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7 times the rivarly between Man United and Arsenal went a little too far

Man United v Arsenal is one of the quintessential Premier League grudge matches.


In fact it’s so grudgey that it has spawned a long list of mini grudges, some of which that live on to this day.

According to footballing historians who can actually remember what the game looked like before the Premier League was invented, the origins of this bitter rivalry can be traced back to the year 1990.

Back then, a 21-man brawl in a game at Old Trafford led to points deductions for both teams and a growing resentment which really gathered pace later that decade.

Thanks in part to the arrival of the Arsene Wenger.

Wenger was urbane, sophisticated and educated, which really got up then Man United boss Alex Ferguson’s bright red nose.

What followed was a series of monumental ding-dongs, the likes of which English football has rarely seen since.

Nowadays, of course, with Fergie gone and Wenger on the wane, the rivalry is much diminished.

So let’s just take a second to remember the most horrible, most niggly and most beautiful grudges ever to come of out of one of the Premier League’s nastiest fixtures.


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1 Brian McClair v Nigel Winterburn

Man United v Arsenal

This was the one that started it all.

Arsenal full-back Winterburn had rubbed it in after Man United striker McClair missed a penalty in the fixture in 1988, so McClair got his own back in 1990 by giving Winterburn a good kicking while he lay on the floor after clashing with Denis Irwin.

The infamous 21-man brawl quickly followed and a hatred was born.

2 Sol Campbell v Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Man United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer squares up to Arsenal's Sol Campbell

Campbell took the Route One approach to starting a feud by elbowing Man United supersub Solskjaer square in the face.

You know where you are with an elbow in the face. There’s no ambiguity. Unless…

“It was not a case of swinging the arm into his face, although it could have looked that way to the naked eye,” Sol later said, after he’d been summarily dismissed and banned for three matches for violent conduct.

3 Francis Jeffers v Phil Neville

Arsenal's Francis Jeffers attacks Man United defender Phil Neville in the 2003 Community Shield

Possibly the most accurate use of Francis Jeffers’ left boot for the entirety of his Arsenal career came in one of the most tempestuous Community Shield matches ever played.

After a rain of yellow cards, and yet more Sol Campbell violent conduct, Jeffers lined one up and booted Phil Neville upside the head in 2003.

A red card quickly followed, in what is essentially a charity friendly match. Well done, Francis. You’re hard.

4 Roy Keane v Patrick Vieira

Man United midfielder Roy Keane responds to a slap round the chops from Arsenal's Patrick Vieira

We’ve all seen the tunnel footage, but our all-time favourite moment in the long history of Keane-Vieira antipathies came in 1999 when they actually engaged in some on-pitch fisticuffs.

Back when that stuff actually happened and players didn’t just press their foreheads together like randy, mating reindeer.

This scrap occurred off the ball – natch – and led to a mass scramble which included Vieira having a pop at Jaap Stam.

Glorious scenes.

5 Alex Ferguson v Cesc Fabregas

Image result for pizza-gate

Pizza-gate feels like a wonderful, magical dream.

But it wasn’t a dream. It was real.

It went like this: Man United ended Arsenal’s 4,447-game unbeaten run in a feisty encounter at Old Trafford, courtesy of a questionable penalty and a Wayne Rooney tap in.

Needless to say Arsenal were quite sad about this.

So sad, in fact, that when Cesc Fabregas happened upon some post-match pizza in the United tunnel, he decided not to eat it, but to throw it in the face of United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

It was sore losing at it’s tastiest best, most satisfying best.

6 Alex Ferguson v David Beckham

Man United midfielder David Beckham sports plaster on eyebrow after Alex Ferguson kicks a boot at him

It’s fair to say that Ferguson and David Beckham were experiencing relationship difficulties in 2003.

Suddenly those quirky, cute characteristics that made them fall for each other in the first place were starting to get on their nerves.

As is so often in these situations, things turned violent.

At half-time of an FA Cup fifth round fixture with Arsenal (which the Gunners would eventually win 2-0), Fergie was delivering one of his typically energetic ‘teamtalks’ when he decided to kick a boot at Beckham’s face.

Tough love, a psychotic attack, call it what you will, but things were never the same between them after this and within four months Beckham had left the club.

7 Martin Keown v Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Man United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy is abused by Arsenal defender Martin Keown during a Premier League game at Old Trafford

And finally, last but by no means least…

Nobody liked Ruud Van Nistelrooy. His team-mates hated him, his manager eventually hated him, probably even his own wife isn’t particularly fond of him.

But nobody disliked him more than Martin Keown

So when the long-faced Dutchman missed a last-minute penalty which would’ve stopped Arsenal’s Invincibles season in its tracks, Keown couldn’t help getting all up in his grill and screaming at him like a maniac.

Apparently Ruud had been winding him up all game so had the Quasimodo moment coming.

Whether he deserved it or not, it remains the greatest thing ever to have happened in a United-Arsenal game.

And yes we are including that Henry goal.

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