A Rivalry Sorely Missed

Written by Jay-Jay

When you think about the great sports rivalries, paramount amongst any sort of compilation or discussion should be Arsenal and Manchester United. At its pinnacle, the desire to emerge victorious and the animosity between the two clubs was an absolute joy, and I really miss it.

Since the move to the Emirates, and Arsenal’s slight drop in the pecking order of those who compete for English Football’s most prestigious honour, the rivalry has turned into something less feral and, dare I say it, tame. Arsene Wenger and his pickled counterpart can even be seen these days sharing a forum together and enjoying a bit of friendly banter.

That wouldn’t have happened back in the day.

I fondly recall the battles between the two clubs when the pressure was on and they were both competing for the title. There certainly wasn’t any of today’s friendliness at Old Trafford in 2003.

As a celebrating Martin Keown bounded toward the thoroughly deplorable van Nistelrooy like an angry baboon protecting its young, the public relations between the two clubs hit an all-time low in the melee that ensued. Every other story you read was one side’s statement of disdain at the other.  The season following saw the Vieira/Keane incident in the tunnel after Paddy had a pop at Gary Neville – customarily, a cowardly little girl – and Keane returned the favour once Neville had told on the boy bullying him. As always, the calm, cool head in the Highbury tunnel was Dennis Bergkamp. Man United eventually won the game 4-2 and I would have happily killed Gary Neville after watching him celebrate.

The list of incidents and goings-on between two clubs at the highest levels of the Premiership used to make games at either Highbury or Old Trafford between the two real spectacles and the ones we all looked forward to. The atmosphere at the games was electrifying, the tension palpable and the desire to win on each opposing player’s face was evident. There were individual rivalries, moments of brilliance and moments both sides would sooner forget.

As I said, I really miss it. The rivalry with Spurs has only recently started to have a bit of extra bite since they’ve made a marked improvement – before they were just our second-rate neighbours we’d take great pleasure in beating – and after them there isn’t really anyone else. Yes, we all hate the Chavs and their squad of nefarious hooligans, but it doesn’t have the history yet.  Let’s hope it’s merely a case of things temporarily being off the boil, with proceedings soon to be re-ignited in the future as that competitive edge returns.

God knows I miss the bragging rights over the greasy glory-boys where I work. They’re just not the same at the moment.

So, I put it to you, the humble Gooner, to give me your finest moment between the two clubs…

This post is written by Jay-Jay who has his own blog The Armchair Gooner

55 Responses to A Rivalry Sorely Missed

  1. Morning all

    Thanks Jay Jay for a great reminder of times past. We’ve gone into games against the mancs and the chavs like lambs to the slaughter recently – its pretty disgusting how we haven’t taken points off them 😦

    Arsene can talk the team up all he wants but when it came to it there just wasn’t enough fight to get the boys through the battle.

    Living in North London I have to say the rivalry between us and spuds is more passionate – more everyday, but the feeling of power when Nasri scored his double against the mancs at the Emirates in 2008 still makes me smile.

  2. ……and winning the title at Old Trafford and seeing that banner unfurl ‘Champions Section’ with our cannon on it 😀 😀 😀

  3. Danny Salford Red says:

    If Van Nistelrooy is thoroughly deplorable that makes Vieira at least vile and despicable (spitter). Also if you want to talk about cowardly little girls how about Winterburn when Di Canio raised his hand? I thought he was going to mess himself the big brave goblin. Having said all that I thoroughly miss the edge from these clashes also and look forward to renewing hostilities when you are no longer crap. 🙂 Additionally ‘The Pickled one’ is a knight of the realm so show some respect 🙂

  4. Chudi says:

    I run a United site and said the exact same thing a couple months back!
    I miss it too mate, despite the fact the games may not be as fierce they are still enjoyable to watch and there is usually drama and/or good football.

  5. Pat7 says:

    Good post JJ & nice memories Peaches which I’d second.

    Wrt Dennis – I don’t remember him as a cool head! I can remember many times when I hoped he wouldn’t get himself sent off. Unlike Peaches my memory is not as good as to when those occurred though! Am I wrong?

  6. Thanks Danny and Chudi for your comments – we’ll be much better this season and give you a proper run for your money 🙂

  7. Pat7 says:

    Well said Chudi!

    I miss the real rivalry of relative equals. Fron a gooner perspective I feel we have been going into those matches recently hoping for the best i.e. that we can raise our game to scrape a win rather than going in confidently expecting a win rather than a humiliating defeat.

    Let’s hope it changes for the better this season! – the same against the Chavs.

  8. Mo says:

    Man those were the days. I dont think seriously challenging them will bring back the bite in the matches though. Back then we had players who bled arsenal…viera the epitomy. As much of a cunt Keane was, he and viera were ultimate team ‘protectors’. I really don’t think you could say the same about this current crop. Unfortunately.

  9. OldGoon says:

    @Mo; couldn’t put it better myself mate

  10. Pat7 says:

    Talking of Knights of the Realm – it’s about time AW was given the same title for what he has done/is trying to do for English football – he has not only put Arsenal on a constant European trend & a secure future but is about to answer his critics by bringing through British stars for the future health of our game!

  11. Never mind Gooners,now you’ve got us to hate hahahahha.

  12. Pat7 – what’s interesting is that the passion and desire between both sets of players was almost touchable. Dennis was often a little spiteful I thought – probably only sticking up for himself or a team-mate – but we’ve hardly seen any current players ever take someone on.

    Theo did last season when he was just back from injury – squared up to whoever was trying to put him out of the game – got a great cheer for that.

  13. Also, Arsene was up for the rivalry then and that must have had an effect on the team whereas now he’s gone soft too.

  14. Pat7 says:

    Peaches – that may well be down to the lads being sheltered so much at ‘Arsene’s academy’. Although a passionate competitor, AW has only recently lost the lid on his temper a few times as his frustration grows (5 years). His basic teaching is high skill, with use of a brain (as per Cesc) with very polite manners & no alcohol so at the age these kids are <25 from this environment high passion is unlikely.

  15. Rasp says:

    Welcome Chudi,

    Thanks for the comment. I am pleased that you as a site owner understand the etiquette of placing comments on a rival clubs blogsite. The friendly banter is great and much appreciated. I think the Youtube footage of Roy Keane and Vieira in the tunnel is brilliant.

  16. London says:

    Morning all

    Clever idea for a post Jay-Jay and a good read to boot.

    I am going to give it some thought as to my view on our finest moment.

  17. Alan says:

    “is about to answer his critics by bringing through British stars for the future health of our game!”

    Stupidest thing I have ever read. Arsene Wenger has done f-all for the english game. All he has done has been self-serving. You don’t get a nighthood for that. At least Fergie brought through a generation full of English players. IF that ever happens at Arsenal then you can start talking. At the moment all he deserves is credit in France for producing the most arrogant bunch of no-hopers, French football has ever witnessed.

  18. Pat7 – while I believe in all those values that Arsene instills to his ‘Academites’ – a bit of mettle wouldn’t go amiss too

  19. Thats a bit strong Alan – everyone wants their team to play like Arsenal and if some of the future successes of Club England are produced at London Colney then a lot of people will be thanking him.

  20. Rasp says:


    AW’s job is not to provide a service for English football, it is to serve Arsenal football club a job he has performed brilliantly.

    Actually, a bi-product of his work for Arsenal has benefited England who regularly use our London Colney training facilites and also Arsenal provide many English players for the national youth teams who will no doubt be senior internationals in the future.

  21. Pat7 says:

    Alan – I’ll accept Fergie brought through some British players – the Becks fraternity – but struggle to see anything recently while if you look at Arsenal’s academy you’ll see lots of potential such as Walcott & Gibbs already in Capello’s mind with younger ones filling places in the U-21, U-19 etc.

    How’s Fergie doing in this respect?

  22. Pat7 says:

    Peaches – I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately Flamini was the last to defend our interests in that respect! Maybe Vermaelen will resurrect that (when he gets the armband?) now he’s settled in?

  23. Good point Pat7 – I reckon it’ll only take one to show that they’ve got the needle and it might spread through the squad – don’t expect it to be Diaby though 🙄

  24. Pat7 says:

    ….and I won’t mention Cole, Bentley & Pennant who we don’t think too much of now at THOF….oops I just did 🙂

  25. salu says:

    great post
    reminded me of the legendary days

  26. Pat7 says:

    Alan – I see you can’t come up with Fergie’s contribution then?:-)

  27. Pat7 says:

    Come to think of it – didn’t Fergie inherit them? (Becks & co.)

  28. SharkeySure says:

    Great idea and great read Jay Jay.

    Without my thinknig cap on its the 91 scrap, but I’ll be back with more when I’ve had a good think.

  29. dandan says:

    Great post. But what about the real hard men like Storey, Whiteside, Mclintock and Robson, those were the days. LOL

  30. kelsey says:

    Finest moment for me was “The 5 minute Cup Final” in 79.

    Alan Sunderland what a last gasp hero.A game we had in the bag at 2-0 and then with 10 minutes left it was 2-2 and then……

  31. as says:

    If you look at uniteds youth system you see the future, we have some right english gems in amos, welbeck, james, drinkwater, cleverley, w.keane, stewart, gill, chester, r.brown, ajose, cofie, johnstone, morrison. all have played at some sort of level for england and are some of the finest prospects in the game, so pat be more watchful of your words, plus ferguson didnt inherit anything, he’s a genius when comes to kid development which can be questioned with wenger who generally looks to take from europe.

  32. charybdis1966 says:

    Morning all, I see Jay Jay is trying to usurp my role as the main producer of anti mank rants ! 🙂

    However well played fellah, and to answer your question the most satisfying moment of pleasure that the Old Toilet Prawn sandwich munchers have give me is sealing a double at the prawn palace itself.

    Second only to “Arsenal come streaming forward now in surely what will be their last attack. A good ball by Dixon…” is Tydlesley’s “Wiltord’s got plenty of pace…” that preceded that blessed moment.

    The sight of Kanu hurdling Wiltord as he celebrated in front of the Arsenal away boys almost tops Micky T’s upside down body wiggle type thingy.

    It made you forget the typical manc petulance that followed in the game, when Ruud Va horseface punched Freddy in the stomach and the ref (following a long line of refs who give everything to ole bacon face’s mob) didn’t bother to take any action.

    Were it ever thus.

  33. Pat7 says:

    I accept the lesson AS 🙂

  34. as says:

    I liked the article mind you, i do believe when the uefa rule comes into play the league will return to a two horse race between united and arsenal, oh the good oh days of no sugar daddies whoring football, lads i wouldnt really worry of spurs, just remember they usually flirt with success then drop so watch them this yr fin like 6th or 7th.

  35. Pat7 says:

    I hope you’re right AS but AW’s got to get it right but I think he realizes that this time!

  36. as says:

    One last thing, pat mate i know you got a few good lads in walcott (bought), gibbs and wilshere but that like all i know, you had jay simpson but stupidly let him go, i would appreciate it if you could name a few cause fail see them shining.

  37. Alan says:

    I agree it isn’t Wenger’s job to look at English Football’s best interests but then I am not the one championing him for a knighthood. You receive such an honour by going above and beyond. benefitting society. The fact that England use Arsenal’s training complex is not exactly credit worthy since England probably pay for it and use it because it is the best in London. That’s really clutching at straws. Fergie may have inherited a great youth them but we all know it’s one thing having them but an entirely different thing being brave enough to being them through. Fergie is also a manager who other managers call for advise. He does great work with the LMA and he brought Europe’s greatest crown to England.

    Wenger has, thus far, played great football with technically good, foreign players. The moment he teaches English players to play like that, instead of constantly dismissing them, then we can pose an argument for Knighthood.

    I respect Wenger as one of the best managers in the game but knighthood material, he certainly is not. Claiming that gibbs, walcott (ohh please) and whilshere are englands future is at the moment pure specualtion as Lee Bowyer, Alan Smith and Lee Sharpe have all head that title at some point.

    I guess I will see you in ten years.

  38. as says:

    Good luck lads and never forget your place in the game, dont let the bastards (chelski, spuds) run you down…live life, love life.

  39. Pat7 says:

    AS – you’ll no doubt have the chance to see them from Sunday on Eurosport in the Youth WC.

  40. Alan says:

    Just to comment on the Fabregas issue as well. I feel for you folks. UTD went through the samething with Ronaldo. By the end of it they leave almost relieved you sold him. The amount of publicity and spin they create is incredible. All clubs do it. For example, when you signed Chamakh, I bet you hope that he would influence Gourcoff if you wanted him or any french player. Barca and Real just do it to another level. You will end up selling him and my guess is that it will be next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if all this spin was created by both sides so that you ended up selling him next year. Arsenal appear resolute for holding onto him for a year, Fabregas gets what he wanted and do Barca need him now? Probably not. Next year is more likely. UTD and Real did the same thing. The 80m fee was agreed in september, yet he was sold in June the following year. This is all very coordinated. Next stop, Arsenal will make a compliant to FIFA which after a few weeks will get dismissed as both sides no there is no evidence. Watch this space.

  41. Rasp says:


    England use Arsenal’s training ground because it is the best available. The FA pour huge amounts of money into the England manager’s account instead of investing in national training facilities and encouraging grass roots football – so yes, of course England benefit from having such a facility available, they didn’t have to find the money to build it.

    AW has also benefitted English football by raising the bar in the early 2,000’s and showing that clubs can succeed without long-ball, kick and run football.

    Arsenal is currently showing the Premiership how to run a club profitably within its means, and in that I feel sorry for united and pool fans whose owners have saddled them with unsustainable debt and yet still seem prepared to splash out silly money on new players

  42. Rasp says:

    Hi again Alan,

    Your summation of the Fabgregas situation is spot on. Most Arsenal supporters accept he is going, but as you say, that will probably happen next year. The galling thing is that Barca still owe us money on previous transfers.

  43. London says:

    Like your 12:24 Rasp……quality comment, not sure though if it is still correct to say that the mancs and dippers “still seem prepared to splash out silly money on new players”
    My take is that those days have gone for both of them and are both furiously trying to re-model themselves on our blue print. Tevez was the mancs high water mark, with his loss they realised they were out of their depth and could no longer compete with their more wealthy neighbours. Since then they have been more Arsenal than Arsenal in their approach to transfers and that manc above going on about their English youngsters coming through I thought to myself…….welcome to our world and may the renewed rivalry commence.

  44. Pass and move says:

    England use arsenals training centre because spurs wouldn’t
    let them use there’s thanks to Alan sugar.spurs have best training centre in England bar boro and are in the middle of developing there new 45 million pound enfeild centre that will only be
    matched by real madrids goverment made development.I no this because I take training programs all over the uk and have to most clubs centres.

  45. king gooner says:

    withoubt a doubt MANURE are top of the hate list bar none & i know the feeling is mutual prob even more than the spuds on our side & the mickey mousers on theirs ..bring it on.

  46. Jay-Jay says:

    Hi guys. I’m reading via my mobile and I just wanted to say a big thanks for featuring my little article. Glad you liked it

  47. Rasp says:

    Pass and move,

    You are incorrect, the current totnum training centre is not a patch on Arsenal’s that is a fact.

    The development in Enfield is in its infancy and only time will tell how good it will be. Planning permission has not yet been granted for all the proposed features

  48. Rasp says:

    Hi Jay-Jay,

    Thanks for the great article, currently it has over 1,000 hits 😉

  49. London says:


    I wondered how you were going to argue that one.

    BTW, I have put a post in drafts, it should go out tomorrow, add a pic if you want. I will leave it for you to publish.

  50. Rasp says:

    Hi London,

    I have intimate knowledge of the Enfield site being developed by the spuds. I know several people with properties bordering the site who have been active in the campaign to fight it froom the very start.

    Thanks for the post, I’ll have a look later. Is there any particular day you’d like to see it go up?

  51. London says:


    Unless you have something lined up, tomorrow would be best. If you read towards the end you will see why.

  52. livearsenal says:

    Heady days indeed. We had some titanic battles with the Mancs back in those days. The greatest moment of course has to be winning the title there with that Wiltord goal.

    Worst would be when Rooney dived to destroy our unbeaten run. The Invincibles were never quite the same again, despite a scrappy FA cup win the next year.

    As with so much in life, Wayne Rooney ruined it for everyone.

  53. livearsenal says:

    Nowadays I live in Manchester, so it’s even harder when we lose to them. Or like last season when we lose to United twice, and couldn’t even beat Citeh at three attempts.

  54. Rasp says:

    New post ……

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