The Battle for Supremacy between Manchester United and Arsenal over the years has been molded into just another match in recent times with both the teams trying to rise above mediocrity and challenge the Elite.
For the better part of 90’s and early 2000’s, Gooners and Red Devils were the talk of town managed and boasted by two big egos in the shape of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger who remained true to their principles even it was presented as a posterior to shape a perpendicular that could elevate the players.
There were so many high voltage characters on both the sides at that time. Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, and Rud Van Nistelrooy protected the turf at Old Trafford, on the other hand, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Sol Campbell, Freddie Ljungberg and Martin Keown woke up the Highbury front from hibernation. Highbury is truly missed. Arsenal really lost that edge at the Emirates.
Let us go back in time and revisit some of the biggest fights between Arsenal and Manchester United that gathered headlines on and off the field.
Keane Vieira turbulence in the tunnel (Highbury 2005)
Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira were probably the most volatile figures in World Football. They were opinionated yet oblivious, rational yet reckless and heartfelt yet hostile. Their attitude adversely affected both the camps but they understood the psychology of a team sport that was based on standing up for your teammates and just not focus on an individual show.
The Back Story of the tunnel trouble revolved around a malicious tackle from Gary Neville that took out Jose Antonio Reyes at Old Trafford. Vieira started shouting Neville in the tunnel at Highbury during the reverse fixture to intimidate the fullback and Keane intervened in his stern manner coming up with that famous line “I’ll see you out there” demonstrating his leadership qualities. The referee had to break the altercation to prevent further mishap. United came out winners that day with a 4-2 score-line as Arsenal lost the plot on and off the field.
The Keown Karma brings out the wild scene at the Battle of Old Trafford (2003)
The built up to this match was terrific with both the set of players engulfed with hatred for one another. The match came to life in the dying stages when a cross from Gary Neville directed towards Diego Forlan could not be met as Keown’s infringement intercepted the player rather than the ball inside the box.
Rud Van Nistelrooy who stepped in to take the penalty was met by undue resistance from the Arsenal players, the ball hit the crossbar making a thumping sound which spurred Keown into wild action with his teammates joining in after the final whistle. Giggs and Ronaldo reciprocated but the real culprit was Keown whose ride to wilderness brought wrath from all corners.
Food fight in the tunnel after Incarnation of Invincibility (Old Trafford 2004)
The Invincibles of Arsenal will forever be remembered but the streak came to an end on a stage where they least wanted to. It was an inspired performance on the pitch from Wayne Rooney and Rud Van Nistelrooy completely owning the Arsenal defense and ending their 49 games unbeaten run in the Premier League. The game will forever be remembered as the ‘Battle of the buffet’.
The Dutchman retaliated to score from the penalty this time around and avenged the previous year’s attack on him by confronting Ashley Cole which fumed Arsene Wenger into fierceness resulting in bad blood boiling again. Afterwards, a scuffle between players and staff resulted in food being thrown at Sir Alex Ferguson depicting the hunger of hostility between the two sides.
Brawl for all in a Winter that Ignited the Burns (Old Trafford 1990)
Brawl for All might sound like a pay per view headline for the younger folk but it was one of the violent and ugliest incident originating the Manchester United and Arsenal rivalry that would outrage and entertain us in years to come.
Nigel Winterburn, one of the greats in the game illegally lunged into Denis Irwin resulting in havoc being harvested on the field with players brawling all over the place. Fortunately or unfortunately you just can’t witness this drama in this toned environment hailing caution before commitment. Arsenal won the match but came out as losers as 2 points were deducted by the F.A with Man Utd also getting a one-point penalty.
Arsenal eventually came out winners that season by claiming the league but this event marked the start of a scintillating rivalry that was beyond sanity to suffocate sensitivity and achieve sensation.
Jose Mourinho’s infamous relationship with Arsene Wenger has brought the spark back to the rivalry after Sir Alex and Wenger never kissed but made up in the recent years. We really missed those times when sports sponsored emotions without a script to create a drama that would modify a masterpiece.
From the age of Belief to the age of Blasphemy
Evolution enticed endowment but challenged the reality
The Devil got diseased and the Gooner lost the glee
But you can never castrate a contest that a fan will never flee.