Arsenal and Manchester United share a rivalry unlike any other.
Even with Sir Alex Ferguson now out of the picture, there are very few games in world football which can contrive the level of trepidation and delirium among the two clubs’ ardent supporters.
So ahead of the hugely anticipated clash between the two teams on Saturday, 22 November at the Emirates, we look at some of the most fervent and memorable games that these two shared in the Premier League era.
5. MANCHESTER UNITED 0-0 ARSENAL, 2003
A game which invoked an FA inquiry ought to have been feisty. The game’s card stats read: 8 yellow cards and one red card. Arsenal captain Patrick Viera was sent off in the 80th minute after appearing to trying to kick United’s Dutch goal machine Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
Arsenal had made an unbeaten start to the campaign and were looking to continue their trend until Manchester United’s Diego Forlan was fouled inside the box by Martin Keown to give the hosts a stoppage time penalty.
Up came Van Nistelrooy to convert the penalty and give the Red Devils a vital victory. But alas! The Dutchman’s shot hit the crossbar and rebounded into play. Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann’s theatrics in goal had worked as Van Nistelrooy was surrounded by Arsenal players taunting him, pushing him and shoving him and celebrating his miss.
This act provoked an improper conduct charge against six Arsenal players and two United players. The game was subsequently ingrained in the fans’ minds as the Battle of Old Trafford.
But it was the Arsenal fans who had the last laugh at the end of the season as the Gunners completed the entire season unbeaten in the league. The new league champions were aptly dubbed ‘The Invincibles’.
4.ARSENAL 0-0 MANCHESTER UNITED (ARSENAL WIN 5-4 ON PENS), 2005 FA CUP FINAL
Arsenal went into that year’s FA Cup final having already lost the two league encounters to United. In an uncharacteristically one sided game, United dominated on all fronts throughout the 120 minutes having majority of the clear cut chances.
But that didn’t count for much as the Red Devils were unable to put the ball at the back of the net thanks to Arsenal’s resilient defensive unit of Ashley Cole, Philippe Senderos, Kolo Toure, Lauren and Jens Lehmann.
Paul Scholes missed the decisive spot kick for United before Arsenal’s captain fantastic Patrick Viera fired the Gunners to their 10th FA Cup title. The game went into the history books as the first FA Cup final to be decided through a penalty shootout since 1912.
United’s dismal season which they finished trophy-less provided the cherry on the cake for the jubilant Arsenal fans all around the globe.
3. MANCHESTER UNITED 8-2 ARSENAL, 2011
Arsenal’s start to the 2011-12 season was disastrous to say the least. Having already sold star players in Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively, to make matters worse the Gunners were marred with injuries.
In contrast, United were enjoying one of their best starts to a season. With the FA Community Shield in the bag after beating City in a thrilling encounter, the Mancunians were in an inexorable march towards success.
The half-time score read 3-1 to United as new goalkeeper David de Gea saved Arsenal captain Robin van Persie’s penalty. But it was the second half of the game which saw the floodgates open as the Gunners fell prey to a rampant United side. Wayne Rooney was declared the man of the match and deservedly so for his superb hat-trick. Arsenal were left beseeching for sympathy as the pressure piled up on manager Arsene Wenger.
The Red Devils inflicted the heaviest defeat Arsenal had in the league in 84 years. This was also the first time the Gunners conceded 8 goals in a game since 1896, when they lost 8–0 to Loughborough FC in the old Football League second division.
2. MANCHESTER UNITED 0-1 ARSENAL, 2002
The two clubs met on the penultimate game of the 2001-02 season on the hallowed turf of Old Trafford. Arsenal were the overwhelming favourites to win the game, and subsequently the title, having coming into this game in the back of an 11 game unbeaten run.
Arsenal were on course to celebrate their league success at Old Trafford, which proved to be an added incentive to win this game for both clubs. But it was the visitors who emerged victorious thanks to a Sylvain Wiltord strike in the second half. This goal also ensured that the Gunners went into the history books having scored in each and every league game they played that season.
The league trophy celebrations that commenced on the Old Trafford pitch still lingers as a sickening reminder in the minds of United fans and as sweet as a nut in the minds of the Gooners. It was a very successful campaign for Arsene Wenger’s side as they also put the FA Cup in their trophy cabinet. In stark contrast, United finished third on the table and trophy-less in what was one of their worst campaigns in the Premier League era.
1. ARSENAL 2-4 MANCHESTER UNITED, 2005
This is by far the most entertaining Arsenal vs Manchester United game I have ever witnessed in my life. The fireworks had begun even before the players took on to the Highbury pitch.
Captains Patrick Viera and Roy Keane were embroiled in a fierce war of words in the tunnel and Viera was led away from his United counterpart by his teammate Pascal Cygan while Keane was telling referee Graham Poll that he wants the Frenchman to “shut his f****** mouth”.
The Gunners went into half-time leading 2-1 thanks to two goals from viera and Dennis Bergkamp. Ryan Giggs scored the goal for United. But the second half saw United spark a spirited comeback. A teenage Cristiano Ronaldo played one of his best games for the Red Devils as his two goals in the space of two minutes put United in front seat.
However, Mikael Silvestre’s red card once again put the game on balance as the Gunners looked to capitalise on this. But United killed the game after scoring a goal from the unlikeliest of sources in John O’Shea. The Irishman’s exquisite lob over Manuel Almunia’s head marked a memorable victory for United.
But neither side went on to win the league at the end of the season as it was the start of Jose Mourinho’s two successive league winning campaigns with Chelsea.