Wenger retires: MM’s six of the best as Arsenal manager calls it a day

The world of football management stood united today in appreciation after the news that Arsene Wenger is to step down as manager of Arsenal Football Club after 22 years at the helm.

Wenger revolutionised English football in the late 1990s and early 2000s and remains the only manager in Premier League history to inspire his side to going a full season unbeaten – Arsenal’s Invincibles of 2003/04.

During Wenger’s tenure, the Gunners have won three Premier League titles (1998, 2002, 2004), seven FA Cups (’98, ’02, ’03, ’05, ’14, ’15, ’17) and six Community Shields. The French boss has also been voted as the Premier League manager of the year on three occasions.

To commemorate his impending departure from the Emirates at the end of the season, MM takes a look at six memorable matches in Manchester – from annihilations at the hands of both Manchester clubs, to important victories and title wins.

6. Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (Premier League, August 2011 – Old Trafford)

The third round of fixtures of the 2011/12 season ended in total humiliation for Wenger and his young, inexperienced Arsenal team on the day – it was one of the darkest days in Wenger’s 22-year reign as Arsenal manager.

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 Wayne 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.

Robin 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.

5. Manchester City 6-3 Arsenal (Premier League, December 2013 – Etihad Stadium)

Just over two years on from Arsenal’s 8-2 hammering at the hands of United, Wenger’s side would endure another miserable ride in Manchester, this time at the Etihad Stadium.

Arsenal had started off the season well, and they were top of the pile going into this one, and if they won they would go nine points clear of Manchester City.

The home side were fast out of the blocks with Argentine star striker Sergio Aguero opening the scoring 15 minutes into the game.

Walcott equalised on the half hour mark, but Alvaro Negredo restored the Citizens’ lead shortly afterwards.

With both sides coming out all guns blazing in the second half, the game burst into life with a flurry of goals. Six goals were scored the second half – four for City and two for Arsenal.

Fernandinho scored two in an excellent midfield performance from the Brazilian, and Walcott also doubled his tally before David Silva put City into a 5-3 lead.

Two stoppage time goals from Per Mertesacker for Arsenal, and a Yaya Toure penalty for City added to the entertainment in one of the best games of the 2013/14 season – where City eventually took the Premier League crown.

4. Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal (FA Cup quarter-final, March 2015 – Old Trafford)

Domestically, United and Arsenal were up and down in the 2014/15 season, and the two teams faced off in an FA Cup quarter-final in March 2015 with an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley awaiting the winner.

Despite home advantage, United failed to take the game to Arsenal and the visitors took a deserved early lead inside 25 minutes through Nacho Monreal.

United soon hit back, with Rooney nodding in an Angel di Maria cross to bring the Red Devils back on level terms after half an hour.

After United drew level, the game looked as though it would peter out and go to a replay in North London… but former United man Welbeck had other ideas.

He came back to haunt his old club, making the most of a back pass from his once teammate Antonio Valencia to put Arsenal into a 2-1 lead on the hour mark.

The Gunners remained resolute in a strong defensive performance from Wenger’s side, who went on to win the FA Cup for the second straight year two months later – beating Aston Villa 4-0 at Wembley.

3. Manchester City 1-5 Arsenal (Premier League, February 2003 – Maine Road)

Wenger built some fantastic sides at Arsenal, and his best side was perhaps the one between 2001 and 2004 where he lifted two Premier League titles in three years.

Despite missing out on the title in 2003 either side of title triumphs in 2002 and 2004, Wenger’s Arsenal side were in full flight on a sunny afternoon in Manchester.

At the end of February, Arsenal looked favourites to defend their 2002 crown as the win at Maine Road put them five points clear at the top of the league.

First half goals from Dennis Berkamp, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell put Arsenal 4-0 up by half-time as the Gunners’ attacking quality was simply too much for Kevin Keegan’s men.

Patrick Vieira extended Arsenal’s lead in the second half, before former Gunner Nicolas Anelka grabbed a late consolation for City.

A 5-1 score line on the day did not flatter Arsenal at all, the game showcased the attacking talent of one of the best sides in Premier League history.

2. Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal (Premier League, August 2009 – Old Trafford)

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 gift United a 2-1 lead. The game was swiftly turned on its head.

Arsenal might have left Old Trafford with a share of the spoils but Van Persie, who went later went on to represent United, 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 Arsenal manager put his arms out to the side haplessly, he simply had no response.

1. Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal (Premier League, May 2002 – Old Trafford)

The 8-2 defeat in 2011 was one of Wenger’s worse results as a manager, but nine year earlier he earned one of his best results at the same ground – a 1-0 victory over Sir Alex Ferguson’s reigning champions.

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.


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