Fifteen years ago today, Manchester United and Arsenal met at Villa Park to replay the FA Cup semi-final. The first game had ended 0-0; the second was one of the greatest cup games of modern times.
It had everything. David Beckham opening the scoring with a great goal that rather gets forgotten, a looping thirty-yard thump that did David Seaman in flight. Dennis Bergkamp equalised with twenty minutes to go, and then a few moments later Arsenal celebrated what they thought was a winner; it took them nearly a minute to notice that Nicolas Anelka had been flagged offside. Roy Keane was dismissed with fifteen minutes to go, obviously, and then the final act of normal time saw Peter Schmeichel leaping to his left to keep out Bergkamp's last minute penalty.
And then, in the 109th minute, Ryan Giggs did this:
Yeah, I suppose it was the best goal I've ever scored.
It is a goal that will be up there among the greatest ever scored by a United man, and the real beauty was that it instilled in the team a new hope and inspiration that they could win the Treble at a time when their chances seemed to be ebbing away.
Frank Worrell, Giggsy: The Biography of Ryan Giggs
It was what Matt Busby had told Bobby Charlton to do: run at a defence at pace. The Old Man would have loved it. Here was the most celebrated back line in English football cleaving to Giggs' advance, allowing him to run unchecked, untrammelled, untouched…. It was a goal of skill, of cunning and above all of adventure.
Jim White, Manchester United: The Autobiography
Wonderful! Wonderful! Fit to win any football match!
Andy Gray, co-commentator
It was an incredible goal, anyway, but even more so in that he did it when we were down to 10 men and had our backs against the wall, just holding firm against wave after wave of attacks. It will be one of the defining moments in his career, although the one disappointment was the lasting image of his celebration — removing his shirt to reveal his hairy chest!
I started poorly, giving the ball away the first three or four times I got it, generally having a bit of a nightmare. So I decided that the next time I took possession I wasn't going to pass it, I was just going to dribble.
Patrick Vieira looked tired and I was lurking a little infield from the left wing when I saw him prepare to switch play. Hoping to intercept it, I crept forward and the ball came to me. Then I started running with it, sometimes touching it, sometimes letting it run, doing body-swerves all the while. I seemed to beat everybody in front of me, and the next thing I know I'm in the box … I just put my boot through the ball as hard as I could.
Ryan Giggs: My Life, My Story
Happy days. More extensive highlights here: