Arsene Wenger: For years it (Manchester United vs Arsenal) was always THE game of the season that decided the Premier League, at this moment it’s not the case but it is still a big game. It could be again of course.
Sir Alex Ferguson: That game had everything, absolutely everything. I rested five players that night and Giggs was one of them.
Lee Dixon: It’s funny, because in the dressing room before the game, all the players were saying how lucky I was because Ryan Giggs was on the bench. Blomqvist was playing left-wing, so Ryan didn’t play. I said: ‘What’s lucky about him coming on with 10 minutes to go with fresh legs when I’m really tired?’ And it panned out that way.
Ray Parlour: You look at those games and it is always the first goal. If you get that first goal you can go on and win the game. Roy Keane got sent off and we are thinking, ‘we are in control now’. It could have gone either way. I got brought down by Phil Neville and I would have had my house on Dennis Bergkamp scoring the penalty.
Peter Schmeichel: I had lost my sense of time and was under the impression that there were at least seven or eight minutes left, so as Dennis Bergkamp placed the ball on the spot, the full implications of the penalty hadn’t hit me. I gambled correctly. The Wembley dream was still alive and that knocked the stuffing out of Arsenal.
David Beckham: Patrick Vieira of all people, one of the best midfielders in the world, misplaced a pass on the halfway line. Ryan Giggs got onto the ball and just started running. Giggsy was one of the few of us who had any legs left because he came on as a sub after about an hour.
Dixon: A fresh Ryan Giggs going into extra time wasn’t an ideal situation. When he set off, it seemed like there was no danger. We weren’t really that concerned about him. Ferguson: All of a sudden I just saw Giggs on the ball. Vieira tried a cross-field pass. It got cut out by Giggs who was in a really deep position – more deep than he normally is – and he set off. I kept saying ‘pass it, pass it’. At that time we were saying, ‘keep the ball’. We were happy for it to go to penalty kicks with 10 men. Our main thought on that bench was, ‘hold the ball, keep it, kill time’.
Keane: I still can’t understand why no Arsenal player fouled him when he was running 40 or 50 yards to score a goal. When you lose a ball on the halfway line you shouldn’t worry too much when you are up against 10 men. It’s amazing no-one fouled him. I would have just absolutely took him out. Smell that danger. You must know that a player like Giggsy has it in his locker.
Dixon: But the men we had back were just positioned in a way that suited his flowing style, and he found the gaps.
Schmeichel: It was a fantastic sight from my position in goal. He snapped up the ball around the halfway line, then started to accelerate. He had four or five men in front of him, but he ran on with the intention of weaving himself in and out of what was the best defence in England.
Patrick Vieira: If it was someone else with the ball, I don’t think he will go that fast and go to the end to score a goal. It was bad defending from all of us.
Schmeichel: The running of our two frontmen was causing significant confusion in Arsenal’s defence to open up the room Giggs needed to work in and he went past the first man, then the second and the thing, and from a sharp angle on the left, he hammered the ball high over the head of David Seaman and into the net. I knew the game was all over after that.
Tyler: We don’t choose our games, the fortune is being there the moment something historic like that happens. I can still remember it very vividly. I can still see Vieira playing the ball out now. Patrick got some blame but he still had defenders and a goalkeeper behind. It was an example of the counter-attacking style we actually now see week in week out in England.
Keane: In your very best performances, you often find that extra bit of inspiration when you forget the tactics, the game plan, even forget what you’re playing for, and just play. The way you did when you were a kid on the streets when there was nothing at stake except, in some vague way, personal vindication. When you reach that level of deep, deep concentration, it’s amazingly liberating. Ryan dug deep to score that fantastic goal. It was a pivotal moment in our season.
Paul Scholes: As soon as I hear a word about that game, all I can see is Ryan with his top off, whirling it round his head in celebration of his amazing winner. I was the closest person to him as he set off on the run, dancing past not just any old defenders but the likes of Dixon, Keown and Adams, some of the best in the business – and even then he still had to beat Seaman, one of the finest keepers in the world. Someone said afterwards I should have bollocked him for not passing to me because I was in a better position, but after a goal like that, I’m glad he didn’t.
Beckham: All the Manchester United side of the ground erupted. Giggsy was running along in front of them, waving his shirt in the air. Loads of supporters were spilling onto the pitch. I got to him, too, and I can still remember the smell of the fans around us: one bloke, in particular, must have been chain-smoking the whole game and he grabbed hold of me. I couldn’t get the smell of his cigarette smoke off my shirt and out of my nostrils for the rest of the game.