Blomqvist takes centre stage as IFK shock United

Ullevi, Gothenburg – 23/11/1994 – Group stage
Göteborg
Göteborg
Blomqvist 11 Erlingmark 65 Kåmark 72 (P)
3 - 1
Man. United
  • Hughes 64
Man. United
Tactical masterclass

"We had qualified as group winners – who would have believed that when the draw was made?" Jesper Blomqvist

1994/95

• Andriy Shevchenko announced himself with a goal on his full UEFA Champions League debut though the 18-year-old could not prevent his FC Dynamo Kyiv team slipping to a 4-1 defeat by FC Bayern München.

• Celestine Babayaro became the youngest player in UEFA Champions League history when he started for RSC Anderlecht against FC Steaua Bucureşti – on 37 minutes he also became the youngest to be sent off.

• SL Benfica defender Paulo Madeira made an unwanted piece of UEFA Champions League history when he scored the revamped competition's first own goal in a 3-1 victory against Anderlecht in September.

Football supporters are not renowned for their powers of prophecy but the IFK Göteborg fans whose banner announced "Giggs is talk, Blomqvist is action" before this fixture would come away with some credit, even if Ryan Giggs did not actually play.

After all a virtuoso performance from Jesper Blomqvist ensured Manchester United FC, who had arrived  with their Group A ambitions hanging by a thread, left the Ullevi with those hopes all but vanquished.

English football's first UEFA Champions League group-stage foray was not meant to end like this. United had begun brightly, beating IFK 4-2 at Old Trafford but stalled, following back-to-back draws and a 4-0 defeat at FC Barcelona. Three weeks later they arrived in Sweden determined to make amends, optimism raised by the return of the talismanic Eric Cantona.

IFK had a lucky charm of their own in left-winger Blomqvist, one of seven members of the side who had helped Sweden finish third at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. In the Gothenburg drizzle he soon made his presence felt, breaking the deadlock on 11 minutes as the hosts demonstrated why they were top of the group – FC Barcelona and Galatasaray AŞ's failure to pick up points here had been no fluke.

With so much at stake United forced their way back into the game and Mark Hughes equalised midway through the second period. Yet this was Blomqvist's night. Within 60 seconds the 20-year-old had teed up Magnus Erlingmark to restore the lead, and before United could conjure a response Pontus Kåmark made it 3-1 from the penalty spot – after a foul on Blomqvist.

IFK were through with a game to spare, their 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou a fortnight later confirming United's elimination as Barcelona pipped the English side to second. Sir Alex Ferguson would not forget this night, though: two years later he signed Blomqvist as a back-up to Giggs.

Star players

  • Cantona

    Manchester United FC's player of the century. United had not won the title in 25 years when the playmaker arrived in November 1992 yet 'King Eric' departed five seasons later with four Premier League winners' medals and two FA Cups. Not a bad return on the €2m it cost Sir Alex Ferguson to sign the flamboyant Frenchman from Leeds United AFC.

  • Beckham

    From the moment Beckham announced himself with a goal from the halfway line, the midfielder was always in the spotlight. Not always for the right reasons, initially, but he won a place in the nation's hearts, making over 100 caps for England. Beckham's expert delivery helped Manchester United FC to six championships and the 1999 UEFA Champions League, and he also won the Liga with Real Madrid CF.

  • Blomqvist

    A series of devastating knee injuries meant Blomqvist's star shone only ephemerally – but when fitness allowed, the tricky left-winger invariably commanded the limelight. Four times a Swedish champion with IFK Göteborg, he had spells at AC Milan and Parma FC before winning the treble in 1999 with Manchester United FC. But for injury it could have been much, much more.

What happened next?

• After topping Group A ahead of FC Barcelona, IFK Göteborg lost out on away goals to FC Bayern München in the last eight, but it was AFC Ajax's year as they beat AC Milan 1-0 in the final.

• Manchester United FC finished third in the section but their time would come in 1999 when a team featuring Jesper Blomqvist beat Bayern 2-1 to end a 31-year wait for European football's top prize.

• Of United's bench that day, Gary Neville, David Beckham and Paul Scholes all played over 100 UEFA Champions League games and Nicky Butt 71. Within 18 months Kevin Pilkington was at Rochdale AFC.

• By 1995/96 Neville, Beckham, Scholes and Butt were all first-team regulars. Pundit Alan Hansen said United would "win nothing with kids" that year but they won the title – and five of the next seven.

• IFK's domestic dominance continued as they were crowned Swedish champions in 1995 and 1996. Two years later they were down to eighth, however, and had to wait until 2007 to land title No18.

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