“The Manchester United grand slam is no more” were the words from commentator Clive Tyldesley at Wembley on this day in 2009 as Everton overcame Manchester Untied in the FA Cup semi-final to end the Red Devils’ hopes of winning FIVE trophies.
Like City, United had already bagged the League Cup but they had also won the World Club Cup in December. Having beaten Porto in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final and with a one point lead over Liverpool at the top of the Premier League, United arrived at Wembley with an unprecedented quintuple on their minds.
For Evertonians, it was a first trip to Wembley since the 1995 Charity Shield and they were determined to make the most of it.
The supporters had packed into the stadium well before kick-off and were cheering the players on even during the warm-up. At the other end there were huge swathes of empty seats as the United fans, well used to games at the national stadium in recent years, took their time arriving.
Everton were given a further boost when the teams were announced, with Sir Alex Ferguson choosing to rest pretty much his entire first team ahead of their Champions League quarter-final second leg the following week.
Only Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Carlos Tevez could be considered regulars, with starts given to the likes of Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson (lol). Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Edwin van der Sar were not even on the bench.
The game itself was pretty dire. Manchester United played exactly like a cobbled-together team of first-teamers, reserves and youth prospects would. Everton, meanwhile, were predictably cautious but grew into the game is it wore on.
The key moment came midway through the second half when a mix-up between Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka allowed Danny Welbeck to nip in before seemingly being fouled by the Toffees’ skipper.
Referee Mike Riley waved away the penalty appeals, much to Ferguson’s anger on the touchline.
David Moyes had openly questioned Riley’s appointment in the build-up to the game, suggesting he was a Manchester United supporter. The FA were forced to release a statement defending their decision to give Riley the game and denying Moyes’ claims.
Did Moyes’ words have an impact on Riley’s decision? We will never know, but it certainly showed how the Everton boss was willing to engage in the sort of mind games Ferguson had become renowned for.
After a goalless 120 minutes the game went to penalties, with nerves now well and truly shredded. The Everton fans had roared their team on throughout the game, giving them a much-needed boost as their energy levels began to drop in the closing stages. But there was little they could do now as Tim Cahill strode up to take the first spot-kick at the other end of the field, where the United fans were sat.
It was a terrible penalty. Cahill got his technique and body shape all wrong and the ball flew high over the bar. The Australian sunk to his knees. Evertonians feared the worst.
But then up stepped Dimitar Berbatov.
The Bulgarian is renowned for his languid style of play but was so laid back on this occasion he was almost horizontal. Howard easily saved his lazy spot-kick and it was game on again.
Leighton Baines was next. Ever reliable, bang, right into the top corner, off the bar.
Next up for United was…Rio Ferdinand. Why? We’ve no idea. I hadn’t seen him take many penalties before and we soon saw why, his effort easily saved by Howard again. Everton in the driving seat.
Talking of someone who doesn’t take penalties, here comes Phil Neville. Groans went up from the blue hordes. He was bound to miss.
But…where did that come from? Neville calmly drops the shoulder, beats Foster with his eyes and sends the United goalkeeper the wrong way.
Vidic is next, another save and Everton are through. But not this time, the Serbian sends Howard the wrong way with a low effort into the corner.
Then comes James Vaughan. What responsibility on such young shoulders. But what a penalty! Yes Vaughany! Curling the ball beyond Foster’s dive into the corner.
Anderson is next. Another nerveless kick to keep United in the game.
Here’s Jagielka. Match point Everton. 13 months earlier Jags missed a penalty in the dramatic shootout defeat against Fiorentina. But that wasn’t stopping him from stepping up here. Boos rang out from the United fans as he stepped up to take. A moment’s silence, then…bang! Into the corner! Jags wheels away in celebration and the Everton end explodes in ecstasy.
Having been too young to witness the glory days of the mid-80s or even in ‘95 this was my first real taste of what it is like to win a big game. I’ve never seen the supporters celebrate quite like it. Then, to mark the occasion, Z-Cars is played over the Wembley speakers, that pretty much finished me off.
The sad part of this story, of course, is a serious knee injury suffered by Jagielka against Manchester City the following weekend, ruling him out of the final.
That meant Everton took on Chelsea in May without their best defender, best midfielder (Mikel Arteta) and best striker (Yakubu) due to serious injury. I often wonder what would have happened if you would have taken John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba out of that Chelsea team.
As it was Guus Hiddink’s side just had too much for a Toffees side that wilted in the May sunshine, with the Londoners ruthlessly exploiting Everton’s right flank of Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman.
Then there is the fact Everton have not reached another final of either cup competitions since, losing three semi-finals to Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City in the ensuing decade.
That hazy April Wembley afternoon gave us all a taster of what is possible if Everton can finally realise their potential. We can only hope our long wait will not continue for much longer.