Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United
FA Cup semi-final replay, April 14, 1999
Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United had their eye on an unprecedented treble of Premier League, FA Cup and European Cup and the prospect of meeting Arsene Wenger’s flamboyant Arsenal side – themselves looking for a league and cup double – in the FA Cup semi-final had all football fans licking their lips in anticipation. A tepid 0-0 draw at Villa Park proved a big disappointment, though. Could the replay at the same venue four days later provide the special game everyone had hoped for?
Dennis Bergkamp (69)
David Beckham (17)
Ryan Giggs (110)
FA Cup semi-final,
April 14, 1999
Villa Park, Referee: David Elleray, Att: 30,233
United struck the first blow in this tight match when David Beckham rifled an unstoppable 25-yard shot that swerved past the despairing dive of Arsenal keeper David Seaman and into the back of the net after 17 minutes. Ferguson’s side dominated much of the first half but after the break it was Arsenal who hauled themselves back on level terms when Dennis Bergkamp cut in from the left hand side of the pitch and struck a fierce 20-yard shot that took a deflection off defender Jaap Stam and flew past Schmeichel.
Nicolas Anelka had the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for offside and minutes later Roy Keane was sent off after he hacked down Overmars. Arsenal were in the ascendancy, United on the back foot, and in second half injury time the London side had a golden opportunity to seal the game but Dennis Bergkamp's penalty was saved by Schmeichel to take the match to extra time.
Five minutes into the second half of extra time Ryan Giggs, on as a second half substitute, set off on a mesmerisingly brilliant run that took him past four Arsenal challenges before he drilled an angled shot into the nearside roof of the net. It was a goal of the highest quality, good enough to win any game, and Giggs' impromptu celebration, whipping his shirt off and twirling it above his head as he ran off down the touchline exposing his frighteningly hairy chest, became one of English football’s most memorable images of the ‘90s. United held on to their precious lead to win an epic encounter – and keep the dream of the United treble alive.
The Republic Of Ireland midfielder was United’s most important player at the time, not only because of his fierce tackling, boundless energy and exemplary vision, but because he always set the tone for the team. Keane’s fierce competitive spirit and barely-disguised contempt for anything less than 150% commitment saw United out of many a tricky spot. His dismissal in this game with just 16 minutes of play left should by rights have swung the tie definitively in Arsenal’s favour. But Keano could make his presence felt even when he wasn’t on the pitch. You suspect that fear of facing Keane in defeat may well have given the United players left on the field all the incentive they needed to dig deep for victory.
United manager Alex Ferguson had rested key players including Yorke, Scholes and Giggs for the game, knowing that there were a number of important matches still to come. But when Fergie realised that the game was tight as tight can be he sent on Giggs to unlock Arsenal’s defence. The Welshman didn’t disappoint and his winning goal remains one of the finest individual efforts ever witnessed on an English football pitch.
The brilliant Dutch striker worked tirelessly all night long to try to secure a famous victory for the Gunners, so it’s cruel that it should have been Bergkamp who missed the vital penalty in the dying seconds of normal time that would have sent Arsenal to Wembley. Even crueler, maybe, that his all-round performance and equalising goal has been all but forgotten next to Ryan Giggs’ legendary winner.
Did You Know...?
This game proved to be the last-ever FA Cup semi-final replay. Nowadays the game is always resolved on the day of the first match, either via extra time or penalties.
Patrick Vieira inadvertently had a hand in Giggs' goal - it was a misplaced pass from the Arsenal midfielder that Giggs intercepted before scoring his wonder strike.
Alex Ferguson was rewarded for his achievements as United manager when he was knighted for his services to football in June of 1999.
What Happened Next
United went on to meet Newcastle United in the 1999 FA Cup final at Wembley, but the game was a damp squib due to Newcastle’s wretched performance and the Reds won at a canter by two goals to nil. Alex Ferguson’s side went on to complete the legendary treble of League, FA Cup and European Cup. Arsenal’s season was effectively ended by this semi-final defeat and Arsene Wenger would soon be forced to rebuild his team. It wasn’t until 2002 that The Gunners earned silverware again, when they notched a Premier League and FA Cup double.
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