Manchester United 99 Appearances: A Tribute To A Forgotten Treble Winner

Manchester United's Ronny Johnsen never provoked much fuss whilst others garnered the glory. But it's time to retrospectively appreciate Ronny the Red's undeniable class.
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Manchester United's Ronny Johnsen never provoked much fuss whilst others garnered the glory. But it's time to retrospectively appreciate Ronny the Red's undeniable class.

Although supporters serenaded Jaap Stam and Roy Keane, the man beside them was just as pivotal during Manchester United's unprecedented success in 1999.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when you remember that Ronny Johnsen was part of Manchester United's Treble winning side. Ronny always had an affable demeanor. Every time you saw a picture of him, he would be surrounded by his teammate, his face etched with his contagious smile, his mouth looking like it had overdosed on teeth. Unlike almost all of the footballers playing the game today, Ronny was a true professional who looked like the kind of guy you could genuinely be friends with. If not a father figure then at least a genial uncle who would lend you a guilt free tenner.

Ronny was brought to England by United in the summer of 1996, signing for £1.2 million from the Turkish side Besiktas. Earlier pre-season a fellow Norwegian named Ole was also signed by United and he started like a firecracker. Scoring several important goals early in his career against Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur that helped to establish a reputation which still sees his name echo around Old Trafford to this day. He quickly overshadowed Ronny’s more steady and conservative start.

Despite some turbulent games during the 96/97 season that included a 5-0 defeat at Newcastle followed by a 6-3 reverse against Southampton, United won the Premier League title by 7 points but it was the bitter disappointment he experienced watching Arsenal win the double during the next campaign that would help to inspire Johnsen and United's greatest ever achievement.

Throughout the 1998/99 season he was an ever-present. He showed off a versatility that saw him play in the heart of Uniteds defence alongside Jaap Staam as well as in the centre of midfield. His display as the latter against Juventus in the champions league semi final that is often touted as his best ever display. Of course Roy Keane took all of the plaudits with his goal and courageous performance after being booked out of the final, but Johnsen kept Zidane and Del Piero quiet all night long and his endeavour is often overlooked.

He earned the rare distinction of playing in four consecutive silverware-clinchers.

Johnsen played in the title decider against Tottenham Hotspur and then both the FA Cup and Champions League Finals, forming a deadly partnership with Yip Jaap and David May (maybe a shout for an oversung hero?) that helped lead United to the club's greatest 10 days in their history.

The future was bright for Johnsen and despite being the wrong side of 30 he still had a few more years ahead of him in the heart of Uniteds defence. However because of a horrific injury his next game in a red shirt after that fateful day in the Nou Camp would be a year later when United were presented with the 1999/2000 league title. He earned the rare distinction of playing in four consecutive silverware-clinchers.

Unfortunately the end was nigh for his United career and his constant injury problems would soon start to overshadow the integral role he had previously played for the club. Ronny left United one game short of making 100 appearances for the club and would go on to play for both Aston Villa and Newcastle United, before being released by the latter and his career eventually petered out.

But in just six short years for the Red Devils he won the Premier League three times and it should never be forgotten just how indispensable he was during the zenith of United's proud and illustrious history.

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