Top 5 United v Arsenal Goals!
As today's big clash looms large, I decided to enlist my five favourite goals from recent Manchester United v Arsenal clashes. Warning: do not look for Cantona's magnificent free-kick, as only Fergie v Wenger battles are included.
5. Roy Keane, August 1999
A fantastic game, full of end-to-end action and moments of brilliance, one of the best Arsenal v United clashes. Though we were undoubtedly superior in the first half - a remarkable thing given we lost here 3-0 the year before, in the Treble season -, Arsenal took the lead through Ljungberg early in the second and it seemed that as Cole and Yorke could not finish to save their lives, we were doomed. But then came Keano's moments: first he equalised then as the clock neared 90 minutes, he brought down a woefully mis-hit Giggs shot and drilled the winner into the far corner, stunning a sun-bathed Highbury into silence.
4. Ryan Giggs, April 2003
Of course that certain April game, billed as a title decider, is more memorable because of Van Nistelrooy's brilliant goal: the Dutchman picked up the ball near the halfway line but went all the way to chip Stewart Taylor to give United a deserved lead. However, I like Giggs' simple header more. Why? Because due to outrageous luck (Cole's woeful shot was deflected off Henry and went in between Barthez's legs for the equaliser) and a terrible decision from the linesman (he somehow failed to spot that Henry was at least a yard offside) Arsenal took the lead. Then, immediately after the restart, Solskjaer crossed the ball in from the right and Giggs headed home at the far post, thus triggering defiant celebrations among the visitors. And of course United went on to win the league as Arsenal threw away a 2-0 lead at Bolton and managed to lose at home to Leeds.
3. John O'Shea, February 2005
How could I omit this one? The game itself was quite meaningless as Chelsea ran away with the title. But after ending Arsenal's unbeaten run in October in controversial circumstances, it was always going to be a classic. Arsenal twice took the lead, making the most of some bad defending but a United side, driven by Roy Keane who played his last great game for the club, never gave in. The Irishman who put Vieira firmly to his place before the match in the tunnel and on the pitch, played irresistibly, despite claiming afterwards that he was crap. United were 3-2 up but a man down as Arsenal poured forward for the equaliser in the dying minutes. Then Heinze played the ball to Scholes whose brilliant pass found O'Shea on the edge of the box. The Irishman, with infinite coolness, lifted the ball over the advancing Almunia then turned to his joyful teammates with a disbelieving smile on his face. Classic!
2. Ruud van Nistelrooy, October 2004
49 and out! Arsenal fans still can't stop moaning about this penalty but the fact that it was a dive from Rooney made it all the sweeter for us. A year before this game, Arsenal reacted disgracefully to a penalty miss by Van Nistelrooy, punching, pushing and shoving him, led by pre-humans such as Martin Keown, Lauren and Ray Parlour. So it was wonderful that a year later, in a tense, physical game, Van Nistelrooy got his chance to pay them back everything. Lehmann tried to confuse him once again by constantly moving on the goalline but the Dutchman was not to be denied: he sent the German the wrong way and slotted the ball home coolly. His subsequent run to celebrate on his knees, shouting to the sky in front of the Stretford End, is unforgettable - just as Rooney's goal at the end which confirmed that the worst losers of English football's history were finally beaten.
1. Ryan Giggs, April 1999
Big surprise, eh? Yes, the best ever goal of FA Cup history is the first. United, despite outplaying Arsenal in both games of this semi-final, could not find the breakthrough. And when Roy Keane was sent off in the replay, things started to look rather bleak. And disaster loomed large when Parlour broke into the box, only to be tripped by Phil Neville. The Treble dream was disappearing quickly but Schmeichel brilliantly kept out Bergkamp's penalty to send the match into extra time. Arsenal dominated that against ten-man United but failed to score and it looked like going to penalties. However, it was edge-of-your-seat stuff when Vieira, due to intentions best known by himself, gave the ball to Giggsy at the halfway line. The Welshman proceeded to attack everybody in a red shirt, leaving Dixon, Adams and Winterburn trailing hopelessly after he beat them then unleashed a ferocious shot from the edge of the six yard box into the roof of David Seaman's net. Fergie famously claimed afterwards that though the reporter might have a point about the physically draining nature of this game, this is what football is about, this is what people will be talking about for years, not a routine, energy-saving 2-0 win. And he was right, of course.