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Manchester United v Arsenal: Six FA Cup classics, from Ryan Giggs to Patrick Vieira


When Manchester United play Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford on Monday night, one of the great cup rivalries will resume.

This is the seventh time the pair have been drawn against each other in the quarter-finals of the competition or later and from Alan Sunderland’s Wembley winner to Ryan Giggs’ wonder goal there has been plenty of drama.

Here we look at how those ties played out as we recall six classic encounters between United and the Gunners…

Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal
2011 FA Cup – Quarter-Final

Neither side came into this clash high on confidence with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United having lost their previous two matches against Chelsea and Liverpool, while Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal had recently lost a League Cup final to Birmingham and been dumped out of the Champions League by Barcelona. Despite Ferguson naming an extraordinarily defensive side on paper, with seven defenders and Darron Gibson accompanying Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez, it was United who ran out 2-0 winners. Fabio da Silva opened the scoring and Rooney sealed it with a second soon after the break. The joy was short-lived however as United were beaten by rivals Manchester City in their Wembley semi-final.

Fabio Da Silva of Manchester United celebrates scoring their first goal during the FA Cup quarter final against Arsenal at Old Trafford in March 2011
Image: Fabio da Silva celebrates scoring the opener during the FA Cup quarter final at Old Trafford in 2011

Arsenal 0-0 (5-4 pens) Manchester United
2005 FA Cup – Final

History was made in Cardiff when the FA Cup final was decided on penalties for the first time with Arsenal beating Manchester United 5-4 on spot-kicks after a goalless draw. United had enjoyed by far the better of the game itself with Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy each hitting the woodwork and when Jose Antonio Reyes was sent off in the final moments of extra-time their dominance was confirmed in numbers as well as chances. But the Gunners showed extraordinary resilience and were blemish-free from 12 yards, while Paul Scholes saw his penalty saved by Jens Lehmann. The winning kick was taken by captain Patrick Vieira in what was to prove his final game for the club.

More from Fa Cup Quarter-finals

The Arsenal team celebrate Patrick Vieira scoring the last penalty after winning the FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Manchester United in 2005
Image: The Arsenal team celebrate Patrick Vieira scoring the last penalty to win the 2005 FA Cup Final

Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal
2004 FA Cup – Semi-Final

Arsenal had won the FA Cup in each of the previous two seasons and the so-called Invincibles were en route to going unbeaten throughout an entire Premier League season when the sides met at Villa Park in April 2004. However, it was Manchester United who progressed to the final against lower-league Millwall thanks to a 1-0 win. Edu and Patrick Vieira both hit the woodwork for the Gunners but with Thierry Henry omitted from the starting line-up and Ruud van Nistelrooy injured for the Red Devils, it was left to Paul Scholes to provide the incision, firing home from close range just after the half-hour mark. United held on to end Arsenal’s 18-game unbeaten run in the competition and claimed the trophy when they defeated Millwall 3-0 the following month.

Paul Scholes of Manchester United celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Cup semi-final match against Arsenal at Villa Park in April 2004
Image: Paul Scholes celebrates scoring the only goal of the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal in 2004

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
1999 FA Cup – Semi Final

This famous FA Cup meeting between the two clubs had enough drama for five classics. David Beckham opened the scoring by curling into the far corner – the first goal Arsenal had conceded in over seven hours. But Dennis Bergkamp equalised midway through the second half with a great turn and shot and the Gunners could’ve gone ahead when Nicolas Anelka had a goal disallowed for offside. When Roy Keane was sent off shortly afterwards, Arsenal were in the ascendancy and looked set to win it when Phil Neville conceded a last-minute penalty by bringing down Ray Parlour. But Peter Schmeichel saved brilliantly from Bergkamp and when Patrick Vieira surrendered possession to substitute Ryan Giggs, the Welshman scored one of the great solo goals. “The luckiest won,” said Arsene Wenger.

Ryan Giggs scores the winning goal for Manchester United against Arsenal in extra time during the FA Cup semi-final in 1999
Image: Ryan Giggs scores the winning goal in extra time during the FA Cup semi-final replay in 1999

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
1983 FA Cup – Semi Final

The 1983 FA Cup semi-final was the second domestic cup competition in which the two teams had faced off that season, with Ron Atkinson’s United already 6-3 aggregate winners over two legs of the League Cup. England international Tony Woodcock gave the Gunners the lead at Villa Park but Bryan Robson came up with an equaliser just before half-time. A 17-year-old Norman Whiteside was the hero for United when he thumped in the winner. “It was a great moment,” Robson told the official Manchester United website recently. “To have won the semi-final and be on the way to Wembley was fantastic.” It was to get better for Atkinson’s team when they beat Brighton at the second attempt to lift the trophy with both Robson and Whiteside among the scorers.

Gordon McQueen and Gary Bailey of Manchester United celebrate after the FA Cup final replay against Brighton and Hove Albion at Wembley Stadium in 1983
Image: Gordon McQueen and Gary Bailey celebrate winning the FA Cup at Wembley in 1983

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United
1979 FA Cup – Final

The old cliché about never being more vulnerable than when you’ve scored a goal ought to have been written for this game as Alan Sunderland ensured United’s comeback counted for nothing. The Gunners had gone ahead through Brian Talbot before Frank Stapleton doubled the lead just before half-time with Liam Brady once again the architect. But Gordon McQueen pulled one back from a set-piece with just five minutes remaining and a late equaliser by Sammy McIlroy, wriggling free from his markers, seemed to complete the comeback. However, just as the momentum seemed to be with Dave Sexton’s side, Sunderland popped up at the far post to turn in Graham Rix’s cross and win it for Arsenal. No wonder it was dubbed the ‘Five Minute Final’.

May 1979:  Alan Sunderland of Arsenal scores the winning goal during the FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Manchester United played at Wembley, London.
Image: Alan Sunderland scores the winning goal during the 1979 FA Cup Final against Manchester United

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