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Saturday, May 22, 1999 Published at 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK

Two teams, one trophy

This year the red of Arsenal will be replaced by the red of Man Utd

Two giants of the north meet at Wembley on Saturday - one hoping to atone for last year's misery, the other hoping to complete the second part of a dream treble.

The BBC's Caroline Short: "With the Manchester United machine in full motion, it will be difficult to stop it"
For both Manchester United and Newcastle, the clash could not be more important.

At stake is not only the FA Cup, but victory at the country's national stadium, before reconstruction begins and the millennium arrives.

Whatever the result there is little doubt the stage is set for an epic encounter.

[ image: Arsenal: Defeated Newcastle to win the double last year]
Arsenal: Defeated Newcastle to win the double last year
Newcastle, runners up in last year's final when they were beaten by Arsenal 2-0, thanks to goals from Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka, are undoubtedly the underdogs.

But as many Cup finals have previously shown - the battle is fought on the pitch and not on paper.

As the form side, the Old Trafford outfit go into the match unbeaten after 31 games, and will compete for the season's most glorious prize of all - the European Cup - on 26 May.

Last chance to shine

Gordon Hill, a cup winner with Manchester United in 1977: "Alan Shearer could cause a surprise"
Despite the chance of completing what no English club has ever before achieved, Saturday marks the highlight of the season for two United players.

Both Roy Keane and Paul Scholes have been ruled out of next Wednesday's final against Germany's Bayern Munich in Barcelona due to suspension, which makes the domestic cup showpiece their own personal season finale.

Captain Keane's superb midfield displays have exhausted superlatives this season and he will be licking his lips at the thought of his own personal confrontation with Newcastle's German playmaker Dietmar Hamann.

[ image: Roy Keane: Hoping to end his footballing season on a high]
Roy Keane: Hoping to end his footballing season on a high
Scholes, too, is hoping for a dream performance - in his last Wembley appearance the 24-year-old scored a hat-trick for England against Poland.

"Obviously I'd love to score a hat-trick again at Wembley, this time for United," Scholes said.

"Hopefully I will produce that again but you can't take anything for granted."

BBC Football Correspondent Mike Ingham: "For United, the only guarantee is that there are no guarantees"
Phil Neville is the only United player officially guaranteed a place, thanks to regular left-back Denis Irwin's suspension.

With the Bayern game awaiting, fringe players such as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, David May, Teddy Sheringham, Jesper Blomqvist and Wes Brown will still be hoping to be picked, while even Cole or Yorke could find themselves rested.

"I think we do have to look at both games but what I've been trying to do recently is to juggle the balls as best I can in terms of the freshness of the team," Ferguson said.

Ryan Giggs: "We know it will be a difficult match"
He may choose not to risk Dutchman Jaap Stam, who has been struggling with an Achilles knock, with David May playing alongside Ronny Johnsen in the centre of defence.

Whoever it is, they face a testing afternoon against England captain Alan Shearer, who likes nothing better than a big Wembley occasion.

Decision for Gullit

Newcastle Manager Ruud Gullit must decide whether to field semi-fit Scot Duncan Ferguson, who helped turn their semi-final against Tottenham, from the start, or Georgian Temuri Ketsbaia, from whom anything is possible, alongside his combative Englishman in attack.

[ image: Ruud Gullit: Spicy side]
Ruud Gullit: Spicy side
Under their Dutch manager Newcastle are very much a cosmopolitan side, with the likes of Greek defender Nikos Dabizas, Frenchman Didier Domi and Peru's Nolberto Solano creating an exotic mix.

Hamann, a German version of Arsenal's French midfield engine Patrick Vieira, is a key influence and Gary Speed's ability to support Shearer in attack will also be vital, as will the need to stem the flow of teasing crosses played in from United right by England midfielder David Beckham.

Youngster Andrew Griffin, who marked Spurs' double Footballer of the Year David Ginola out of their semi-final, looks likely to get the job.

Dabizas is confident Newcastle's hunger for success will see them pull off a shock.

"Manchester United have three plates of food to eat and we have only one," he said. "We have to eat something because we're going to starve if we don't."

The BBC's Will Schindler looks forward to the final
Gullit, who will doubtless be sucking his lucky pennant once more on the Wembley touchline, will be looking for a major improvement on Newcastle's tepid form over the closing weeks of the Premiership season.

"In the last couple of weeks, my players have been saving themselves, so I ask now that next week they go like rockets because otherwise, I don't understand what they have been saving themselves for," he said.

"I'm expecting a team that goes for 200 per cent. That's something I demand of my players."

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