After Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Wigan last night Alex Ferguson’s men require just one more point from their last two games to retain their Premier League title. On Saturday they take on Arsenal at Old Trafford and will be eager to put one over their rivals and wrap the league up in front of their own fans. Since Ferguson took over at Old Trafford the games between these two rivals have been fiercely contested and often have had huge consequences for the destiny of that season’s title. Unfortunately for Wenger’s men in recent seasons they have slipped below the standards previously set but they will be keen to avoid gifting United the title come the weekend. Before this encounter EPL Talk decided to look back at five of the most important encounters between the sides at Old Trafford that defined an era in the Premier League.
5. Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal, March 1998
This is certainly one of the Premiership titles that Ferguson will consider got away and launched Wenger towards Arsenal immortality. United enjoyed a twelve point gap at one point but came up against an Arsenal team that ran into an inspired run of form after Christmas follwoing a 3-1 beating by Blackburn at Highbury. This game at Old Trafford was undoubtedly the tipping point as Marc Overmars’ stunning finish from a Nicolas Anelka flick gave Arsenal a 1-0 victory and all the momentum. This was the day the Ferguson/Wenger rivalry started after Arsenal wrapped up the double at United’s expense.
4. Manchester United 0-0 Arsenal, September 2003.
Another fiery installment of this rivalry that will live long in the memory. This early season clash had far reaching implications for the rest of the season. Patrick Vieira received his marching orders in a tense match before Ruud Van Nistelrooy missed a last minute penalty that sparked wild scenes with Martin Keown, Lauren and others berating the Dutch striker. The vitriol aparently continued in the tunnel after the match and led to a number of lengthy bans. Importantly, Manchester United missed an opportunity to halt Arsenal’s Invincible season early on and the siege mentality must have helped Arsenal to Wenger’s third Premiership at the club.
3. Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal, October 2004.
Arsene Wenger’s team arrived at Old Trafford as ‘the Invincibles’ after winning the previous league without losing a match, a run that had been extended to 49 games by October. Arsenal were keen to reach the symbolic 50 not out but much to the delight of the Old Trafford faithful they came unstuck, losing 2-0. Ruud Van Nistelrooy opened the scoring with a penalty that Arsenal fans to this day maintain came from a Wayne Rooney dive. Rooney wrapped the game up in the second half and smashed Arsenal’s great run. Arsenal have never really hit the same heights since and ‘the Invincibles’ have been resigned to Arsenal lore.
2. Manchester United 6-1 Arsenal, February 2001.
A match Arsenal fans would love to forget but this is without doubt the most emphatic victory delivered by either side in the recent era. United cruelly exposed an Arsenal defence that contained the inept Igor Stepanovs and the patchy Oleg Luzhny. Dwight Yorke’s opener was cancelled out by a superb Henry goal but then United just steamrolled their opposition. Dwight Yorke grabbed a first half hat-trick and Keane, Solsjkaer and Sheringham heaped further misery on their rivals, on their way to another Premiership title.
1. Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal, May 2002.
A game that Arsenal fans still love to remind their Manchester rivals of every time the two sides meet. Arsenal had just claimed the FA Cup and travelled to Old Trafford knowing victory would seal the title. Fergie’s men were determined not to let that happen but Arsenal were the better side and sealed the title and the double with Sylvain Wiltord’s second half goal. As Ferguson’s men trudged off the pitch Arsenal’s players celebrated with their travelling support, a seminal Premiership moment.