Tag Archives: Peter Schmeichel

Memorable Matches: Newcastle United 0-1 Manchester United (March 1996)

Goalscorer: Eric Cantona 52

Teams:

Newcastle United: Pavel Srnicek, John Beresford, Philippe Albert, Steve Howey, Warren Barton, David Batty, Rob Lee, Peter Beardsley, David Ginola, Faustino Asprilla, Les Ferdinand

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Phil Neville, Steve Bruce, Denis Irwin, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe, Eric Cantona, Andy Cole

Referee: David Elleray, Attendance: 36,584

On Monday, 4 March 1996, the eyes of the football world were fixed on Tyneside and the eagerly-anticipated meeting between the top two in the 1995-1996 title race. Newcastle United had set the pace all season but they were now under the most scrutiny they’d ever experienced.

In mid-January, Newcastle beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 to go a staggering 12 points clear but February had brought about a damaging defeat away to West Ham United and a 3-3 draw with relegation candidates Manchester City. They arrived into the match just four points clear of Manchester United.

The Red Devils’ were in great form. Alex Ferguson’s side had strung together a five-game winning sequence which had included a 6-0 thumping of the league’s bottom side Bolton in their last away match. They had the confidence and the momentum. This looked like being the most crucial game of the season for both teams.

It was Andy Cole’s first return to St James’ Park since his surprise departure 14 months earlier in a £7 million transfer to Manchester United but he and Eric Cantona barely got a look-in during a first half completely dominated by the hosts. Unfortunately for Kevin Keegan’s side, Peter Schmeichel was saving his best form for this match.

Twice in the opening five minutes, Schmeichel show his uncompromising attitude to the game by denying Newcastle star striker and top scorer Les Ferdinand. He had no chance though with a Philippe Albert free-kick. The Belgian defender was desperately unlucky to see his effort crash off the crossbar. From the rebound, Ferdinand hoisted the ball over the top. The Newcastle faithful might have been beginning to get the feeling that this wasn’t going to be their night.

Six minutes into the second half, Manchester United struck the significant blow in clinical fashion. Cole was involved in the build-up, evading challenges on the edge of the penalty area. Phil Neville produced a delightful cross to the back post, where an unmarked Cantona arrived. He hit his shot into the ground and there was enough power on it to spin past Pavel Srnicek’s dive. The celebrations from Cantona’s teammates indicated what a big goal this was.

Newcastle had 61% possession in total and 16 attempts on goal but simply couldn’t find a way through. This was their first home defeat of the season and it trimmed their advantage down to just a single point, but with a game in hand. After this result, Manchester United were made favourites by the bookies’ to win the title for the first time since the 1995-1996 season began.

Ferguson’s side grew even stronger after this result. They dropped just five more points in their remaining matches and eventually won their third Premier League title by four points. This was the night where the destiny of the 1995-1996 championship swayed in favour of Manchester United.

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Memorable Matches: Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal (March 1998)

Goalscorer: Marc Overmars 79

Teams:

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, John Curtis (Ben Thornley 52), Denis Irwin, Henning Berg, Gary Neville, Phil Neville (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 77), Ronny Johnsen (David May 79), David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Teddy Sheringham, Andy Cole

Arsenal: Alex Manninger, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown, Tony Adams, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira, Ray Parlour (Remi Garde 70), Marc Overmars, Christopher Wreh (Nicolas Anelka 66), Dennis Bergkamp

Referee: Alan Wilkie, Attendance: 55,174

It wasn’t quite a title decider but this match between Manchester United and Arsenal in March 1998 was a pivotal one in deciding who would claim the advantage in the season. Two weeks earlier, United had beaten Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. Most bookmakers’ stopped taking bets and some even started paying out on another title for the men from Old Trafford.

However, Arsenal dug in and were starting to be rewarded. Three days earlier, they had won at Wimbledon to close the gap at the top to nine points with three games in-hand. Defeat at the Theatre of Dreams would all but end their aspirations for a title tilt. Victory would put them within striking distance of their opponents, who still had European action on their minds.

Alex Ferguson’s options were restricted by injuries. Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and Nicky Butt were among those on the treatment table whilst Alex Manninger passed a late fitness test to keep his spot in-goal for the Gunners’ with David Seaman still absent through injury.

After early pressure from the home side, it was Arsenal who looked the more energised. Marc Overmars was the most threatening player to Manchester United. His best chance of the first half was a shot into the side netting after splitting the defence. Gary Neville and youngster John Curtis were struggling to handle the pace of Overmars throughout. United’s best opening came seven minutes before the interval. Andy Cole looked in an offside position but the flag stayed down. This meant Cole was played through but he was to be thwarted by Manninger.

There was little change in terms of the momentum in the second half. Arsenal were the more likely side to score but were passing up opportunities to inflict the damage. Finally, they broke the deadlock 11 minutes from full-time. Substitute Nicolas Anelka flicked the ball onto Overmars, who once again ran beyond Gary Neville. His header gave him the advantage to run onto the ball and saw him beat Peter Schmeichel as the Dane started to close down his angles. It was the first goal Arsenal had scored at Old Trafford since 1991 and what a crucial one it was.

As they tried to rescue the game, there was worse to come for Manchester United. Schmeichel decided to make a run into the Arsenal penalty area for a corner but when the move broke down and he tried to sprint back, he pulled his hamstring, ruling him out of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg with French side AS Monaco.

Arsenal had done it and became just the second side to double Manchester United in a season in Premier League history. They wouldn’t drop another point before wrapping up the title in early May. Arsene Wenger became the first foreign manager to win the Premier League and the platform for this success was this result at Old Trafford.