Berg has been a transfer target of Alex Ferguson for the last 10 years. The United manager first tried to bring him to Old Trafford when he was a 17 year old but could not secure a work permit. Several seasons later Kenny Dalglish succeeded where Ferguson had failed by bringing Berg to Blackburn Rovers where he soon established himself at the heart of their defence. During his time at Ewood Park he made 159 League appearances, scoring 4 goals. Ironically Berg was sent off for the only time in his career in England against United back in 1994. He was dismissed for a controversial foul on Lee Sharpe that led to Eric Cantona scoring from the spot in a 4:2 victory for United.

Berg is an experienced Norwegian international with over 40 caps, and 4 goals. Following the refusal of the Department of Employment in England to grant Brazilian defender Celio Silva a work permit, United went in search of a quality centre back to strengthen a leaky backline. Berg was a suprise investment for £5 million back in September - making him the most expensive defender in the Premiership. It seemed unlikely that Blackburn were going to part with him after they had rejected all of United's previous approaches. But with a new manager at Ewood Park they were willing to do a deal. Following his debut against Southampton slotted into the back four as if he had played there for years. However towards the end of the season Pallister and Johnsen became the first choice centre-backs. This sparked an astonishing threat from Berg to leave unless he was given first team football, fearing his place in Norway's World Cup squad would be put in jeopardy.

He didn't follow up on his words however and remained at United into the 1998/99 season despite enjoying even less first team football. Even the departure of Gary Pallister didn't improve matters for Berg as Jaap Stam came in as a ready made replacement. For much of the season Berg had to serve as backup for the first choice defensive partnership of Johnsen and Stam but when called upon he didn't let the side down. In fact United's European Cup Quarter-Final defeat of Inter Milan owed as much to the Norwegian as to Yorke, Beckham or Scholes.

Berg's miraculous goal-line clearance in the dieing seconds of the first leg at Old Trafford was a pivotal moment in the tie. As was his equally spectacular overhead clearance that denied Inter's Ivan Zamorano an easy goal in the second leg. Without both of those interceptions United's European campaign could have turned out very differently and even though he didn't play in the final he deserved to savour his winners medal as much as anyone.

Patrick Eustace 2000. Last modified on Thurs, 27 Jan, 2000

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