Manchester United vs Arsenal preview: Arsene Wenger aims to avoid more hairy moments

The memory of Ryan Giggs scoring in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final still haunts Wenger

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The Independent Football

Clashes between Manchester United and Arsenal have been the stuff of history since Arsène Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996. But above all the memories stands one goal, and above that, the hitherto unseen and remarkable chest hair of Ryan Giggs.

For Wenger, it has a deeper meaning. That was the goal, he says, that won United the treble. “I saw it again when Giggs retired,” Wenger admits, of that extra-time goal in the semi-final replay in April 1999, after Dennis Bergkamp had missed a penalty that would have put the game almost  beyond doubt, and Giggs dribbled the length of the pitch and slammed the ball over David Seaman’s head.

“That goal, certainly, was what decided their season. That goal won them the treble, because if Bergkamp scores, the game is over. It was a trauma for us in a negative way and for them in a positive way. Bergkamp never again wanted to take a penalty. I can still hear the shouts of that team, having won, they couldn’t  believe it. They were down to 10 men. That put them into euphoria.”


The ramifications of that goal, given the tiny margins of their successes to come, were huge. “Then they won the title – just,” added Wenger. “They played at Blackburn and we lost at Leeds in the last minute when Nigel Winterburn was kicked off and [Jimmy-Floyd] Hasselbaink scored at the far post and [Kaba] Diawara hit the bar twice.

“After that, they won the Champions League final in the last minutes. It was a miracle year, ’99, for them.” Tomorrow’s match will see Jonny Evans serving the first game of his six-match suspension for spitting at Newcastle’s Papiss Cissé last week.

“Today television makes it worse,” said Wenger. “I’ve been subject personally to spitting. At the time nobody spoke about it. I played  before you could see everything  on television. When you see it  on television, it of course makes  it worse.”

Manchester Utd v Arsenal is live on BBC1 tomorrow, kick-off 7.45pm