Earlier this week, UEFA announced that it would scrap the away-goals rule in all of its competitions from the start of the 2021/22 season.
For 56 years, drawn two-legged ties in the European Cup/Champions League, UEFA Cup/Europa League and the old Cup Winners’ Cup have been settled on a simple premise: whichever side scores more goals away from home goes through; in theory, they counted double.
Introduced in the days before wall-to-wall coverage of European football helped lessen its mystery, and when trips to far-flung corners of the continent were much more arduous than they are now, the original aim of the rule was to encourage teams to be more positive away from home.
It’s led to some truly dramatic moments over the years, with a single goal able to shift the momentum of a tie.
Arjen Robben’s volley gave Bayern an away-goals victory in 2010.
But now European football’s governing body has decided the rule
“runs counter to its original purpose as, in fact, it now dissuades home teams – especially in first legs – from attacking, because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage.”
The abolishment of the rule may serve to lessen the drama of the knockout stages, but it could be good news for United.
That’s because we’ve fallen foul of the away-goals rule more than most, being knocked out of Europe because of it on six occasions.
Two of these came in the UEFA Cup, with Widzew Lodz (1980) and Rotor Volgograd (1995) benefiting from holding the Reds to goalless draws at their own grounds. Even Peter Schmeichel’s astonishing last-gasp leveller in the latter tie couldn’t save us as we crashed out in the first round.
A 0-0 draw away from home also hurt United in our inaugural Champions League campaign, with Galatasaray progressing after a topsy-turvy game in Manchester, in which the sides shared six goals.
David Trezeguet’s rocket secured a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford to take Monaco through to the Champions League semi-finals in 1998 and then there was arguably the most gut-wrenching defeat of all, with Bayer Leverkusen denying Sir Alex Ferguson a Glasgow showdown with Real Madrid in 2002.
Defeat to Leverkusen in 2002 was agonising – sorry to bring that up again!
Another defeat to Germans came in 2010. This time it was Bayern Munich who broke our hearts, as Arjen Robben’s volley helped them draw 4-4 on aggregate, even after we had raced into a three-goal lead in M16.
But the away goals rule wasn’t always bad news. Ron Atkinson’s Reds got past Dukla Prague in the 1983 Cup Winners’ Cup, due to scoring twice in Czechoslovakia, as it was known back then.
And two years ago, Marcus Rashford’s penalty in Paris levelled the tie but, crucially, put us through as it made the scoreline 3-1 at the Parc des Princes, after PSG’s 2-0 win three weeks earlier.
The abolishment of away goals will provide managers and players with something else to think about in Europe, but as we’ve seen that might not necessarily be a bad thing for United!
The epic story of how we beat PSGVideo
UNITED TIES SETTLED BY AWAY GOALS
1980/81 UEFA Cup – Widzew Lodz L (1-1 H, 0-0 A)
1983/84 Cup Winners’ Cup – Dukla Prague (1-1 H, 2-2 A)
1993/94 Champions League – Galatasaray (0-0 A, 3-3 H)
1995/96 UEFA Cup – Rotor Volgograd (0-0 A, 2-2 H)
1997/98 Champions League – Monaco (0-0 A, 1-1 H)
2001/02 Champions League – Bayer Leverkusen (2-2 H, 1-1 A)
2009/10 Champions League – Bayern Munich (1-2 A, 3-2 H)
2018/19 Champions League – PSG (0-2 H, 3-1 A)