United’s Record Against Benfica

Well tonight of course see’s Manchester United kick-off their UEFA Champions League group-stage campaign away to Benfica. United have played Portugal’s first European Champions 7 times in the competition having won 6 out of those encounters with the other game being lost.

1966 European Cup Quarter-Finals

United’s first encounters with Benfica certainly were epic matches. After winning the first leg of the Quarter final tie at Old Trafford 3-2, United carried a slender 1 goal lead to Portugal to defend.

Fans possibly worried that Eusebio (Portugal’s best player of the 1960s) would inspire the 1961 and 1962 European Champions to turn the tie around, were to be spectacularly proved wrong as United incredibly stormed into a 3-0 lead after 15 minutes thanks to two goals from George Best and John Connelly.

Despite Shay Brennan scoring an own goal early in the second half, United scored two goals late on through Paddy Crerand and Bobby Charlton to make it through to the semi-finals. Sadly despite tipped to beat Serbian side Partizan Belgrade, United couldn’t quite do the job and missed out on playing Real Madrid in the final.

1968 European Cup Final

Two years later United met Benfica again, this time in the final. At a sold-out Wembley Stadium the side managed by Sir Matt Busby had the nation’s support on their shoulders and 10 years of rebuilding after the Munich air disaster culminated in the side becoming the first English European Champions.

Charlton opened the scoring for United after half-time before Jaime Grace equalised with 15 minutes to go. After Alex Stepney made a fantastic save to deny Eusebio, The game went to extra-time and United took control going ahead through a fantastic goal from Best before further goals from Brian Kidd and Charlton added further gloss on the scoreline to add further panache to the historic result.

2005/06 Champions League Group Stage

Just over 37 years passed before Untied played Benfica. Despite beating the Portuguese side at Old Trafford 2-1 thanks to a late Ruud van Nistelrooy goal, United needed a point in Lisbon to confirm their passage through to the Last 16 of the competition.

Despite going 1-0 up thanks to an early Paul Scholes goal, United fell backwards with first half strikes from Geovanni (who would later go on to play for Manchester City) and Beto putting Benfica in the lead. United battled but couldn’t find an equaliser as they crashed to a defeat which consigned them to bottom place in the group.

2006/07 Champions League Group Stage

Predictably the following season, United and Benfica were paired up again in the group-stages. In the first game between the sides a tremendous goal by Louis Saha on the break settled the game as a gutsy United got revenge for their exit in the competition the year before in front of a sell-out crowd in the Estadio da Luz.

Incredibly when it came down to the final group game, United required a win to go through to the Last 16 after losing their previous matches to Celtic and FC Copenhagen. Benfica took an early lead through a stunning strike by Nelson, but United hit back before half-time thanks to Nemanja Vidic and strolled to a 3-1 win thanks to second-half strikes from Ryan Giggs and Saha. The side would go onto reach the semi-finals where they would lose to eventual winners AC Milan

Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87

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