Arsenal Fan: I Wouldn't Swap Seeing That 1999 Giggs FA Cup Goal For A Gunners Victory

If Arsenal had won that game, it would've swung the title race in our favour. However, a moment of pure footballing genius from Ryan Giggs saw Manchester United go on to secure the FA Cup win at Villa Park and I wouldn't swap that moment for a thing.
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If Arsenal had won that game, it would've swung the title race in our favour. However, a moment of pure footballing genius from Ryan Giggs saw Manchester United go on to secure the FA Cup win at Villa Park and I wouldn't swap that moment for a thing.


The Greatest Goal Against Arsenal: Ryan Giggs' Mazy Run & Finish For Manchester United

Last weekend Ryan Giggs scored a top-flight goal for the 23rd year in a row. Just take breath and re-read that last sentence - 23rd year in a row! The Welsh Wizard may be well into a slow (but graceful) decline but there is no doubting the outrageous talent he once was (and in many ways continues to be). Through hard work, dedication, great decision making, humbleness and fantastic knowledge of the game (and lots of yoga, apparently) Giggs has kept himself relevant even at the age of 39, re-inventing himself first as a centre forward in the number 10 role, and latterly as a utility central midfielder.

It is truly amazing to see a 39-year-old man still cropping up with goals in a title winning team year after year, but for me, and I assume for most football fans, the real Ryan Giggs is the mid to late 90’s model that would terrify opposition defences on weekly basis; the floppy-haired, hazy-footed speed demon and scorer of the greatest goal I ever saw scored against Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal had won the double in 1997-1998 and in doing so had ignited a battle that would rage for years in what was, for me, the Premier League’s most exciting period (but I’m bound to say that because as an Arsenal fan; it was the last time when we were really relevant). The following season saw Manchester United pip Arsenal to the Premier League title by a single point, returning the favour from Arsenal’s double-winning year.

These two titans of the English game, Mr Ferguson’s (he was not yet a Sir) trophy guzzling behemoth and Monsieur Wenger’s stylish upstarts, had landed blow and counter-blow in a nail-biting league season. When they met in the 1999 FA Cup Semi-Final replay at Villa Park United were four points ahead in the league but with Arsenal having closed the gap from seven at the start of the month. A loss for United and it could well have catalysed their fall from the top and the first time they had been two years without a Premier League trophy to take home.

So, it came down to extra time in a Semi-Final replay. Almost 210 minutes of football and still there was no separating these two fantastic teams. David Beckham had shot United ahead early in the game with a typically emphatic finish with Dennis Bergkamp bettering Beckham's 17th minute effort with a superb, long-range strike with half an hour of normal time to play.


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Extra-time was all Arsenal and the constant pressure paid dividend when Phil Neville brought down Ray parlour in the penalty area. This was it - Arsenal would take this game and the initiative in the season. United would buckle. Dennis Bergkamp, the mercurial Dutchman with a sublime intelligence for the game, the balance of a ballerina and a devastating right foot would end the Manchester dream. Except he didn’t. Schmeichel saved a rather weak penalty and it looked like we were heading for penalties.

It is in these moments that great players show their worth.

A loose pass from Patrick Vieira was pounced upon by Giggs and the winger drove through the centre of the field, stripping first Overmars for pace and trickery, then Vieira, then Dixon, then Keown, then Dixon again before finally rifling a shot into the roof David Seaman’s net. The place erupted, Giggs whirled around, stripping his shirt off and waving it as a flag of victory and I sat there, in the pub, in silence. Crushing, crushing disappointment sparred with sheer amazement for which was the dominant emotion in my 19-year-old body.

The thing is, though, even then, in the immediacy of the event, I was aware that what I had witnessed was out of the ordinary. It was what football was all about, a moment of pure brilliance from a master of the game to separate two teams playing at the very top. It was a moment, an event, something that would be talked about for years. It was special.

Football fans are often accused (quite rightly) of tribalism and myopia but it is moments like Ryan Giggs’ 1999 FA Cup wonder goal that stir us from this blinkered viewpoint. They’re what the sport is all about - the joy of seeing someone do something amazing, that feeling of exhilaration as the ball hits the back of the net. I’m sure many Arsenal fans will deride me for this, but I wouldn’t exchange that goal for an Arsenal victory - it was too perfect a footballing moment and is indelibly stamped into my memory as a record of just how affecting football can be. If you love your team then you love the highs and the lows. This goal is the low I love the most.