Is the Arsenal Man United rivalry a thing of the past?

January 24, 2019

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.

Andy Hooper

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.


Vieira, Leadership and Nonsense

December 10, 2013

I am an occasional peruser of Newsnow’s Arsenal page. For those of you not familiar with Newsnow, it’s a website that pulls together any and all current stories on a wide range of topics, updated every few minutes.

If you’re financially minded you can visit its Business pages; if digital is your thing you might go to the Technology pages; if you like comedy you can drop in on the Tottenham Hotspur page.

But, naturally, it’s the Arsenal page that is in my bookmarks.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when I started browsing said page only to encounter a barrage of headlines saying that one of our erstwhile sons – a former Invincible, no less – was slagging off the current Arsenal team.

These were some of the headlines:

Vieira Says Arsenal Lack Leadership.”

Vieira: Arsenal Lack Leadership to Win PL.”

Patrick Vieira Undermines Arsenal’s Title Bid By Suggesting Gunners Are Not Capable of Winning Ugly.”

Apparently our former captain trotted out the well-worn complaint that today’s Arsenal lacks the sort of natural leaders that were sprinkled throughout the Invincibles era team like raisins in a bagel: Keown, Adams, Campbell, Bergkamp and, of course, Vieira himself.

It’s always a bit disappointing to see one of our old heroes having a pop at the current crop of Arsenal players (or indeed the manager).

Arsenal /Leicester City-

But, reading the full story of the Vieira comments, a couple of things sprang to mind.

First, we have to remember that although he may have been one of our greatest heroes while in an Arsenal shirt, Patrick Vieira now happens to work for one of our rivals, Manchester City. (His current role is “Reserve Team Manager” which, at City, must be quite amusing: most reserve team managers have to coach a bunch of has-beens, kids and returning crocks. Vieira presumably manages a reserve team worth more than the gross national product of some countries).

So, as someone currently representing a rival – a rival we’ll be playing this weekend – we should not necessarily expect him to be bigging up the Arsenal, regardless of his history with us.

But, more importantly, I read that the Vieira comments came as part of a documentary that will air tonight on ITV4. It’s called Keane and Vieira: The Best of Enemies and brings together the two great midfield hard men of their generation to reminisce about those happy days when maiming opponents and picking fights in the tunnel was looked on as high spirits.

The documentary is more than an hour long and I can tell you that sixty-minute documentaries do not get made overnight.

In fact it usually takes a minimum of three months to get one from pre-production to broadcast (the editing alone for a one-hour programme can be up to six weeks).

So it is reasonable to assume that whatever comments Paddy makes in the film were made either very early in the season or even before the season began. The only reason they’re all over the press now is that the producers have a documentary to promote.

And it’s hard to argue with the fact that, looking back over the past few years from the perspective of this summer, Vieira would have had a point about our continuing problems with leadership and failing to win when playing badly.

But do you think Paddy would make those same claims if asked today about the Arsenal team of right now?

I don’t.

He would look at players like Vermaelen, Koscielny, Flamini, Ramsey and Arteta and accept that we do now – at last – have a decent crop of leaders.

And he would also acknowledge that, so far this season, we have been able to get results when not at our best.

So, fellow Arsenal supporters, let’s not get on our high horses about Vieira and his comments. They were almost certainly made quite some time ago and by someone who works for our opponents.

Nothing to see here, move along please.

As for the main theme of the ITV4 film – the rivalry between Vieira and Keane – I throw that over to you: who was the better player? Who was the more influential? And who was the harder?


A Rivalry Sorely Missed

July 15, 2010

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