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When Eric Cantona announced his shock retirement from football in May 1997 it left a substantial hole in the front line of Manchester United. A month later Teddy Sheringham was the man brought in to fill that void. The Tottenham striker and former golden boot winner was never going to be a perfect replacement. His vision and passing was akin to the Frenchman but he had never possessed the same flair and matchwinning genius to be as pivotal a player. However the qualities he did bring to Old Trafford were, in their own right, worth his £3.5 million price tag.

His aforementioned passing skills allowed him the luxury of dropping deep ala Cantona to try and build play from midfield. While at 6' his power in the air gave United an added dimension in the air they had lacked since Dion Dublin's departure in 1994.

His renowned goalscoring ability also made him a welcome addition to the Manchester United squad but his scoring touch was to desert him in his opening games for his new club. His full league debut, ironically at Tottenham of all places, set the tone for Sheringham's first month at Old Trafford.

Awarded a penalty mid-way through the second-half, Sheringham was presented with a golden opportunity to silence the vociferous fans who only weeks previously had been signing his praises. Instead he gave them even more to jeer by hitting the post and firing the rebound wide. It wasn't the most encouraging of starts.

Within four games however Sheringham broke his duck at Goodison Park, polishing off a 2:0 win over Everton with the second goal. With that ball and chain removed from around his neck he began to impose his game at Old Trafford and was in top form as United blazed a winning trail through the Premiership and Champions' League.

1998 however was when things started to turn sour for Sheringham. The goals dried up for both himself and striking partner Andy Cole, with Sheringham not scoring a single league goal in the second half of the season. Correspondingly United's league form dipped dramatically and elimination from the FA Cup and European Cup soon followed. At International level matters weren't any better as his previously assured first team place with England disappeared. His place in the Glenn Hoddle's World Cup squad was always assured but controversy leading up to the tournament perhaps irreparably damaged his chances of playing a major role in France. While in a London club drinking heavily and in the company of a young woman, he was pictured by a tabloid photographer and the story became front page news.

Sheringham proclaimed his innocence but by breaking the England camp curfew he was relegated to the substitutes bench for the majority of the tournament.

With his international career in turmoil, the arrival of Dwight Yorke at Manchester United in August 1998 was hardly the light at the end of the tunnel Sheringham was hoping for. For the first time since his spell as a youngster at Millwall, Sheringham was no longer a first choice and his short career with United was seemingly nearing a premature end.

All that changed in dramatic circumstances right at the end of the 1998-99 season. With United chasing trophies on three fronts, they needed to beat Tottenham at home to complete the first leg of what was to become a Treble. Ferguson chose to drop Andy Cole to the substitutes bench and name Sheringham in the starting 11, knowig the striker would be fired up against his old club. It didn't quite go according to plan however. Sheringham performed well but at half-time, drawing 1:1, Cole was brought on for Sheringham and within minutes scored the winning goal. Things just seemed to be going from bad to worse for Sheringham at a playing level but the consolation of picking up his first Premiership winners medal no doubt eased the disappointment he felt at being substituted.

Six days later though Sheringham took centre stage as an injury to Roy Keane led to a fifth minute substitute appearance and he didn't waste any time to make an immediate impression. Within five minutes of coming on he began and ended a sublime move to tear the Newcastle United defence apart and give the Reds the lead. Sheringham's delight was obvious as he celebrated the goal and later collected his second medal in a week, as well as the man of the match award.

But just when you thought Sheringham's rebirth couldn't get any better it did. Four days later in the biggest club match of them all, Sheringham made another super-sub appearance. Coming on in the Nou Camp against Bayern Munich he scored the injury-time equaliser that laid the foundations for United to win the European Cup.

At 32, it is unclear whether Sheringham will finish his career Old Trafford. It hasn't always been a smooth ride but his actions in four of the most important days in Manchester United's history have ensured that he'll always be remembered.


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

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