Arsenal vs Manchester United in 1999: What if Dennis Bergkamp scored that penalty in FA Cup semi-final replay?
talkSPORT.com looks at key moments in football history, where events could so easily have taken a different course and asks, what if?
It has been 20 years since Arsenal and Manchester United‘s thrilling FA Cup match. It was a game that had everything from red cards, glorious goals and here, talkSPORT.com ponders what if Dennis Bergkamp scored THAT penalty in the dying moments?
United and Arsenal were battling on all fronts domestically in the 1998/99 season. The former were on the verge of sealing the treble, but the latter were looking to win a second successive League and Cup double.
The rivals, and hands down the two best teams in the land, were evenly matched throughout the campaign, but in the end United pipped the Gunners to the Premier League crown by a point on the final day of the season and dumped them out of the FA Cup in the semi-final in the process.
That league campaign was breathtaking and is perhaps forgotten about due to Man United’s clean sweep on the trophy front.
Arsenal, with Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams, Nicolas Anelka and Bergkamp were a well-balanced side blessed with flair, toughness and a very mean defence. Between January and May the back four conceded just six goals.
Only one team could halt their quest for total domination again and in the semi-final replay at Villa Park on 14 April, Arsenal were beaten in extra-time thanks to a memorable Ryan Giggs goal.
But before that there were 90 minutes of pure drama.
David Beckham and Bergkamp scored two great goals, Roy Keane was sent off with around 15 minutes remaining and, as full-time edged closer and people anxiously checked their watches, Ray Parlour was brought down by an exhausted Phil Neville in the 18-yard box.
Penalty to Arsenal.
“I would have had my house on Dennis Bergkamp scoring the penalty,” Parlour later said.
“I remember asking the referee David Elleray how long was left and he said, ‘This is the last kick of the game’. It was Dennis versus Schmeichel and he saved it.”
Cue euphoria from United.
But what if he didn’t miss?
Well, Giggs would not have scored his wonder goal and Arsenal would have contested the FA Cup final against Newcastle instead. United’s treble dream would have been over, much to the delight of Liverpool fans; the Reds having celebrated their own treble success – First Division, European Cup and League Cup – 15 years earlier.
It was neck-and-neck in the title race at the time – a point separated them – and a win could well have provided Arsenal with the boost needed to win the league instead.
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“If Bergkamp had have scored, they’d have won the double. That’s just how small the margins are, and I think that’s the standout for me,” current United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.
In the penultimate games of the Premier League season, United drew with Blackburn and Arsenal lost at Leeds. “Nigel Winterburn was kicked off and [Jimmy Floyd] Hasselbaink scored at the far post and [Kaba] Diawara hit the bar twice,” Arsene Wenger said of the Leeds defeat.
“After that [United] won the Champions League final in the last minutes – it was a miracle year for them,” he added.
Sir Alex Ferguson claimed his players “played in agony to get the victory” at Villa Park following Keane’s red card. A week later, on the back of this momentum, the club fought back from 2-0 down to beat Juventus and set up the Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Certainly, there is a belief among Gooners that beating United would have broken them mentally and stopped them from becoming English champions at the very least.
“Giggs’ goal is what decided their season,” Wenger said, believing the win gave his rivals the edge in the title race.
“I can still hear the shouts of their team having won,” he said of the FA Cup clash. “They couldn’t believe it because they were down to 10 men. And I think that put them on a wave of euphoria and then they won the title – just.”
Once again, it’s all subjective because no one can say what would have really happened, so we’ll just end with this from Fergie: “That [FA Cup] game had everything, absolutely everything.”
Source: SportsLatest TS