FA Cup, 14.4.99, Arsenal 1 – 2 Manchester United
United scraped a draw at home against Juventus in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final, thanks to a last minute Ryan Giggs goal. Our back was against the wall here, with the Treble still a possibility, but the chances of achieving it dwindling. We had to go to Juventus and get a result but before then we had to knock our title rivals out of the FA Cup.
Four days after the Juve game, we played extra time against Arsenal only to see the game finish 0-0, with Nelson Vivas getting sent off in the 95th minute.
We had a further three days rest before taking on Arsenal again, now just seven days away from our trip to Italy. United took an early lead thanks to a great goal by David Beckham but Dennis Bergkamp equalised for them with twenty minutes to play, the start of our troubles. Just a few minutes after their equalising goal our captain Roy Keane was sent off. This meant if we couldn’t wrap up the game in normal time we would have to play 45 minutes with ten men, on top of the 75 minutes we’d already played. Our lads would be exhausted, particularly given we’d already played extra time just a few days before.
It almost didn’t get to extra time though after Phil Neville gave away a last minute penalty. Peter Schmeichel’s, whose thigh was strapped up through injury, stood on his line awaiting Bergkamp to put us out of our misery. Incredibly, Schmeichel saved the penalty and the team with ten men were rejuvenated.
When Patrick Vieira gave the ball away to Ryan Giggs no one could have predicted what was to follow. No matter how many times I’ve seen this goal, the effects are always the same. Goosebumps and pure joy. Arsenal had by far the best defence in England and probably the best in Europe, conceding a massive 20 fewer goals than us in the league that year. But that didn’t stop Ryan Giggs ripping them to shreds, dancing through their defenders, taking on some of them twice, then firing it in to the roof of David Seaman’s net. It was magnificent. We were going to Wembley!
Three days after that victory we beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 in the league and four days after that we went to Turin. After ten minutes had been played it looked as though the effects of those two long games against Arsenal had taken their toll, as we were 2-0 down. Roy Keane had the best game of his career, more than making up for his absence against Arsenal, by scoring our first goal and playing out of his skin, despite picking up a yellow card that would mean he missed the final. We went on to win 3-2 and booked our place in the European Cup final too.
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