Yesterday’s post suggested that the aggressive, no holds barred Arsenal v Man U animosity originated in February 1988 when Nigel Winterburn castigated Brian McClair for blasting a penalty into the North Bank right at the end of a fifth round FA Cup tie with United 2-1 down. Funny as that was, did the seething dislike of one another begin then?
As far as supporters go, the Cockney Reds (London-based Man U supporters) have always been universally disliked by fans of London teams. Between 1967 and 1993, Man U did not win the League title. We won it three times but it was Liverpool who dominated the 70s and 80s.
Arsenal won the title in 1989 with the famous last game of the season triumph at Anfield. That McClair/Winterburn spat had occurred the season before so perhaps it had been that which sparked the mutual loathing. Certainly October 1990 at Old Trafford saw a 21 man brawl, when McClair started kicking Winterburn after a dodgy tackle on Irwin.
As David Rocastle said, “It was our team-mate, our little blood brother, in trouble. They were kicking Nigel like a nightclub brawl. That’s what got us upset. If it was just a bad tackle, you wouldn’t go in like that, no chance. But when I saw them kicking Nigel I ran over thinking, ‘You can’t have this!’ We went in there and we stuck up for each other. At Arsenal we never, ever started any brawls – we just finished them.”
Arsenal won the game 1-0 thanks to Anders Limpar but we were docked 2 points, the mancs docked only 1, even though they had instigated the violence. Arsenal ran away with the League losing only the 1 game all season and the fans enjoyed singing “you can stick your 2 points up your a*se” as the title win was confirmed.
During the early and mid 90s, United dominated the League once Ferguson found his feet. He had been within a cat’s whisker of being sacked (oh, how things might have been). Once a certain Monsieur Wenger transformed the dreadful George Graham mid-90s Arsenal into a team which could compete for the title again, his rivalry with Ferguson was set and became a feature of the late 90s right up to the 2005 FA Cup Final.
Other outfits complained that it had become a two team League with either Arsenal or Man U winning it every season. The biggest games every season were the blood and thunder London/red Manc showdowns. Overmars in 1998, the epic 1999 season (which sadly all went United’s way) and the battle of the midfield titans of Vieira and Keane were all hall marks of that time.
United hated Arsenal’s 2003/4 dominance and several times used tactics more suited to Gorbals street fighting to close the gap in class. Our 49 game unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of grievous bodily harm all over the pitch, a pathetically lame excuse for a referee in Mike Riley and a disgraceful Wayne Rooney dive. If Fergusion couldn’t win fair and square, it was obvious he would do anything in his power to conjure up an advantage.
These days he sits in the stands like a genial old uncle who commands respect and admiration by all those around him. However, Arsenal fans will never forget the beatings our players took, especially at Old Trafford, which were the work of one man alone.
Since 2005, Arsenal slipped and it was only the revolting Robin van Persie who revived the animosity with his ‘listened to the little boy inside’ nonsense.
Are there any players left who might still understand the depths of hatred which caused mild-mannered bloggers like Chary to lose their rag whenever Man U were mentioned? Herrera is a sh*thouser’s sh*thouser but he’d be like that whichever team he played for. Maybe the new, baby-faced United manager would know more about it than anyone else involved tomorrow.
Rooney knew the score, van Nistelrooy would do anything to turn us over, the Neville brothers were manc-versions of the Krays in some of those early noughties games at OT, Schmeichel and Wright squared up over allegations of racist taunts and corresponding two-footed tackles, Keown caused the Dutchman to soil his pants in 2003, Lauren cut Ronaldo in half at Highbury, Vieira made Gary Neville look like a schoolboy in the tunnel at Highbury.
Where has all this resentment gone? Swallowed up by Chelsea and Man City buying the League, maybe. Would we want it all back how it was, maybe not. Perhaps with both teams currently more likely to be fighting for the 4th CL slot or Europa football rather than Championships, it has taken some of the edge off it?
What do you think? Are we now looking back at an intense rivalry consigned to history?
One thing’s for certain, when the whistle blows for kick off tomorrow evening, I hope the Arsenal team show the passion and pride they’ve shown in the two big London derbies at the Emirates so far this season and go out to humiliate Solskjaer’s boys with the quality of their football.
Brilliant, very well written post, Chas. You really took me back into time there. 🙂
The way they went about to finish our 49 unbeaten run will forever stick in my mind. A Manc friend texted me that day ‘natural order restored’, and it was then that I knew I would really hate the Mancs forever. They are the most arrogant. self-pleased fans you will come across, and it pleases me no end that they cannot get back to the top despite throwing hundreds of millions of pounds at it every season and even went as low as appointing Mourinho after losing out to Citeh for the hottest trainer ticket in Europe. I also hate the way Citeh bought their success but the one good thing that came from it is the demise of the red Mancs.
Of the current Manc squad I cannot stand A Young and indeed Herrera, but they are pussycats compared to those you mentioned in your post.
Chas. Really good read, thank you.
One of my favourite MU memories is of Nutty Winterburn winding up Cantona at Highbury to the point when the French Ponce got a well deserved red. The entire ground got out their red season tickets and waved him off. Brilliant.
An interesting question Chas! Where has all the resentment gone? Mine hasn’t gone at all and was magnified when Moaninho got the job at Manure, since he and his “style” linked directly with the other team who produce bile in the back of the throat.
So much of the Manure animosity came from the combination of Ferguson’s approach to the Wenger/Arsenal challenge together with so many other indirect factors. Every referee seemed to be content to continue the injustice. Apart from saying to the Neville brothers, go ahead and kick Antonio Reyes off the pitch (“He is only Spanish after all”) for instance, there was Fergie time!! Who is running the game we would ask? We knew, Ferguson and Manure. Referees spoken to before the game with a nod and a wink, even visited in their changing rooms during half time. This seemed like the era when Northern men in black resented a team of Southern softies challenging the black pudding masters of the National game.
We loved it when Patrick stood up for our little men; when Wrighty tried to split that Danish gargoyles in half; when Martin revelled in that cheating Dutchmans travails.
So it’s never gone for me, and together with our win last Saturday against the slimeballs of South West London, a win tomorrow would make it one of the best weeks for me in 58 years of loving The Arsenal.
Effort went into that I can tell, thanks for a great read.
Where did the rivalry go? I think one of the reasons it was particularly elevated at the time was because spuds were so poor, they really were not fit to be our rivals. This has changed, of course, they are now a tad better but not much. On the other hand, we and United are, again of course, no longer the only two teams likely to win the league and as such our games are slightly less intense.
Still really looking forward to Friday though.
The history of transfers doesn’t flatter us and is part of the MU dislike.
Stapleton, George Graham, Ian Ure, Viv Anderson Mr. V. Pursy. All terrific players who did well at OT. Oh, and The Dog Fancier.
We get Silvestre, Mhiki, Welbz. Brian Kidd did well for us. Essentially their cast-offs.
That was a great read Chas – one of your best to date.
I really enjoyed watching the Busby babes and had no ill feelings towards them – I saved all that for Spurs. But that all changed in the late eighties and intensified in the nineties.
The Rooney dive remains as one of my worst memories and I firmly believe that Mike Riley was receiving back handers from United.
One of my great joys has been to witness their demise – long may it last.
We need to show them who’s boss tomorrow.
Fred, did you not see Mesut standing alongside Dick, with a pained expression on his face, in the paintball picture. I think “Dick” by name, may have got his own back below the belt.
A really very good Post, Chas, thoroughly enjoyable.
I don’t know anything about the 1988 kerfuffle involving Mc Clair, don’t know him to be honest, so it is possible that was the key moment when Arsenal and Manure players/managers fell out.
My own more limited view was based around the ascendancy of Arsenal and the Mancs after the Premier League got underway and with each fighting to be the top dog, tensions often spilled over — such as Keown jumping in Horseface’s face when he missed a very important penalty.
Of course van Nistlerooy might look askance at someone with my ugly mug calling him horseface — but there you go! 🤪
Are there any videos of the brawl?
If you don’t want to feel angry, don’t watch this.
Mike Riley. I’m still fuming.
Disgraceful refereeing but what we cane to expect from refs at OT.-
The commentators should be ashamed of their awful bias
“Their perceived sense of injustce”……never, even in the famous Leeds/Chelsea Cup game, was there clearly before your eyes, a greater injustice, sanctioned by Ferguson, ‘encouraged’ by the most blatant cheat that was Riley.
I remember that at this time there were debates (perhaps pie in the sky at the time) as to the possibility of the police being called to consider “assault” charges in some games.
Wonder what Riley would say now, let alone the commentators.
Wait on arsenal player got yellow smh
Chas re 4:51 – that still makes me seethe with anger!!
That 8.51 sums up the tackle from behind rule at present. Absolute, unadulterated Bollox.
Why we need a ram’s successor when we already have the man smh
Cos he’s leaving to be on 300k a week at Juve.
That’s the advantage (for him) of leaving for no transfer fee and would seem to have been his plan all along.
U think so chas, all I heard was the club pulled back the contract that he was willing to sign
This happened long before juventus 300k
How long were the Club trying to get him to sign a contract extension?
Negotiations usually start in the penultimate season of a player’s contract (for Ramsey 2017/18), so say sometime in late 2017 perhaps.
He didn’t sign during that penultimate season (especially when he saw what Mesut (in his last season) had been offered to stay).
Presumably by the start of this season, Arsenal’s final offer was on the table and there was still no sign of a signature.
If it gets to the last season, it seems to me that only a big increase in an offer gets a contract signature, as per Mesut.
When a contract offer is withdrawn, it’s the easiest thing in the world to say, ‘ oh yeah, I was going to sign it all along’. That way you can look like the slighted party.
Anyway, that’s my take on the affair and like anybody else’s, it’s all complete speculation. ☺
We’ll probably never know the actual truth. However, I do remember Sol Campbell becoming the Club’s highest earner when he signed on a free transfer in 2001.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of Paris fashion week…
No De Gea tonight and some say don’t boo the Chilean mercenary because he’ll like it.
A risk perhaps, but sorry, my lungs will be primed.
“Don’t tell him, Pike!
Adrian Durham and Piss mOrgan live from the Emirates at 4.00 on Talk sport. A marriage reminiscent of the West’s!!
Alan Brazil trying to pronounce Sokratis’ s full name. Radio gold!
Brazil, his mate and Willie Carson
8.12 is brilliant.
There is a New Post
Gutted to see him go
I remember when he drove me crazy now praying for him to stay
Is this were bellerin gets his style from