Arsenal vs Man United: A historic Premier League rivalry revisited

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From thrown pizza, to tunnel spats, to a 10-goal thriller. Look back at Arsenal and Manchester United’s rivalry ahead of Sunday’s game.

There might not be such a fiery relationship between the two teams as there was during the Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson era, but there is plenty riding on this weekend’s match – with Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson labelling it as winner-takes-all in the race for the top four.

So ahead of Sunday’s game, which you can catch live on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event, let’s have a look back at some of the classic moments this match-up has produced in years gone by.

Arsenal vs Man Utd

March 10, 2019, 4:15pm

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March 1998: Overmars starts the chase

Midway through an 18-match unbeaten streak, Arsenal trailed United by nine points, albeit with three games in hand, as they chased a first Premier League title under Arsene Wenger in his second season in charge.

Marc Overmars scores the winner at Old Trafford in 1998 as Arsenal went on to claim the title
Marc Overmars scores the winner at Old Trafford in 1998 as Arsenal went on to claim the title

The Gunners had not managed to win at Old Trafford in their previous seven visits, but a late 1-0 win over United courtesy of Marc Overmars put them in the driving seat and provided the catalyst to take the Premier League crown under the noses of Ferguson’s side, going on to win the league by a single point.

March 2001: Gunners hit for six

Already 13 points clear of second-placed Arsenal, Manchester United put Wenger’s sorry team to the sword with a 6-1 thrashing at Old Trafford to effectively wrap up the title chase with 10 games to go.

Dwight Yorke grabbed the first of a hat-trick of goals inside two minutes and United were 5-1 up inside 37 minutes, as an Arsenal side which had conceded only 23 goals in 27 games prior to this showdown imploded in spectacular fashion.

November 2001: Barthez blunders

Neither side had started their Premier League campaign well, but two late errors from United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez gave Arsenal the catalyst they needed to mount an eventual title-winning campaign with a 3-1 win at Highbury.

Thierry Henry netted two late goals as Arsenal took advantage of a pair of Fabian Barthez mistakes
Thierry Henry netted two late goals as Arsenal took advantage of a pair of Fabian Barthez mistakes

United had taken a first-half lead through Paul Scholes, but after Freddie Ljungberg’s equaliser Thierry Henry took advantage of two Barthez clangers in the final 10 minutes. Arsenal would go on to win the title by eight points, losing only once in the rest of the season, while United finished third, 10 points off the pace.

May 2002: Wiltord secures title

That title, Arsenal’s first since their Overmars-inspired championship in 1998, was secured at Old Trafford courtesy of Sylvain Wiltord’s second-half goal in a 1-0 win in the penultimate game of the season.

Things could be little sweeter for Arsene Wenger’s side, who were by now at the height of their rivalry with Ferguson’s United, and a bad-tempered performance from the hosts could not stop the Gunners securing an unbeaten away league record for the season.

September 2003: Battle of Old Trafford

The shoe was on the other foot barely a year later when Arsenal sailed close to the line after Ruud van Nistelrooy’s late penalty miss in a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. Martin Keown, Lauren and Ray Parlour surrounded the United striker at full-time as the passion of the rivalry began getting infamously more sour.

Martin Keown was suspended for his reaction at full-time, moments after he had missed a penalty
Martin Keown was suspended for his reaction at full-time, moments after he had missed a penalty

Van Nistelrooy had played a major part in a red card for Patrick Vieira minutes earlier, when the Frenchman retaliated to a clumsy challenge with an air kick, which the United man definitely made the most of. Arsenal would later receive a record fine for their conduct during the game, and four Gunners stars were given suspensions.

October 2004: No more invincibles

Arsenal’s record-breaking unbeaten league record, which had lasted the entirety of the 2003/04 season, had to come to an end at some point. Many had highlighted their game at Old Trafford in October 2004 as a possible banana skin, and so it proved.

The game proved memorable not only for Wayne Rooney’s apparent dive to win a penalty for the opening goal, with Van Nistelrooy later adding a second in a 2-0 win, but also the post-match theatrics which unfolded. Ferguson was struck by a flying slice of pizza – later revealed to have been thrown by Cesc Fabregas – in a melee quickly dubbed “pizza-gate” by the media.

Take a look at some of the most memorable goals from past Premier League meetings between Arsenal and Manchester United

February 2005: Tunnel fracas

Even before kick-off the tensions were boiling over as Arsenal and United went head-to-head for the first time since their pizza-fuelled tussle. Captains Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane, far from shrinking violets, exchanged heated words in the tunnel after Vieira was accused of picking on Gary Neville, with referee Graham Poll forced to intervene.

Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane clashed in the tunnel, but kept their emotions in check on the pitch
Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane clashed in the tunnel, but kept their emotions in check on the pitch

United went on to win 4-2 despite Arsenal twice taking a first-half lead, before two Cristiano Ronaldo goals after the break turned the game on its head. Victory would not be enough for United to avoid ending the season outside the top two for the second season in a row, while Arsenal would get revenge by beating them in the FA Cup final three months later.

August 2009: Wenger bottles it

Arsene Wenger protests from the stands at Old Trafford
Arsene Wenger protests from the stands at Old Trafford

Wenger gave us one of the iconic images of this fixture after being sent to the stands at Old Trafford in this 2-1 defeat. He had just seen Robin van Persie’s goal, which would have levelled the scores, ruled out by referee Mike Dean, before booting a water bottle in anger and finding himself sent to sit among the United fans behind the dugout – a decision which he protested by standing with his arms outstretched.

He vented his ire after the game – but it wasn’t that decision which riled him up. He said: “I have seen a player make 20 fouls without getting a yellow card. If you have seen the game, you don’t need me to tell you who but their player gets away without a yellow card. It’s quite amazing.”

August 2011: Arsenal humbled

Six months after the 10-year anniversary of their 6-1 thrashing at Old Trafford, Wenger’s men were on the end of an even worse thrashing by Manchester United – an 8-2 shocker. A home team featuring a central-midfield duo of Anderson and Tom Cleverley were utterly rampant and ran wild in a manic last half hour.

Ashley Young curls in Manchester United's eighth goal in their 8-2 thrashing of Arsenal
Ashley Young curls in Manchester United’s eighth goal in their 8-2 thrashing of Arsenal

They were 3-1 up with 60 minutes on the clock, but a flurry of five late goals left Arsenal 17th in the table with one point from their opening three games and the pressure on Wenger, who had signed only two first-team players, Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, that summer.

 

 

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