10 Defining Moments Of The Arsenal V Manchester United Rivalry

On this day in 2002 the Gunners won the league at Old Trafford
12:07, 08 May 2024

The bitter rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal might have cooled in recent years but it used to be at this time of year that their tete-a-tetes really came to a head. Indeed, it was on May 8, 2002 that Sylvain Wiltord's famous strike at Old Trafford earned the Gunners a second Premier League title.

Here are 10 moments in which the rivalry boiled over, producing entertainment both on and off the field:

1) Arsenal win the title on the final day

Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal, 2002

We start with the game celebrating its anniversary today. Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford on the penultimate weekend of the 2001-02 season in need of a draw to seal their first league title in four years, having been runners-up to United three times in a row. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side battled hard for the result, but ultimately fell to a Sylvain Wiltord goal on his 100th appearance for the club.

2) Keown goes nuts at Van Nistelrooy

Manchester United 0-0 Arsenal, 2003

One of the most intense battles between the two sides came in a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in 2003, when both sets of players went hard into tackles, scarcely hiding their dislike for one another. The worst offenders were Martin Keown and Ruud van Nistelrooy, who tussled constantly throughout the match before the Arsenal defender eventually brought him down in the box.

When Van Nistelrooy missed the penalty Keown screamed in his face, repeating the trick at the full-time whistle, with a scrum of angry players from both sides soon forming.

3) Pizza thrown as the Invincibles are beaten

Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal, 2004

Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten run was ended by United at Old Trafford a year later following a controversial penalty and a late Wayne Rooney strike. However, the match is equally famous for what happened in a tunnel bust-up after the match, when pizza was reportedly thrown – with Cesc Fabregas hitting Ferguson in the face with a slice.

4) Keane and Vieira clash before kick-off

Arsenal 2-4 Manchester United, 2005

Even when the entertainment on the pitch is high, somehow these two teams managed to change the story. A double from Cristiano Ronaldo helped overturn a 2-1 deficit at Highbury in February '05, but the game is mostly remembered for the altercation between the two captains, Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane, before the match began. Having famously disliked each other for years, their spat came to a head while they waited in the tunnel, with Keane ending the dispute by telling the Frenchman “I’ll see you out there” having claimed the Arsenal captain had been picking on United players.

5) Ferguson kicks a boot at Beckham

Manchester United 0-2 Arsenal, 2003

Furious with his team after a 2-0 defeat at home to Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round, Ferguson took the famous hairdryer treatment one step further and kicked a boot at David Beckham, hitting him just above the eye. Fergie was apparently unhappy that Beckham’s work-rate was dropping as rumours of Real Madrid’s interest grew – and unsurprisingly the incident proved to be the beginning of the end.

6) Giggs scores a wonder goal at Villa Park

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United, 1999

United’s famous FA Cup semi-final win was defined by that incredible Ryan Giggs winner, which was made extra special by the fact it was against their arch-rivals. It was a superb game and in fact Giggs’s goal overshadowed other highlights, including Dennis Bergkamp missing a late penalty and Roy Keane being sent off. Who needs replays anyway, FA suits?

7) Overmars goal sets Arsenal up for title victory

Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal, 1998

Arsene Wenger’s first league title with Arsenal was an improbable one. They trailed United by 12 points before a series of 10 consecutive wins turned things around, and the defining moment was a win at Old Trafford to put them within six points of the champions with three games in hand. Marc Overmars scored the goal with 10 minutes remaining, condemning the hosts to their second league defeat in seven days.

8) Campbell sees red in dramatic draw

Arsenal 2-2 Manchester United, 2003

United managed to overhaul a big Arsenal lead in the 2002-03 season to win the title, and one of the most important results came in April. United won nine of their final 10 league matches, drawing once – 2-2 against Arsene Wenger’s side in which they twice equalised after Thierry Henry goals. Sol Campbell also received a red card for elbowing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

9) United humiliate their rivals

Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal, 2011

One of the all-time great Premier League matches was also Arsenal’s biggest defeat since 1896. A Wayne Rooney hat-trick stands out among the many United goalscorers on arguably the worst day of Wenger’s tenure. The margin of victory wasn’t big enough as it turned out, as Manchester City won the title on goal difference thanks to Sergio Aguero’s last-minute winner against QPR.

10) Rashford marks his arrival with a brace

Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal, 2016

Following two goals on his debut in the Europa League three days earlier, 18-year-old Marcus Rashford scored another brace against Arsenal at Old Trafford on his league debut. This was also the match in which Louis van Gaal famously threw himself to the ground in remonstration, although that fact certainly won’t live as long in the memory as Rashford’s magical start.

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