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FA Cup Final 
Wembley Stadium, 22nd May 1999 


IT WAS always a neat trick, but we had not seen him perform it for a while. Then, on Saturday, in the manner of a street-corner magician pulling a coin from behind his ear, Teddy Sheringham showed us once more how the slowest man on the pitch can stay a light year ahead of his pursuers.

When he plays like this, he is guile personified. The way he moves, the runs he makes, the deep-lying positions he takes up, the manner in which he appears unannounced in the box, spread confusion in defenders who cannot cope with his elegant unorthodoxy.

In the way he performed on Saturday, exposing the mediocrity of the opposition, Kevin Keegan would be foolish to ignore him when he is considering the England squad for the European championship qualifying ties against Sweden and Bulgaria next month.

Only two people got close to him all afternoon. The first was Martin Edwards, the Manchester United chairman, who leant down from the front row of the Royal Box and whispered in his ear as Sheringham collected his second winners' medal in seven days. The second was his son, Charlie, who flung himself into his father's arms in the Wembley tunnel in the post-game euphoria. Sheringham gave him a kiss and handed him the magnum of champagne that goes with being named man of the match.

Suddenly, after a club career spent toiling in under-achieving teams, after a season when it seemed that he had been cast into the wilderness of United's star-studded reserve team, he has found himself festooned with honours.

This time, there could be no sneering about the extent of his contribution. He had been taken off at half-time in the victory against Tottenham Hotspur that clinched United's fifth league championship in seven years the previous weekend. This Saturday, though, it was Sheringham, incontrovertibly, who emphasised the gulf in class between the champions and Newcastle United, Sheringham who led their jaunty stroll towards a triumph in the FA Cup Final that made them the first side ever to win three League and Cup Doubles.

United were vastly superior in every department to a Newcastle side that looked as limited and as depressingly impotent as 12 months ago, when they succumbed to Arsenal at the same stage of the competition, when Kenny Dalglish was still manager.

There were hopes that the arrival of Ruud Gullit and the beginnings of a revival that he has effected might have made this more of an even contest, but those hopes were dashed within two minutes of Sheringham rising from the bench in the ninth minute to replace the stricken Roy Keane.

He started the move that led to United's opening goal, intercepting a pass from Andy Cole that was meant for Ryan Giggs and then slipping the ball through the legs of Dietmar Hamann. He played a short ball to Paul Scholes, who feinted to shoot and passed back to him and Sheringham clipped his shot through the legs of Steve Harper.

United never looked like ceding control after that. Newcastle, who for some inexplicable reason had been confident before the game to the point of a cockiness that riled some of the United players, were a shambles, particularly in defence where Laurent Charvet looked horribly out of his depth.

In attack, the performance of Alan Shearer raised more questions about his effectiveness. It would be foolish to say that he is finished. But it was sad to see him reduced to trying to bludgeon, barge and hold his way past Ronny Johnsen and David May, without success.

He does not receive anything like the service he deserves, of course, but he has lost a yard or two of pace and a bucketful of confidence. If he is not finished, then he is still far from the player he used to be.

The only player in the side who possesses enough class to be part of a successful FA Carling Premiership side is Hamann and he was forced to go off at half-time suffering from a dead leg. After that, the Newcastle centre forward was isolated. "Let's all laugh at Shearer," the United fans sang.

So Newcastle offered no threat to speak of and it was left to Sheringham to finish them off. It was far from a vintage performance which was what we had expected with the European Cup final four days away, but when they did produce the invasive, defence-splitting one-touch football that has become their trademark, Sheringham and David Beckham were at its heart.

Five minutes before half-time, Beckham spread the play wide to Gary Neville on the right. His first-time cross found Sheringham unmarked at the near post but he could only direct his header into the side-netting. Eight minutes after the interval, though, Sheringham helped to make the game safe. Nikos Dabizas played a suicidal ball into space from near his own corner flag and when the ball broke to Sheringham he laid it neatly into the path of Scholes, who drove it left-footed beyond Harper.

Neither Temuri Ketsbaia nor Silvio Maric had the composure to convert the two chances that came their way in the last half-hour and prevent United dancing their way into the record books. It was that quality - composure - that Alex Ferguson, the United manager, singled out in Sheringham.

"Because he followed Eric Cantona," Ferguson said, "it was obvious he was going to be subjected to various types of criticism, but he was still a great buy for me. He brings us composure, control and presence and he was absolutely fantastic today."

Sheringham was revelling in the moment, watching those years of frustration and ridicule ebb away in a week of triumph. He was even asked if he was getting blasť about winners' medals now. "When's the next one coming up?" he asked.

"I'm on cloud nine at the moment. With all the problems I have had this season, the injuries and not being in the starting line-up, it is great to come back and shut a few people up. I was devastated when I was taken off at half-time last week, but we won the championship and I was part of that and that's all that mattered. I wanted to be involved in it, but the boss saw it differently and it worked out well.

"I am happy today, I am enjoying the moment, but the problems I have had are still in the back of my mind. I have still got pride and faith in my ability and I will fight for my place here." Before he went, he was asked what the chairman had said to him. "Show us all your medals now, Teddy," he said.

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): P Schmeichel - G Neville, D May, R Johnsen, P Neville - D Beckham, R Keane (sub: E Sheringham, 9min), P Scholes (sub: J Stam, 77), R Giggs - A Cole (sub: D Yorke, 60), O G Solskjaer.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): S Harper - A Griffin, N Dabizas, L Charvet, D Domi - R Lee, D Hamann (sub: D Ferguson, 46), G Speed, N Solano (sub: S Maric, 68) - A Shearer, T Ketsbaia (sub: S Glass, 78).

Referee: P Jones.

Oliver Holt

Stolen from the Times, 24th May - we didn't have the heart to write anything down.

Page last updated 14 July, 2016