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The Greatest Comeback: Man Utd’s 1999 Champions League victory or Niki Lauda’s comeback F1 world championships?

Drew Goodsell | 13 June 2020

Which comeback will you vote for?

We’ve reached quarter-final number three in our journey to unearth the greatest sporting comeback of all time.

Manchester United’s late, great comeback in the 1999 Champions League final is up first, with two goals in three injury-time minutes securing the famous trophy.

But that’ll face tough competition from the late Niki Lauda, who overcame life-changing injuries from his 1976 crash to add two more F1 world championships to his collection.

Only one of these two can make it through to the final four. Which comeback do you think deserves a semi-final place more?

Manchester United’s last-gasp win over Bayern Munich in 1999 Champions League final

The Red Devils already faced a monumental task at the Nou Camp, taking on Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final.

But that task was made even tougher when they lost midfield generals Roy Keane and Paul Scholes through suspension. They’d have to start the night with a makeshift midfield of Nicky Butt next to David Beckham in the middle, with Ryan Giggs out on the right and Jesper Blomqvist down the left.

It was made even worse still when Mario Basler lived up to his reputation as a dead-ball expert, firing home a free-kick after just six minutes to give the German champions a 1-0 lead.

The first half was one to forget for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, with Thomas Linke, Samuel Kuffour and Lothar Matthäus containing the threat of Andrew Cole up front, and Giggs failing to make an impact playing out of position.

Bayern’s threat grew stronger and stronger as the game went on, with Basler going close from distance on more than one occasion, while Carsten Jancker’s constant movement provided the United backline with a severe headache.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United

By the 67th minute, Ferguson had seen enough, and brought on Teddy Sheringham, who’d scored in the FA Cup final a week prior, earning man of the match in the process.

Bayern boss Ottmar Hitzfeld reacted, bringing on Mehmet Scholl for Alexander Zickler, hoping to put the game to bed. But as the chances passed, United’s hopes remained.

In the 81st minute, Sir Alex played another of his wildcards, throwing Ole Gunnar Solskjær on in place of Cole, a move which breathed new life into the United front line, with the Norwegian immediately calling Oliver Kahn into action.

Moments later, Jancker smashed the crossbar with an overhead kick, putting United hearts in mouths. But with the game creeping into injury time, it was all or nothing for the Red Devils.

Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel went forward for a corner, which was half-cleared by Bayern, but dropped to the feet of Giggs. His scuffed shot was steered into the corner of the net by super-sub Sheringham, seemingly taking the game to extra time.

But only 30 seconds after Bayern restarted the game, United had another corner. Sheringham this time headed down Beckham’s in-swinging delivery, landing at the outstretched foot of Solskjær, who found the back of the net in the most dramatic of scenes, sending United fans wild, and bringing the Champions League trophy back to Manchester.

Niki Lauda’s triumphant return to F1 following his serious crash in 1976

Niki Lauda headed into the 1976 Formula One world championship as the defending champion, winning his first title for Ferrari in the 1976 season.

Lauda looked like he was on his way to back-to-back championships too, with four wins in the first six races in the 1976 campaign. He took the win in the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch too in race nine and headed into the German Grand Prix in great form.

Prior to the race at Germany’s Nürburgring, Lauda urged his fellow drivers to boycott the race on safety ground, with fears there were not enough resources to cope at one of the longest tracks on the calendar. Despite a vote in favour of the boycott, the race went ahead.

Two laps into the race, Lauda swerved off track on the fast-left hander before Bergwerk, with his car bursting into flames after hitting the embankment and crashing into Brett Lunger’s Surtees-Ford.

Lauda was trapped in his car, and after being pulled from the burning wreckage, he fell into a coma in hospital. With many believing he’d fail to make it through his severe injuries, he was read his last rites by a priest.

Niki Lauda injuries

However, six weeks later, Lauda lined back up on the grid at Monza in his Ferrari, where he finished the race in fourth. He returned to the podium in the season’s penultimate race in USA and despite missing two races through his injury, he’d only miss out on the world championship by one point to James Hunt.

In Lauda’s final season for Ferrari, he managed to win the 1977 world championship, despite only winning three of 17 races. He’d finish 17 points clear of nearest challenger Jody Scheckter, before two unsuccessful seasons at Brabham led him to retire from the sport in 1979.

The Austrian spent three seasons away from the sport, before returning in 1982 with McLaren, after a successful trial led to an unprecedented $3 million contract with the team.

His first two seasons back in the sport were underwhelming, and the 1984 season looked like it could follow suit, with three retirements from the first four races.

Lauda managed to turn the season around, winning five races and coming second in four. Despite six retirements, he claimed his third championship, just half a point ahead of Alain Prost. His consistency was key to claiming his second championship in his return to the sport.

The following season turned out to be another retirement-filled one, leading Lauda to retire from competing in the sport at the end of the 1985 season.

Cast your vote

There are your next two contenders to make it to our semi-final. Which one will get your vote and make it into our final four? Let us know on our poll on Twitter.

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All odds and markets are correct as of date of publication.