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When Man United and Valencia were among the Champions League heavyweights


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As Manchester United lifted old Big Ears on the Nou Camp pitch in 1999 after the most thrilling of comebacks, something was brewing a little further south in Valencia province. 

After years of trying, United were back on top in the Champions League, 31 years after lifting the European Cup.

But it would be Valencia who would almost emerge as Europe's top club over the next two years after 1999.

It was a different era in La Liga when Real Madrid and Barcelona were not as far ahead of the chasing pack - and even in some seasons, they ended up falling back into the pack itself.

Now mired in the Segunda Division, Deportivo de la Coruna would win La Liga in 2000, finishing five points clear of Barcelona and Valencia.

And while the latter went on to win bring the Spanish league trophy back to Valencia in 2002 and 2004 (the second time under Rafa Benitez), it was in Europe that they truly made their mark in 2000 and 2001.

L-R: Valencia coach Hector Raul Cuper, and players Gaizka Mendieta, Amedeo Carboni at a press conferenceRead less

Picture by: Matthias Schrader/DPA/PA Images

On both occasions, Hector Cuper, who was last seen leading Egypt at the 2018 World Cup before, took Los Che to the Champions League final only to lose.

The first saw Real Madrid win 3-0 with one former Liverpool and one future Reds' player in the shape of Steve McManaman and Fernando Morientes respectively getting the first two goals.

And the second time, it was Bayern Munich who earned redemption for letting things slip against Man United two years earlier by beating Valencia on penalties with Oliver Kahn proving to be the hero.

Coincidentally in both 1999-2000 and 2000-01, Manchester United and Valencia were drawn together in the second group stage of the competition. At the time, UEFA couldn't get enough of groups so once the opening group stage was completed, the last-16 were thrown into a second group stage.

And it goes to show how competitive Valencia were at the time, that the sides could not be separated, drawing three times. The first meeting in December 1999 saw then reigning champions Man United win 3-0 at Old Trafford, although it would be Valencia who would reach the Champions League final that year and the following year. 

Manchester United's David Beckham recieves a yellow card from referee Krug Hellmut during the 2001 Champions League match at Old Trafford, Manchester on February 20th 2001.

Picture by: Rui Vieira/PA Archive/PA Images

And if you look back at Cuper's starting side that drew 1-1 on February 20th 2001, some team it was:

Santiago Canizares

One of the top Spanish keepers of the pre-Golden Age era, the then-peroxide blonde goalkeeper would have been the Spain No 1 for the 2002 World Cup but for a bathroom accident that saw him drop a bottle of aftershave in the team hotel and the broken glass consequently severed a tendon in his foot.

Amedeo Carboni

A former Italy international, Carboni featured at full back and finished his playing career at Valencia. He later became sporting director although that did not last long and ended unceremoniously.

Valencia's Roberto Fabian Ayala tackles Manchester United's Ryan Giggs (left) during the Champions League Group A game at the Mastella, Valencia.Read less

Picture by: Rui Vieira/PA Archive/PA Images

Roberto Ayala

These days, Argentina don't seem to have any top tier centre-backs but Ayala was one of the best of his era, regularly representing his country at major tournaments and proving to be a lynchpin at the back for his club. 

Mauricio Pellegrini

Rafa Benitez would later bring him to Liverpool in 2005 and he managed Southampton last season before being replaced by Mark Hughes with relegation a possibility.

The high point of his career was with Valencia alongside Ayala at the back.  

Jocelyn Angloma

The French right back won the Champions League with Marseille in 1992-93 and was also capped for France in the first half of the '90s. He is now manager of Guadeloupe, where he was born.

Pablo Aimar

So good that he was even one of Lionel Messi's heroes. The Argentine playmaker represented his country at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and was a key cog as Valencia won their two La Liga titles in the 2000s.

He's now involved in coaching within the Argentina national set-up.

Kily Gonzalez

Another Argentina in a squad managed by a compatriot, the winger also played internationally alongside Aimar and would also join his boss Cuper at Inter Milan after 2003. 

(L-R) Valencia's Ruben Baraja, Jocelyn Angloma and Gaizka Mendieta lineup before the match

Picture by: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

Gaizka Mendieta

A classy midfielder, we'll remember him most for the 2002 World Cup where his penalty just about dribbled past Shay Given in the last-16 shootout as Spain knocked out Ireland.

The Basque footballer would also have spells with Barcelona and Lazio, before settling in Middlesbrough where he'd spend the last years of his career and help the club to the 2006 UEFA Cup final, although he missed the decider.

UEFA named in best midfielder in Europe for 2000 and 2001. He's since worked in punditry and also is a keen music aficionado.

Ruben Baraja

Another Spain international regular from the first half of the 2000s, the midfielder spent a decade at Valencia, winning two league titles, the Cup and the 2004 UEFA Cup.

Miguel Angel Angulo

He won 32 fewer caps than Baraja for Spain but spent even longer at Valencia, with his spell there lasting from 1996 to 2009. 

John Carew

The Norwegian target man would later pitch up at Aston Villa in the Premier League as well as shorter spells at Stoke City and West Ham.

His goalscoring record at La Liga level was modest during his three full seasons there, scoring 20 league goals across those three campaigns although it was his goal against Arsenal in the 2001 quarter final that helped Valencia advance. 

Manchester United vs Valencia is live on Virgin Media Sport with an 8pm kick off 


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