Arsenal wary of Manchester United threat says Wenger


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger can still hear the celebrations of the Manchester United players following Ryan Giggs' FA Cup wondergoal in their 1999 FA Cup semi-final, but hopes his team can enjoy their own "miracle year" with a result to savor at Old Trafford on Monday night (live on FOX Sports 1 at 3:45pm ET for readers in the US).

The Gunners take on United in their quarter-final tie for a place at Wembley with both sides looking to secure a positive end to a campaign which sees the former Barclays Premier League title heavyweights now battling to finish in the top four.

Some 16 years ago, however, it was a much different scenario as Wenger's powerful side and Sir Alex Ferguson's men fought for domestic supremacy when lining up for an FA Cup semi-final replay at Villa Park on a balmy April evening.

Following a disallowed goal from Nicolas Anelka, a red card for United midfield enforcer Roy Keane and a last-minute penalty kick from Dennis Bergkamp saved by Peter Schmeichel, the contest would be decided by what remains one of the greatest FA Cup goals.

In extra-time, Giggs latched onto a stray square pass from Patrick Vieira, danced his way down the left into the Arsenal penalty area before slamming the ball past David Seaman and wheeling away, shirt off in celebration as the Gunners were left crestfallen.

It proved a pivotal moment in that campaign, as United went on to win the Premier League by just a point following Arsenal's costly defeat at Leeds in their penultimate match, and then produced a quite remarkable comeback to defeat Bayern Munich and lift the European Cup in Barcelona.

Wenger recalled: "I think 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 (a lift) in a positive way.

"Bergkamp never wanted to take a penalty again, and it put them on the road (towards success).

"I can still hear the shouts of that (United) team, having won, they couldn't believe it because they were down to 10 men.

"They then won the title, just.

"United played (a draw) at Blackburn and we lost at Leeds in the last minutes when Nigel Winterburn was kicked off (the ball) and (Jimmy-Floyd) Hasselbaink scored at the far post and (earlier) (Kaba) Diawara (had) hit the bar twice.

"After that, United won the Champions League final in the last minutes – it was a miracle year, 1999, for them."

Wenger accepts while United versus Arsenal may not be the fixture it once was, that does not make Monday's tie any less intense.

"For years it was always the game of the season that decided the Premier League, at this moment it is not the case, but it is still a big game," he said.

Much has been made of United under Louis van Gaal but Wenger is not about to take the Red Devils – who beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium earlier this season – as a soft touch.

"They are still a strong side. You go there and I don't expect any weakness from Man Utd," he said.

"They have lost just two games in the last 22, so you want to beat them you have to produce performance."

Wenger, now the longest-serving manager in the Premier League, added: "They won as well sometimes under Fergie without being absolutely exceptional, no manager can maintain always the same quality.

"It is like that today. You have to be always perfect every single day, but our job is first of all about winning – and they do.

"But let's focus on our performance, the FA Cup is about giving it all on the day.

"We know they have a little advantage because they play at home, at Old Trafford where they feel confident, so to compensate that we have to put more effort in and produce a really top-level performance."


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