The last ever replay match played in FA cup history had everything; a disallowed goal, missed chances, a sending off, an injury time penalty, and one of the most brilliant goals ever scored; and to think of it this match could have been avoided had Roy Keaneai??i??s goal in the original had not been wrongly chalked off for offside. Ai??This was not just a semi-final match, but a match between Manchester United FC and Arsenal FC, two rivals competing for the title of Champion of England.

Backdrop

The previous season Arsenal FC lifted the premier league title by overhauling Manchester Unitedai??i??s eleven point lead in Arsene Wengerai??i??s first full season as manager of Arsenal. Wenger became the first non-British manager to win the title league in England.Ai?? Few days later Arsenal defeated Newcastle United 2-0 to lift the FA cup, thus becoming only the second team after Manchester United to win a second double in English football. During the early part of the season Manchester United were in scintillating form and by 1st March, 1998 had a lead of 11 points over second placed Arsenal but the Gunners had 3 matches in hand. However Arsenal picked up the pace towards the later part of season and by mid-march the lead had been cut down to just 3 points and the title was sealed on 3rd May by Arsenalai??i??s 4-0 win over Everton. Arsenal FC finished the season on 78 points and Manchester United finished second on 77 points.

Going into 1998-99, Manchester United altered the squad heavily. In came Dwight Yorke from Aston Villa, Jaap Stam from PSV and Jasper Blomqvist from Parma. Both, Manchester United and Arsenal hadnai??i??t lost in any competition since Christmas and going in towards the end of the season both were locked into one of the most exciting title run-ins seen in recent times. Manchester United won the premier league title on the last day of the season after Arsenal lost 1-0 at Elland Road and United won 2-1 against Tottenham. United had 79 points at the end of the season against 78 points of Arsenal.

Arsenal came into this clash after beating Derby 1-0 at Highbury and Manchester United drew against Chelsea 0-0 at Old Trafford and then in replay beat Chelsea FC 0-2 at Stamford Bridge through a brace from Yorke. The semi-final match was scheduled on 11th April at Villa Park, which was drawn 0-0 after a Roy Keane goal was wrongly ruled out for offside. The replay was scheduled three days later at the same venue.

The Match

The match began at a slow pace with ball mainly remaining in the midfield. On 8th minute Nicky Butt was hacked down in the Arsenal box but the penalty shouts were turned down. United piled on early pressure resulting in three consecutive corners, which resulted into nothing. Arsenal were struggling initially. The early Manchester United pressure paid off with Beckham scoring a wonderful 25 yard goal which settled in the bottom corner past a diving Seaman, after receiving pass from Sheringham. Soon Bergkamp tested Schemeichel with a shot after coming in from right leaving three defenders in his wake, which the keeper could only parry away.Ai?? Keane, Beckham and Stam were booked in quick succession and Arsenal finally starting to gain a foothold in the match and forcing Schemeichel to make good saves.

Second half started the same way as first half with Manchester United putting initial pressure with Solskjaer dragging his shot wide and Blomqvsit forcing a save from Seaman. On 62nd minute both, Arsenal and Manchester United made substitution with Giggs coming on for Blomqvist and Overmars coming on from Ljunberg. With the introduction of Overmars the match tilted in favor of Arsenal. Soon Solskjaer was sent clear on the right but shot straight at Seaman. A minute later Arsenal had a equalizer through Bergkamp, who cut in from left and shot towards goal. The ball took a deflection off Stam and went into goal. Soon chances were coming on both sides.Ai?? However soon Bergkamp hit a shot, which Schemeichel couldnai??i??t hold, and Anelka latched onto the rebound and slotted home but the goal was ruled out for offside.

However soon Arsenal had an upper hand when Keane hacked down Overmars and got his marching orders and as expected Arsenal dominated the rest of the match against a 10 men Manchester United. United played defensively for rest of the match, which resulted in Arsenal struggling to find a breakthrough. Towards the end Overmars broke clear and Phil Neville tripped him resulting in a penalty. Bergkamp stepped up to take the penalty but Schemeichel guessed right and dived left to save the penalty. The match went into extra time. Arsenal failed to test the keeper again.

The defining moment of the match came in 109th minute with Vieira playing a tired pass that went straight to Giggs ten yards from Unitedai??i??s goal. Giggs started his blistering run and went past Dixon and Keownai??i??s challenges and slot over Seaman. It broke Arsenal hearts and Giggs removed his shirt to reveal his hairy chest. Arsenal had a couple of chances after that but failed to score.

The epic contest ended with United winning 1-2 against a dominant Arsenal. Manchester United lifted the cup to complete a domestic double for the third time by beating Newcastle United 2-0. Sir Alex Ferguson coined the phrase ai???twisted bloodai??? when asked what he thought of the wonder goal.

Aftermath

Manchester United went to the final of Champions League against Bayern Munich at Camp Nou. Bayern scored the first goal early into the match and were on their way to win the match. However Manchester United had other plans.Ai?? As seen during so many times during the season, Manchester United scored late into the match through Sheringham and Solskjaer in injury time to be crowned as Champions of Europe. Commentator Clive Tyldesley described the second Manchester United goal asAi?? ai???Is this their moment? Beckhamai??i?? into Sheringhamai??i?? and Solskjaer has won it! Manchester United have reached the Promised Land.ai??? These words are etched in every Manchester United fanai??i??s mind for times immortal.

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