In the summer of 1999, as Manchester United were trying to bask in the glory of achieving an historic treble, a pesky row over their participation in the following season’s FA Cup kept niggling away at the club like an annoying yappy dog that won’t go away.
As Champions League winners, FIFA wanted them to take part in its new Club World Cup which would see the champions from all six FIFA continental confederations competing for the rights to be called the best club in the world.
The competition was to be held in Brazil in 2000 and United were justifiably concerned about fixture congestion, what with the League, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League, and now the Club World Cup to think about.
The FA were sympathetic to United’s plight, and excused them from the FA Cup for one season, a decision which angered much of the club’s fan base, particularly as they were the current holders of the trophy.
It was on this day in 1999 that the new Sports Minister Kate Hoey was doing some serious back peddling after comments she had made about the club treating its supporters “shabbily”.
Manager Alex Ferguson and then Chairman Martin Edwards were livid with the minister, as the FA and the government had in fact pressured United into competing in the tournament, in the belief it would aid an English bid for the 2006 World Cup.
The club’s chairman, Martin Edwards, said: “We won’t be having a re-think. We made the decision weeks ago and that decision stands.
“It wasn’t just our decision – it was a joint decision with both the government and the Football Association.
“For a new sports minister to suddenly enter the arena at this late stage and tell us we are treating our supporters shabbily and should go back in the FA Cup is a disgrace.”
In a grovelling climb-down, Hoey said: “I had no intention whatsoever of offending Manchester United. But they know as well as anyone that many fans are very upset by this.
“I know they have been faced with a very difficult decision. I was merely pointing out, as my predecessor had done, that it would be good if this could be resolved and the club able to play in both competitions.”
As it turned out, United did not play in the FA Cup that season, but did go to Brazil, where they were eliminated at the group stage. Oh, and England didn’t get the World Cup either. Brilliant.
In the absence of any footage of the tournament, watch Fergie and his team selling their souls for Pepsi below, and don’t forget to tune in tomorrow to find out which long-serving Premiership player will be blowing out candles on his birthday cake.