‘He is, to me, the scariest thing I’ve ever seen’.
Those are the words of Gary Neville, a man who has played against the best football has to offer.
So who was he talking about? Zinedine Zidane? Nope. Ronaldo? Guess again. The man in question was Romario.
On 8 January 2000 Neville was on the wrong end of a devastating display of flair, pace and power from Romario.
Man United took on Vasco da Gama in the sweltering heat of Rio de Janeiro.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had pulled out of the FA Cup to compete in FIFA’s shiny new Club World Cup tournament, adding to the pressure cooker atmosphere.
A 1-1 draw in the first group game, against Mexican side Necaxa, was hardly ideal preparation for the home favourites.
David Beckham’s red card meant Phil Neville was forced to do a job on the right of midfield but, aside from that, it was mainly business as usual.
Mark Bosnich started in goal, behind Gary Neville, Jaap Stam, Mikael Silvestre and Denis Irwin. All five would have shell shock before the 90 minutes was up.
Romario was partnered by Edmundo up top.
As talented as he was combative, ‘The Animal’ was in his third spell with the club, having left Fiorentina in a cloud after heading home for Rio Carnival.
It didn’t take long for Edmundo to strike, latching on to a weak Gary Neville backpass and squaring for Romario to tap home.
Two minutes later GNev pressed the self-destruct button once again.
He tried to chest a long pass back to Bosnich, only to gift the ball to Romario who crossed the i’s and dotted the t’s.
Then it happened.
A ball was played into Edmundo on the edge of Man United’s box.
Stam dropped deep to follow the run of Romario, but that was just a decoy.
Edmundo flicked the ball one way and went the other, leaving poor Silvestre counting sheep.
Think Dennis Bergkamp’s goal against Newcastle, with an added touch of Brazilian flair.
(The goal starts at 1 minute 33 seconds)
Nick Butt pulled a goal back late on but by then the damage was well and truly done.
United failed to get out of their group, although Vasco were beaten in the final by fellow Brazilians Corinthians.
Romario finished as joint-top goalscorer, alongside Real Madrid’s Nicolas Anelka, and Edmundo’s goal went down in Club World Cup history which, admittedly, isn’t very extensive.
At least United came back with a good tan.
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