Widely considered to be one of the greatest FA Cup ties to be ever played, the semi-final clash between Manchester United and Arsenal in 1999 is remembered for a lot of reasons. Ryan Giggs’ moment of brilliance and Peter Schmeichel’s denial of Dennis Bergkamp are just some of them.
The draw was the culmination of a season-long rivalry between United and Arsenal. The semi-final was played out on 11th April 1999 at Villa Park. The two sides could not be separated as the clubs played out a nil-nil draw. A replay was scheduled three days later. It was the last ever FA Cup semi-final to be decided on another night as rule changes allowed for extra-time and penalties if need be.
United were chasing the Treble and had a one point lead over the Gunners and were on course to reach the Champions League Final in Barcelona later that year.
The replay had ‘The Magic of The Cup’. It saw David Beckham score a Beckham-esque goal. It was almost like a free kick. Teddy Sheringham found Beckham in space, the following curled long range effort could only have been scored by Beckham and United had a 1-0 advantage. But later Bergkamp was rejected by Schmeichel and Arsenal got more than a foothold in the game as they began dominating proceedings. But managed to United held on until half time.
They came out of the tunnel and had the first chance of the second half. But it was not to be as Bergkamp scored the game’s second long ralong-range, though it took a deflection of Jaap Stam and ended up in the back of the net. Arsenal also had a goal rightly ruled out for offside.
Arsenal then got numerical advantage as Roy Keane hacked down Marc Overmars and was sent back to the dressing room for an early shower. United ‘parked the bus’ and Arsenal dominated the ball but failed to find the back of the net. Phil Neville tripped Overmars and the referee David Elleray had no choice but to point to the spot. Bergkamp could not finish as Schmeichel guessed right to dive left.
Then the game’s defining moment came in the 109th minute. Patrick Vieira’s exhausted legs could only find Ryan Giggs. The Welshman ran half the length of the pitch, going past five defenders before slotting the ball over David Seaman. The celebration that followed is as legendary as the goal, if not more, as Giggs took off his jersey to reveal his hairy chest. If Beckham’s goal was the most Beckham goal he would score, Giggs’ goal was the most Ryan Giggs goal. Ever.
Sir Alex Ferguson coined the phrase ‘twisted blood’ when asked about his thoughts about the wonder goal.
The tie is one of the FA Cup’s greatest if not The Greatest.
United escaped into the final. They won it and sealed the second leg of their Historic Treble.