The Greatest Goal I Ever Saw: Newcastle's Phillipe Albert vs Manchester Utd

“On a day when Newcastle would have taken one-nil against Manchester United, here they are looking for number five, with Phillipe Albert... aaaawwwwhhh! Absolutely glorious!”
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“On a day when Newcastle would have taken one-nil against Manchester United, here they are looking for number five, with Phillipe Albert... aaaawwwwhhh! Absolutely glorious!”

“They think it's all over” might well be the most memorable piece of football commentary nationwide, but for every single Newcastle United fan who remembers the 20th of October 1996. Those words are forever etched into our minds. It was always going to be a special game. Manchester United were unbeaten in the league so far that year and Peter Schmeichel, the man who put on the greatest goalkeeping performance ever seen in the same fixture the previous season, hadn't seen his net bulge in around 9 hours of football.

Newcastle, by comparison, had been so full of expectation going into the season. Adding the world's best striker (FIFA's words, not mine) to a team who had narrowly missed out on title had sent hope of a first major trophy in too-bloody-long through the roof. We were behind on points, but could go top with a win that day.

And so it kicked off. Being only 9 years old at the time, my memories of the game as a whole aren't as complete as I'd like them to be. I can remember two uncles arguing about whether or not Darren Peacock's opener had crossed the line, and I can remember thinking David Ginola was the greatest player to ever walk the earth when he effortlessly span Gary Neville and lashed the second into the far corner.

I can remember that Les Ferdinand's header was definitely going in, then it wasn't, then it did, and I can remember running out into the garden with one arm held aloft when Shearer leathered the fourth into the corner of the net. Newcastle had avenged the 0-4 Charity Shield humiliation and gone top of the pile, the fairy story looked to be complete.

A goal of stunning class, unique vision and sheer balls-in-hand arrogance that will live with me until the maker rattles his death stick.

But if my memories of the game have faded over the years, due to some questionable lifestyle choices, too much contact sport and generally not watching where I walk, then the 83rd minute is still clear as day.

The move started with Peter Beardsely making a t*t of Brian McLair down the left wing and dinking a cross over the face of the goal that was just too high for the on-rushing Shearer. Rob Lee quickly dashed out to collect the pass, turned back in field and now, on the opposite wing, exchanged a quick one-two with David Batty. Evading the attentions of Nicky Butt he rolled the ball out to Philipe Albert, who had pushed slightly upfield from his position at centre-half.

His first touch wasn't brilliant, and perhaps forced his hand about striding towards goal. His second touch was also slightly heavy and had invited David Beckham to quickly close him down. Manchester United's discipline was impeccable, David May, Gary Pallister and Dennis Irwin all sticking with their man, awaiting the inevitable pass that the lack of space was about to force him to make. Covering the ridiculous notion of a shot, Schmeichel took a big step forward…..

And then it happened. The most delicate of lobs, a deftly impudent chip that ascended into the heavens and floated back down again as if blessed by whichever deity really doesn't like Manchester United. A goal of stunning class, unique vision and sheer balls-in-hand arrogance that will live with me until the maker rattles his death stick. Not from our mercurial Frenchman, not from our extravagant Colombian, our world record signing up-front or even Peter Beardsley, but from our Belgian centre-half.

Of course, goals are all about context, and as my Manchester United supporting friends have been quick to point out over the years, it was they who won the league that season. It does spare their blushes to know that even though they were stuffed harder than James Corden's xmas turkey in the battle, they did ultimately win the war. But it takes nothing away from the emotion and undiluted joy I still get seeing that impossibly large grin on Phillipe's mush as he slides on his back and rights himself on his knees in front of the dugout. Get in.

The Greatest Goal I Ever Saw: Newcastle United's Peter Beardsley in 1995

The Greatest Goal I Ever Saw: Newcastle United’s Faustino Asprilla v Barcelona