Arsene Wenger says he is haunted by Ryan Giggs' classic FA Cup goal
Ahead of Tuesday’s FA Cup quarter final against Manchester United, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has recalled the 1999 semi-final played out between the two teams, and the fine margin which had separated them on the occasion.
Ryan Giggs’ solo goal and swirling shirt celebration in the ‘99 FA Cup semi-final replay at Villa Park has become a classic moment in the competition’s history.
United had been reduced to 10 men following the expulsion of Roy Keane for a second bookable offence and they were hanging on. It looked as if Wenger’s team would prevail when United won a penalty in the last minute of normal time.
Peter Schmeichel saved Dennis Bergkamp’s spot-kick; and in the 109th minute of the epic contest, Giggs intercepted a weary Patrick Vieira pass inside his own half, slalomed his way past Lee Dixon and Martin Keown before firing past David Seaman and into the net – a moment that is cherished as one of the most special by all United fans.
“I can still hear the shouts of their team having won,” lamented the Arsenal manager about the famous match when his team went down to a 10-man United.
United rode on euphoria of Giggs goal in 1999: Wenger
The Giggs goal was the turning point in the season for both the heavyweight teams back in 1999. United eventually finished above Arsenal in the Premier League by a single point. And a week after the improbable triumph at Villa Park, United recovered from two goals down to beat Juventus in the Champions League semi-final and later staged another incredible comeback to beat Bayern Munich in the final.
United did the Treble, a landmark in the glorious history of the club. Arsenal won nothing.
“Giggs’s goal was what decided their season,” said Wenger. “I think that goal won them the Treble because if Bergkamp scores I think the game is over. It was a trauma for us. Bergkamp never again wanted to take a penalty and it put them on the road (to the Treble). I can still hear the shouts of their team having won, they couldn’t believe it because they were down to 10 men. And I think that put them on a wave of euphoria and then they won the title – just.”
After that they won the Champions League final in the last minutes – it was a miracle year for them.”
United can win without being exceptional: Wenger
Sixteen years on from the fateful final, newer challengers have usurped the places of United and Arsenal as the leading contenders in the English domestic league. A top four finish is what the two managers understandably give priority to.
Arsenal seem to be the early favourites to clinch Monday’s FA Cup tie, based on Manchester United’s recent form, but Wenger reminded that the Red Devils have the winning mentality – the ability to grind out results even when performing below par.
The last league fixture for Manchester United was decided by a defensive mix-up between Newcastle United defenders, and United fans have been disappointed with such manner that the team have been taking 3 points. Giggs’ refusal to celebrate the goal had summed up a majority club sentiment.
“They won sometimes with Fergie without being absolutely exceptional,” Wenger said. Especially against Arsenal at Old Trafford, where they have beaten his team in nine of their last 10 meetings. Indeed, Arsenal have won only one of their last 15 matches against United anywhere.
Relive the famous Giggs goal: