke are hauled off at half time. Juventus prove how good they are, and how wonderful the real-life semi-final performance from Man Utd was. Despite throwing on attackers, we can’t end the season in the same fairytale way, and lose 2-0.
All in all, a lot to be happy with – but three lost cup finals (yes, thanks to Jose the Charity Shield counts) means we are only able to bring home the Premier League Trophy.
Jaap Stam and David Beckham were inducted into the Premier League team of the season – which was deserved. They were immense.
I fancy another crack at it next season – so maybe you’ll see me back soon…. with a twist 😅.
Until next time, fledglings. I hope you enjoyed this one-off episode. I’ll leave these screenshots for the ‘stattos’ amongst you!