This week’s Greatest Goal comes from the late David Rocastle. It came in a 1-1 draw between Arsenal and Manchester United at Old Trafford in October 1991.
Arsenal were the reigning champions at the time and there was a lot of ill-feeling between the two clubs. A 21-man brawl broke out in the corresponding match the previous season and both sides were docked points as punishment. Arsenal felt more aggrieved as they were deducted two, compared to the one point that was taken from United.
The game was goalless going into the 39th minute of the match. The ball dropped to Rocastle who was inside the centre circle and a few yards inside his own half. United midfielder Neil Webb jumped in to try and get the ball, but somehow contrived to completely miss it and give Rocastle time and space to push on down the field.
The Arsenal midfielder chested the ball down and took a touch with Paul Ince rapidly closing in behind him. Rocastle had the ball under control and Ince went in with a tough challenge to take the ball. A simple side-step away from the grounded Ince gave Rocastle a second of respite before England captain Bryan Robson was on his case. Robson was stood to Rocastle’s right and in a split second, the Arsenal midfielder wriggled free of both of his opponents, outmuscling Robson who tried to force him off the ball with a forceful tug of the shirt.
Robson was shrugged off with ease but Rocastle still had work to do. He was thirty yards from goal and had United defenders Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister in front of him. His team mates Ian Wright and Alan Smith were to his right and would have been an easy option to pass to, but Rocastle had other ideas.
With a forceful stab of his right boot, Rocastle lifted the ball high over Steve Bruce and then United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. The ball cannoned off the underside of the crossbar, hit Schmeichel’s body and nestled into the back of the net. The visiting Arsenal fans had a perfect vantage point directly behind the goal to see this great individual effort.
It was a brilliant goal in itself, but was all the more incredible that Rocastle had chipped one of the greatest goalkeepers in Peter Schmeichel. The Danish goalkeeper is almost six foot five and to see him made to look foolish thanks to a moment of inspiration was a wonderful sight.
David Rocastle passed away in 2001 at the age of just 33 after suffering from non-Hodgkinson’s lymphoma. His name is still sung at Arsenal matches to this date, a real sign that he is still idolised by those that were lucky enough to have seen him play.