United's Historic Triumph: Fans lost only for words on a night of winners

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The Independent Online
THERE WAS a carnival in the streets of Manchester last night.

They danced and sang in the streets, swam in the Town Hall fountain, climbed any flagpole that came to hand and filled the night with cacophony of car horns - all in the name of this city's remarkable football team.

Thousands turned out to celebrate, some still taking in the startling manner of their team's triumph over Bayern Munich in Barcelona. Others would not have recognised the goal scorer Teddy Sheringham if he'd jumped into that fountain with them, but it was a good excuse to celebrate.

By the early hours, police were preparing for 4,000 fans at United's Old Trafford ground. In the city centre, thousands more gathered at the Town Hall and on central Deansgate. Though traffic ground to a halt, no violence or arrests had been reported by midnight.

The night had many heroes. The small, barefooted, red-shirted fan who was first to reach the top of a 30ft flagpole in central Albert Square with his United flag was one.

The sea of red and white was not instantaneous. For an hour, Manchester seemed to be stupefied by the amazing manner of the team's triumph. Words could not describe it, so the streets around Deansgate rang with car horns instead. Fans hung precariously from windows with their red and white scarves. After the Cup had been lifted it became a cavalcade.

A paramedic tried a blast of his siren to get on his way but was drowned out by fans who mistook him for a United enthusiast. There was much to celebrate but who on earth had the words to tell it. "What can you say?" said one supporter. He turned around to show off his Teddy Sheringham No 10 shirt and staggered off. No one put it better all night. As the reality sank in car horns gave way to songs, from "We Beat the Germans" to "ChampiONes" and "Football's Coming Home".

On a local radio station Wilf McGuiness, a United star who'd seen it all before, was equally lost for words but had air time to fill. The result was a crazy kind of elation. "I'm so thrilled for myself," he told listeners. "I'm actually here now. There linking arms out there- that's the bonding, all the lads do it."

Perhaps the only people not lurching down Deansgate in euphoric mood were the bookies. The estimated pay-out on United is thought to be around pounds 10m. William Hill said: "This United treble is football's equivalent of Frankie Dettori winning all seven races at Ascot a couple of years ago. Thousands of small money punters staked bets on United to win one, two or three major trophies. We'll probably still be paying out until the start of next season."

Odds on the treble again for United? Slashed to 66-1.