On this day in 1999...

Giggs sends treble-chasing United to Wembley

Ryan Giggs of Manchester United beats the despairing lunge of Tony Adams of Arsenal to drive the ball past David Seaman
© Getty Images

Arsenal's victory over Wigan Athletic means the sting of a far less fond FA Cup semi-final memory will not be felt quite as keenly by fans of the Gunners. It was 15 years ago when Ryan Giggs produced one of the most iconic images of Manchester United's treble-winning season – and scored one of the cup's greatest goals, as his outrageous run earned his side a 2-1 win in extra-time of their last-four replay.

That season, United were fresh from having their English Premier League party crashed by Arsene Wenger's side, whose double-winning escapades had seen the soon-to-be knighted Alex Ferguson denied three-successive titles. The response to that set-back, as we now know, was staggering, as the Red Devils swept the board at home and in Europe.

However, history could have been very easily altered had things not gone United's way at Villa Park in April 1999. The teams could not be separated three days earlier, in what was a uncomfortable and edgy two hours that ended 0-0. When they reconvened all the pieces fell into place to produce a staggeringly entertaining match.

There was nervous tension in the tunnel as the sides retraced their steps, but it took just 17 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, and in superb style. A long punt from Peter Schmeichel was taken down and exchanged between Teddy Sheringham and David Beckham, with the latter curling the ball into David Seaman's bottom corner with a precision and technique reminiscent of one of his textbook free-kicks.

United took control as the game progressed into the second-half, where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – twice – and Jesper Blomqvist both could have potentially wrapped the game up. With those chances spurned, Arsenal levelled moments later through a massive stroke of fortune, as Dennis Bergkamp's shot deflected wickedly beyond Schmeichel.

Roy red swings pendulum
The tide looked to be turning the way of the reigning champions when the only thing that denied Nicholas Anelka putting them in front was a tight offside call. A second yellow card for talismanic United captain Roy Keane, however, with fifteen minutes to go – after bringing down Marc Overmars – really did shift things in Arsenal's favour.

Now the game was very much theirs for the taking and, with extra-time seconds away, Phil Neville clumsily felled Ray Parlour to gift the Londoners the chance to retain the trophy. Bergkamp stepped up, but the Dutchman lost out to the Dane, with Schmeichel diving to his left to turn the ball around the post. Arsenal remained in the ascendancy into extra-time against the diminished and stretched United, with Bergkamp forcing another fine save from the Red Devils' No1.

With ten minutes separating the sides from a penalty shoot-out, the moment that defined the tie came. A misplaced cross-field pass by Patrick Vieira gifted the ball to Giggs just inside his own half. The Welshman, who had arrived as a 60th minute substitute drove purposefully at Lee Dixon with a confidence fuelled by fresher legs.

Quickly, 70 yards from goal turned into 50; 50 into 30; 30 into the edge of the area. Both Dixon and Martin Keown were turned inside out as Giggs darted forward, nipping in between the pair of them before unleashing a vicious shot over the despairing grasp of Seaman and into the roof of the net. The run took ten seconds from start to finish, and it was ten seconds that ensured the season goes down as United's best ever.

The resulting image of Giggs charging down the touchline, shirt whirling above his head, is etched into the minds of the opposing fans for starkly different reasons, and it remains one of the FA Cup's most enduring moments.

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