The games between Arsenal and Manchester United in the late 90s and early 2000’s have been legendary, and with the two teams meeting this weekend it is time to relive some of the best moments. The rivalry may have died down a little over time, but fans do not forget the Thierry Henry wonder goal against Fabien Barthez, the Rooney and Ronaldo show in the Champions League nor do they forget the hatred between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira there are far too many instances between the two to give one example.
There are many more fantastic games between Manchester United and Arsenal so leave a comment below if your favourite did not make the list.
F.A Cup Semi Final Replay, Arsenal 1 Manchester United 2 A.E.T (1999)
A game filled with drama right from the first whistle. Young football fans today will not be able to appreciate the joys and emotions of an F.A Cup semi-final replay where everything is on the line and this game provided it with all. After a 0-0 draw in the first game, the intensity reached fever pitch as these two had been at each other’s throats all season in the league and Villa Park was bouncing with a huge north-south divide.
David Beckham started the proceedings by scoring early on as both sides were not stepping down a gear. Dennis Bergkamp was the man to level the game with a deflected shot, but then it all changed when skipper Keane was sent off for a second bookable offence. United’s dream of the treble looked over when Phil Neville clumsily brought down Ray Parlour in the dying embers of the game. Up stepped Bergkamp to grab a brace and send Arsenal to final but Peter Schmeichel guessed right and sent the game to extra time.
It looked like Arsenal were going to the final once again as they pushed the ten men but United held strong. A stray pass from Vieira gave Ryan Giggs the ball on the halfway line who jinked past four Arsenal players and smashed the ball into the roof of the net. His celebration (taking his top off, whipping it over his head whilst running down the touchline) summed up the feelings for The Red Devils. Andy Gray rightly said that night “And if this is the last semi-final replay goal we’ll ever see, it will rank with some of the greatest ever scored.” It turned out it was the last one ever scored as the F.A decided to scrap the semi-final replay.
Gunners seal the title at Old Trafford, Manchester United 0 Arsenal 1 (2001)
Arsene Wenger’s side certainly had the bit between their teeth as they had seen Manchester United win the league for the previous three seasons. They wanted it back and what better place to do it than the Theatre of Dreams. Having already sealed the F.A Cup against Chelsea four days earlier, Arsenal were looking to make it a historic double.
The Londoners were in great form, and the main man in form was Swedish winger Freddie Ljungberg. He was one of the reasons they sealed a victory that night. He was in exquisite form and tormented the United defence every single time he got the ball. Freddie played a key part in the solitary goal that evening as he picked up the ball from Mikael Silvestre and drove at the retreating backline. However, his shot could only be carried out by Barthez, but Sylvain Wiltord was on hand to slot the ball home and give The Gunners that vital goal they needed to clinch the title in the backyard of the enemy.
Arsenal were far superior to Manchester United that night and in fact, the whole season as they finished the season ten points clear of their northern rivals. Thierry Henry finished the season with 24 goals in the league as he was mesmerising in helping Arsenal win 26 of their 36 games.
Battle of Old Trafford, Manchester United 0 Arsenal 0 (2003)
It was a beautiful September day in Manchester in 2003, but the game was not; a kind of anti-pathetic fallacy. The game was a cagey affair with both sides not ducking out of tackles and showing that they were the “hardest”. United were set out defensively in midfield and Arsenal did the same by dropping flair wingers in Robert Pires and Wiltord for the gutsier Parlour and Ljungberg.
The game is well remembered for Steve Bennett suffering arm damage for the number of times he pointed for a free kick and got his book out of his pocket. United conceded 13 fouls, but Arsenal trumped that by giving away 18. Four yellow cards were issued to both sides, and skipper Vieira was sent off for kicking out at Ruud Van Nistelrooy; after the striker had clambered all over the Frenchman.
The game is also well remembered for the final few moments of the match when Van Nistelrooy smashed his penalty against the crossbar, and the final whistle was blown a minute later. The brawl started when Martin Keown, Lauren, Ray Parlour, Ashley Cole and Kolo Touré all confronted the Dutch striker on the pitch. Keown was the most exuberant offender with both his arms aloft screaming in the face of the United man.
This game was crucial for Arsenal as it was part of their “Invincible” season where they did not lose a league game all season.
Battle of the Buffet, Manchester United 2 Arsenal 0 (2004)
The rivalry had not died down since 1999, with the core of the side still playing for each side. This game had been brewing ever since the season before with the missed penalty from Van Nistelrooy. Arsenal were on a 49 game unbeaten run and tensions were high as they visited Old Trafford for the first time since the last “battle” between them.
The game was already pumped up by all the media, and they were ready for a really memorable game. The players duly delivered. The game started with real passion and challenges were flying in from all angles but it missed real expansive quality football that these two illustrious sides can play. Mike Riley had his hands full as he was officiating at both ends of the pitch and robust tackles kept him on his toes.
It was Riley who broke the deadlock as Rooney was brought down by Sol Campbell in the area. A contentious decision as the defender felt he made no contact with the Manchester United and England man. It was a chance for redemption for the Netherlands international Van Nistelrooy, and he thundered home the penalty past the despairing Jens Lehmann who went the wrong way. His celebrations showed that of a man who had just released a demon inside of him as he slid on his knees in front of the Stretford End. Rooney was then influential as he slotted home the winner to stop Arsenal’s run in the final minute of the game.
Tempers continued after the game as in Campbell refused to shake Rooney’s hand and the spat spilt over into the tunnel where what is now known as “pizzagate” occurred. Sir Alex Ferguson was hit by a stray pizza that had been thrown by midfielder Cesc Fabregas. Arsenal were upset with the refereeing of the game, and the spat between Wenger and Ferguson continued for many more years after that.
Arsenal’s worst defeat since 1896, Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2 (2011)
It was one of the most eventful seasons in the history of the Premier League, and despite this scoreline, United did not win the title. It was very early in the season when these two met at Old Trafford, and it had the standard exciting feel of Old. However, nobody would have predicted the result.
Arsenal may have been depleted and had to rotate players, but they were utterly outclassed by United who were rampant that day, and as the old cliché goes it was men against boys. Danny Welbeck opened the scoring for The Red Devils, but it was not all plain sailing as David De Gea had to save a penalty from a future teammate Robin van Persie just six minutes after the opener. Ashley Young and Rooney joined the show to make it 3-0, but Theo Walcott kept some hope in the game just before halftime making it 3-1.
However, Arsenal’s day just got worse as Rooney added a second, followed by Nani and then Park Ji Sung who extended the lead to 5-1. Van Persie did end up on the scoresheet making it 6-2, but United were so in control it was criminal, every attack that day looked like ending in a goal and it pretty much did as Rooney completed his hat trick and Young scored another curling effort.
It was a truly memorable day for Mancunians but an utterly forgettable day for those travelling Londoners.