The forward had bagged 23 goals in all competitions so far that term and United needed to match Arsenal’s result at home to Aston Villa to win their fifth Premier League title. Cole and Dwight Yorke were first choice throughout the season but United had Newcastle United and Bayern Munich to come in the FA Cup Final and European Cup final respectively as Ferguson’s men looked to complete an unprecedented Treble. Ferguson called Cole into his office on the morning of the game to explain to him that he had been dropped and that his reward was that he would start both cup finals.
Though that was some consolation, Cole was still furious and argued that the Tottenham game was the biggest match of the three. However, being the master of the mind game that he was, Ferguson introduced Cole at half-time against Spurs with the scores level at 1-1 at Old Trafford and he told Cole in the dressing room that he would win United the league title. Speaking to Sky Sports about being dropped, Cole said: ‘You know the gaffer always said ‘there’s bigger games’ but I said ‘there can’t be a bigger game than the last game of the season that you have to win’. ‘But he was always thinking about the next game so that was one of the reasons that he left me out. ‘[Before I came on] The gaffer just said to me ‘Coley you’ll win us the game, get on, you’ll win us the game’.
Cole, of course, scored the all-important third goal of the game just minutes after coming on when he collected Gary Neville’s pass to lob an exquisite effort over Ian Walker. The victory handed United the first trophy in their pursuit of the Treble and they registered two wins in the next eight days to become the first English side in history to accomplish the feat.