Why Man United Treble icon Ronny Johnsen was a lynchpin behind our 1999 success

Why Man United Treble icon Ronny Johnsen was a lynchpin behind our 1999 success


The Norwegian defender played 37 times in 1998/99, starting on 30 occasions. That figure would undoubtedly have been higher had it not been for his injury problems during the autumn, but he started and finished the season as Ferguson’s favourite partner for Stam.

It was the Dutchman’s first season in England, and Johnsen was vital in helping him settle and find his groove in the team’s defence. “He was easy to play with,” remembered the defender, “and we formed a good partnership that season. I think it worked because we both knew our strengths. We were both quick one against one, we could keep a high line because we trusted each other very much – otherwise, if you don’t have faith in your partner, you start to cover up a little bit behind him and leave your man a few more yards, then they can play on him.

“It was all about trust. You could go really tough into the strikers and not be afraid about what was behind us. We clicked. It was automatic and you don’t even have to say too much to each other – even though we said everything we needed to say and were always communicating when we needed to.”

Johnsen was also extremely useful to Ferguson in midfield, when needed, and also popped up with three goals. The first arrived against Coventry, when he deftly turned home a spicy Paul Scholes shot from outside the area, and his final two came in the same match, against Nottingham Forest. His header and thunderous volley gave United a 2-0 lead that day, and were the goals that kickstarted our incredible 33-match unbeaten run, which stretched from Boxing Day until that balmy night in the Nou Camp.

At the close of the season, with Stam’s Achilles injury leading Ferguson to omit him from the starting XI for the decisive league match against Spurs and the FA Cup final, Johnsen partnered David May to guide United’s defence through the first two steps on the way to the Treble.


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