MM's top six... Manchester United v Arsenal clashes
MM's top six... Manchester United v Arsenal clashes
Arsene Wenger against Jose Mourinho. Fourth against second in the Premier League. Arsenal against Manchester United. There shouldn’t be anything more to add to introduce this enticing clash between two Premier League titans.
But this fixture is about much more than two prestigious clubs and two decorated managers: there is a traditional edge to this fixture like no other in Premier League history.
Sir Alex Ferguson famously called United against Liverpool ‘the fixture’ in English football, but throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s the game between United and Arsenal very much lived up to that particular title.
Three and a half months into this campaign, the first meeting of the season between the red half of North London and the red half of Manchester takes place and it has a lot to live up to.
MM previews this weekend's game by taking a trip down memory lane, looking at six titanic Premier League battles between Arsenal and Manchester United since the turn of the millennium.
- Wiltord’s Winner – Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal (Premier League, May 2002 – Old Trafford, Manchester)
Arsenal had already sealed the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over Chelsea. Four days later, the Gunners travelled to Old Trafford knowing only a win would suffice if they were to regain the Premier League trophy from United’s grasp.
In one of the most professional away performances of the Premier League era, Arsenal went to Old Trafford, defended resolutely and came away with the golden three points which sealed Wenger’s second league and cup double.
The game was 57 minutes old when Freddie Ljungberg broke clear of the United defence. His shot was saved by Fabien Barthez, but the French keeper parried it out to his fellow countryman Sylvain Wiltord, who slotted in the rebound.
Wiltord marked his 100th Arsenal appearance in style. Arsenal, in their famous gold kit, went on to take Premier League gold, with victory at Old Trafford the decisive moment in a triumphant campaign for the North Londoners.
- Battle of the Buffet – Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal (Premier League, October 2004 – Old Trafford, Manchester)
Arsenal went into the game at Old Trafford in October 2004 on a record-breaking 49-game domestic unbeaten run in the Premier League.
Ferguson was determined to put an end to it, and his side did just that in emphatic fashion on a rainy afternoon in Manchester.
After a tense affair in the first half, the game suddenly burst into life when boy wonder Wayne Rooney put United ahead ten minutes after the half-time interval. On his 19th birthday, Rooney was very much the star of the show.
Late on in the game, the young English prodigy won a penalty for United, which Ruud van Nistelrooy converted to end Arsenal’s long domestic unbeaten run.
Tempers flared at the end too, when Cesc Fabregas threw a pizza in the face of Ferguson. Fabregas, who now plays for Chelsea, admitted to throwing the pizza while on the Sky One show A League Of Their Own.
- Entertainment of the highest order – Arsenal 2-2 Manchester United (Premier League, November 2007 – Emirates Stadium, London)
On a crisp, Autumnal early afternoon in the capital, United travelled to the Emirates Stadium to face early Premier League pace setters Arsenal.
The first half was a cagey affair until Rooney put United ahead right on the stroke of half-time, which set the tone for the second half. Fabregas levelled for the Gunners early in the second half, and at 1-1 the game became stretched with both teams going hammer and tongs for a winner.
That winner appeared to have come in the 85th minute when Cristiano Ronaldo put the away side back in front. Arsenal, though, had other ideas.
Following a goal-mouth scramble from an Arsenal corner, the ball fell to William Gallas who prodded the ball over the line. Despite Edwin van der Sar’s best efforts to keep it out, replays clearly proved that the ball was well over the line.
In one of the most entertaining games of the 2007/08 season, Arsenal and eventual champions United shared the points in a four-goal thriller.
- Wenger Stranded – Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal (Premier League, August 2009 – Old Trafford, Manchester)
It looked good for Arsenal when Russian star Andrei Arshavin put them ahead shortly before the break with a stunning strike from outside the box. In the second half, though, the tide turned with United mounting a fightback.
Just before the hour mark, Manuel Almunia brought down Rooney in the box. The United and England striker converted, before five minutes later Abou Diaby put through his own net to put United ahead. The game was quickly turned on its head.
Arsenal might have left Old Trafford with a share of the spoils but Robin van Persie was flagged offside. Wenger took his frustration out on a water bottle, and as a result he was sent to the stands where he was given a warm welcome by thousands of United supporters.
The French boss put his arms out to the side haplessly, he simply had no response.
- Arsenal mauled in Manchester – Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (Premier League, August 2011 – Old Trafford, Manchester)
One of the darkest days in Wenger’s 22-year reign as Arsenal manager when his young side were put to the sword by United.
Former United striker Danny Welbeck, who now plays for Arsenal, opened the scoring midway through the second half before Ashley Young doubled United’s lead shortly afterwards.
Arsenal’s kryptonite Rooney inflicted pain upon the Gunners once again with a hat-trick, with the first of his goals coming five minutes before half time. Theo Walcott made it 3-1 with the last kick of the first half, but Rooney, Nani and Ji-sung Park doubled United’s lead in the second half.
Van Persie grabbed a consolation, before Rooney sealed his hat-trick to make it 7-2 and Young added one more in stoppage time to add insult to injury.
The defeat is Arsenal’s joint-heaviest in Premier League history. Wenger’s side were also beaten 6-0 by Mourinho’s Chelsea in March 2014.
- Rashford’s brilliance sweeps Van Gaal off his feet – Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal (Premier League, February 2016 – Old Trafford, Manchester)
Four days after scoring his two goals for United on his debut against Danish minnows FC Midtjylland in the UEFA Europa League, Marcus Rashford repeated the feat against Arsenal.
Two first half goals from the Wythenshawe wonder-kid put United in a commanding position and set them on their way to an impressive victory which halted Arsenal’s title charge in 2015/16.
Welbeck made it 2-1 shortly before half-time against his former club, but fellow Manchester-born striker Rashford was once again the centre of attention in the second half as he teed up Ander Herrera to restore United’s two-goal cushion.
Soon after, Mesut Ozil pulled one back before the then United manager Louis van Gaal provided the game's highlight.
The former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss threw himself on the ground in protest at Alexis Sanchez diving. He may have been dismissed from his post as United manager three months later, but Van Gaal certainly left his mark on this classic fixture.