Ryan Giggs has reflected on that FA Cup semi-final winner against Arsenal, his stunning solo strike for Manchester United coming 21 years ago this week.
The Welsh winger scored one of the most memorable goals in cup history just over two decades ago, the two great rivals meeting in a last-four clash at Villa Park with both sides vying for the Premier League and FA Cup.
An enthralling encounter had already seen David Beckham and Dennis Bergkamp exchange goals, before the drama continued as the latter saw an extra-time penalty saved by Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane having earlier been sent off. It would be Giggs, however, who would the final say for Manchester United.
Picking the ball up inside his own half following a wayward pass from Patrick Vieira, the winger ran at the Arsenal defence and evaded a succession of desperate challenges before firing high past a helpless David Seaman – the goal amongst the most iconic moments of a treble-winning season for the Old Trafford side.
The Welshman has now reflected on a career-defining moment in 1999, and says his decision to take on the Gunners defence was ‘purely instinctive’.
“I’d come off the bench, and I was having a bit of a nightmare, actually! I gave the ball away a couple of times, and I said to myself, ‘Ryan, next time you get the ball, have a dribble’,” Giggs told Sky Sports. “At that time, we were down to 10 men, and I was just going to run at the defence.
“It was one of those times which happens in your career when it was purely instinctive. I had nothing in my mind… it was just a case of running with the ball and beating the player in front of me.
21 today! 🎉
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“The next thing I knew, I was in the box, and I just decided to shoot. Scholesy was actually free inside the box… he was screaming at me to square it, but I didn’t even see him. It was just instinctive – normally, I’d see the player free inside the box, but I just thought of shooting.
“If you look back at the goal, once there’s two defenders, it can be better for me because they were relying on the other to tackle me. None of them actually committed, whereas if it was just Patrick Vieira on his own, he’d have probably taken me out. He saw Lee Dixon was in front of me and must have thought his team had it covered.
“It was also extra time, so perhaps Patrick was tired whereas had it been in the first few minutes, he’d have taken me out without a second thought.”
An iconic goal was followed by an equally iconic celebration, Giggs swirling his shirt above his head in manic fashion to reveal what can only be described as a chest-rug before being mobbed by teammates.
“I press stop as soon as the ball hits the net, I don’t want to see that celebration!” he added.
“But it was only a few years ago when Scholesy mentioned it during a Q&A. Scholesy went to take his top off, and that would’ve got me out of jail!
“Instead of seeing my hairy chest, you’d have seen Scholesy’s white chest running after me, so that would’ve got me out of jail.
“It was a celebration I’d never done before and have never done since. I’d been pretty boring with my previous celebrations with just one hand up running off, but it was just how big a game it was and the emotions were riding high. It had a lot to do with the rivalry we had with Arsenal.”