Friday, 15 April 2011

Semi-final Magic

It's FA Cup semi-final weekend and I was looking on the Guardian's website at a great Joy of Six article highlighting some majestic semi-final moments. It's the sort of writing which makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up; dramatic descriptions of true footballing heroes and their super-human exploits on the field. (the segment about Bryan Robson is excellent.)

Ryan Giggs' bob and weave against Arsenal gets the inevitable mention but, despite being one of the great semi-final strikes, I put another on par with it.

Mark Hughes' volley against Oldham for Manchester United in the '94 semi embodies everything which makes Sparky one of my favourite ever United players.

The Guardian article cites context as being vital in the compiling of their list and this goal features the sort of heart-stopping drama which United made their own in the 1990s and beyond.

After a dull 90 minutes Oldham went ahead in extra-time when Neil Pointon stabbed home after an uncharacteristic Peter Schmeichel flap. With a minute left, and United running out of ideas, Brian McClair looped a desperate ball over his shoulder to ask questions of the Oldham defence. Muscling his way between a couple of defenders it dropped to Hughes who pulled the trigger on that pneumatic right foot of his to keep United's double dream alive.

It was so typical of the Welshman. He was a warrior, always ready for battle and always putting his body on the line for the good of the team, commitment never a question. Sir Alex Ferguson once said you could put your life on Hughes scoring when you needed a goal and here he drew on all his bravery and supreme vollying technique to take the tie to a replay (which United ran out 4-1 winners). God, I love Mark Hughes.

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