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…