In April 1999 one of the world’s hairiest men ripped the shirt from his back, exposing a torso that seemed to have a small otter dangling from each nipple. That man was Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs, and rather than furiously undressing in a bid to pork a family member’s unguarded wife, he was celebrating the remarkable goal that had dumped Arsenal out of the FA Cup.
But, as these two old rivals resume cup hostilities on Monday, it’s worth us remembering some of the other encounters – encounters that didn’t involved a Welsh sex pest dashing bare-chested past the crumpled pile of skin and teeth that used to be Martin Keown.
2002 – Year of the Boot Face
Perhaps it’s not entirely surprising for a tie that began with 3 bookings in the first seven minutes to end with Britain’s most frequently shirtless character to find a disembodied football boot hurtling towards his expertly moisturised face. Luckily for fans of grown men acting like poorly stimulated toddlers, this is precisely what happened.
Having surrendered rather tamely to a 2-0 defeat, Manchester United faced a typically philosophical post match appraisal from their manager. Choosing to overlook Ryan Giggs’ hilarious open goal miss, Sir Alex Ferguson instead targeted his displeasure towards David Beckham – presumably for the carelessness with which he allowed Edu’s free kick to ping off his shoulder and past Fabien Barthez (who was presumably smoking a hand-rolled cigarette and shrugging at the time).
Ferguson’s swing at a stray pile of boots had the worst/best possible consequences and the two men had to be pulled apart. ‘Suddenly it was like some mad scene out of a gangster film’ said Beckham, indicating that his mum stops ‘Goodfellas’ right before each ‘whacking’ and explains to young David that the bad men were merely engaged in a bout of Versace ‘handbags’.
2004 – Year of the Vincibles
In the season where Arsenal charged unbeaten to the Premier League title, Manchester United did at least manage to land one meaningful nob-punch as they galloped by. Meeting at Villa Park in the semi finals, United ground out a, perhaps fortunate, one-nil win. The prize for this victory was a cup final against Millwall that was so appalling to look at, the only sensible outcome was for Mike Ashley to one day appoint Dennis Wise in a lucrative executive role.
Aside from being a rare fleck of sick on Arsenal’s pristine toilet bowl of a season, the game was also a glimpse into a magical universe where people lay eggs while chickens irresponsibly cripple global financial markets. Roy Carroll had a stunning game, Wes Brown looked like the very model of an immaculate modern defender and even Jérémie Aliadière and David Bellion got a run out – presumably because they’d done such a good job of washing Ferguson and Wenger’s jointly-owned pedalo.
2008 – Year of the Super Nan
Very much from the pool of oddities in which typewriting monkeys can write the complete works of William Shakespeare, Nani sometimes plays well. One of these ‘sometimes’ just happened to be at the heart of a majestic 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round.
Scoring one and supplying sublime crosses for a further two goals, Nani looked like a winger worth every penny of the £18 million he cost – as opposed to the player you’d cheerfully swap for a Kit Kat Chunky and a Lighthouse Family CD. The surprise of not being awful clearly overwhelmed the poor fellow, and he proceeded to show off his repertoire of audacious tricks – earning a not undeserved booting from notoriously joyless Frenchman William Gallas.
2011 – Year of the Hack
With a Manchester United side that lined up with 7 defenders (including Rafael and Fabio, possibly the only two clumsy Brazilians ever born) this was never going to be a classic FA Cup encounter. And so it proved, right up to the point when Ferguson unlocked the Jurassic Park style cage that contained Paul Scholes.
At 36, and with no better idea of how to tackle than he had when he was 10, Scholes proceeded to produce the most perilous 10 minutes of FA Cup action since matches in the 1870s when there was a serious danger of players contracting typhoid.
Clattering into Marouane Chamakhk and Samir Nasri in quick succession, Scholes was fortunate to come away with one yellow card, rather than the seven he was clearly aiming for. These of course were the days before the ginger Liam Neeson could speak, and his only means of expressing discontent tended to leave some poor soul with a trail of stud marks from ankle to eyebrow.