Petit recalls shouting at Arsenal team-mates to ‘f***ing kick’ Giggs during his FA Cup wonder goal
EMMANUEL PETIT is a suave Frenchman who oozes class and charm.
But on April 14, 1999, in the 109th minute of one of the most captivating semi-finals in FA Cup history, the smooth-talking Arsenal legend turned into a foul-mouthed Eastender.
As Manchester United's Ryan Giggs ran through five players to score a contender for goal of the century, the calm and calculated Gunner lost it.
He told SunSport: "As he went through, I was screaming: ‘Kick him, f***ing kick him'. But he was too fast.
"His pace was unbelievable and he controlled the ball so well under pressure.
"It was a hot knife through butter. Sometimes you have a football miracle on the pitch, a moment of genius in just a couple of seconds.
"I have only watched the game back in full twice. But I couldn't tell you how many times I have watched Giggs' miracle goal.
"As he started to go, I was just thinking, ‘f***'.
"And then when he scored, I said to myself: ‘What the f***, how did he make that run?'
"I was convinced Martin Keown or Lee Dixon were going to kick him.
"I remember asking Giggs how he did it when we were pundits at Euro 2016, and how he avoided Keown and Dixon. He replied: ‘I was just too quick. Simple'."
It's a game that will be remembered for several iconic moments.
David Beckham's long-range stunner. Roy Keane's red card. Dennis Bergkamp's penalty miss. And of course, Giggs.
Petit added: "I really thought we were going to win that semi-final.
"But when you miss a penalty and then you concede one of the best goals in the FA Cup ever, you think: ‘Destiny has chosen his side'.
"Giggs could do whatever he wanted on the pitch and it just wasn't to be our day."
Despite the result, Petit — a World Cup winner with France in 1998 — says it is the best semi-final he has played in.
And the 48-year-old believes the respect Arsenal had for United, who would go on to win the Treble that season, was illustrated by the agreement they made before the game.
Petit said: "We made a pact to go and shake every player's hand after the game, whatever the result.
"We were the bastards of English football on the pitch, but off it we were gentlemen.
"Tony Adams and the English back four were the best ambassadors for that because they were fighting like dogs on the pitch, shouting and screaming.
"Keown could put his fingers into your eyes with no emotion, but in the meantime those guys always had respect for the opponents, especially United.
"After the game we sat in the dressing room in silence, listening to them singing and chanting.
"Sometimes there is nothing you can do — destiny has chosen its winner. Move on.
"In a way I was pleased they went on to win the Treble. With how they did it, scoring late goals against us and then Bayern in the Champions League, it was fate. Fate they earned."
It is safe to say Petit is not expecting a similar encounter 20 years on.
He added: "The FA Cup doesn't have the same flavour it used to. It's the same in France.
"Manchester United and Arsenal will want a title, but will they be risking everything to get it? I don't think so.
"They are fighting it out in fifth and sixth — for a top-four spot.
"It's not the biggest game of their seasons. If this was a Premier League clash, for me it would be much more important.
"It will be competitive, but will the motivation be the same? I'm not sure."