Giggs – Man Utd vs Arsenal – 1999

13 02 2011

This goal had to be on the list really didn’t it. Thanks to Liam Blackburn for doing the business. You can follow Liam on Twitter @LiamBlackburn

“Instinct is action taken in pursuance of a purpose, but without conscious perception of what the purpose is”

Instinct can sometimes be a wonderful thing. In the professional era, sportsmen and women spend years finely tuning their skills and meticulously practicing for different scenarios. But sport, like life itself, never quite goes by the script.
The fact you simply cannot account for what happens once you’re out there is one of the things that makes football so captivating. You can’t turn to your playbook halfway through the match like you can in American football. You can’t turn to a specific bowler and set your field up to play a certain way like you can in cricket.
Three of my favourite goals of all time would have to be Marco Van Basten, Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Carlos. Each is a single masterstroke by their creator’s right or left boot. They represent three of the finest examples of technique that I have ever seen. All three in their own way push the boundaries of what I thought physically possible on a football pitch, yet each knew exactly what they were planning to do. They had to because they happened so swiftly. Van Basten and Zidane would have spent hours smashing volleys in at their prospective training grounds and Roberto Carlos no doubt knew he could bend the ball that way before he even set foot on the pitch that night.
This was simply not the case when Ryan Giggs scored against Arsenal in April 1999. When he picked the ball up, he could barely have envisioned what was to come.
The situation is important to consider because what Giggs did was actually rather foolish. At the time, Manchester United were struggling. In extra time of an F.A. semi-final replay, they were down to ten men and weathering a storm from the current double holders.
When the ball broke to Giggs some ten yards inside his own half, the last thing his manager would have wanted him to do was run directly at Arsenal’s vastly experienced back four.
Even accounting for his chosen route, there were at least two occasions where Giggs could have found a colleague and his team would have enjoyed a vital spell of possession. Moreover they’d have welcomed the respite from Arsenal’s attacking onslaught.
But Giggs ran and kept the ball under close control, slaloming his way past defenders before unleashing a rasping finish past Seaman. It wasn’t a run propelled by searing pace or defined by monumental trickery, it was a run based purely on instinct.
It was almost childlike naivety to think that he could sway past three defenders before slamming home. For those four seconds, Giggs was the annoying kid who thinks he can bypass his teammates and take everyone on before scoring. But this was never Giggs’ intention. His intuition simply told him to keep running and the scenario played out before him. There was little thought, little preparation, dare I say little in the way of technique, certainly not to the same degree of the three strikes I mentioned before.
Even the eventual finish was not taken from the coaching manual. Giggs was facing an acute angle with the imposing Seaman stood tall in front of him and Paul Scholes coming in at the far post. The situation screamed for Giggs to adopt one of the more familiar mantras of ‘hard and low across the keeper’ where an expectant Scholes would no doubt have been on hand to apply the finish should Seaman have parried it. But instead Giggs absolutely smashed the ball into the roof of the net. Instinct had got him that far and it provided the cherry on top too. Well, almost.
As Giggs wheeled away in celebration, there was no pre-rehearsed Welsh jig or t-shirt message for the masses to devour. Instead he whipped off his top and proceeded to allow the world to see a quite impressive ‘chest rug’. That, like the goal itself, was a spur of the moment thing. But it was just as iconic as the match winner.
The goal also had massive implications in this game and beyond. The match was stacked with drama from David Beckham’s magnificent opener, to Peter Schmeichel’s injury-time penalty save and then Roy Keane’s sending off. Winning such an epic battle was important in terms of the United-Arsenal rivalry and in terms of the end of season run in.
Giggs’ goal and the resulting win spoke volumes of United’s character that year. An unrelenting commitment to finding ways to win followed them throughout the 1998 and 1999 campaign. That was never more evident than the 1999 Champions League final where United sealed a quite remarkable treble.
But this goal ranks as one of the more pivotal moments of that season. Not only did it put United in their first final but it also installed a sense of belief. Had sensibility overcome instinctiveness who knows what would have happened in the final two months of that glorious year.




One response

17 02 2011
Tweets that mention Giggs – Man Utd vs Arsenal – 1999 « GhostGoal --

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ghostgoal, Liam Blackburn. Liam Blackburn said: Just realised @ghostgoal has put my 'Favourite Goal' piece up It's Giggs v Arsenal '99 in case you were wondering #mufc […]

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