The weekend is here and after 2 weeks of the boring international break, premier league action is back! The highlight of this weekend’s fixture is the game between Manchester United and Arsenal.
Manchester United have been the dominating force in the first 2 decade of the premier league era. In 21 seasons between 1992-93 and 2012-13, Manchester United have won the premier league title 13 times. Few teams challenged Manchester United during those years. The remaining 8 titles during those years were won by 4 different teams. One of those teams was Arsenal.
Manchester United and Arsenal were rivals even before the inception of premier league (in 1992). Manchester United had won 7 first division titles and Arsenal had won 10 until 1992. But the real edge to this rivalry was given by Arsenal’s appointment of Arsène Wenger as their manager in 1996. Arsène Wenger quickly made a struggling Arsenal team into a title contender. Between 1996 and 2004, Arsenal used to be equally good or sometimes even better than Manchester United. During this time, the 2 teams had some of the fiercest clashes ever played in Premier league. There used to be hard tackles, foul words, ugly fights and some amazing goals. These matches used to be so fierce that one match between the two in 2004 was called as ‘The battle of Old Trafford’. In that match, the tempers were running so high that at one point the players started having fist fights with one another.
Along with the rivalry between the two teams, there were some individual rivalries as well. The rivalry between the two longest serving managers in Premier League, Sir Alex and Arsène Wenger was a special one full of mutual respect, mind games, game tactics and touchline antics. Another rivalry existed between Roy Keane of Manchester United and Pattrick Viera of Arsenal, the midfielders and Captains of their respective teams. The two couldn’t stand the sight of each other. Other than the rivalries, the two teams boasted some of the finest players in their team sheets. Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo, Rooney for Manchester United and Bergkamp, Henry, Adams, Pires, Fabregas for Arsenal. Had social media been prominent then as it is today, this match would have been the most talked about in the sport. It would have got more hype than even El classico.
In recent years, after Sir Alex’s retirement, this rivalry has lost its spark. This match is no more the title decider it used to be. Roy Keane, who often used to be the most volatile player on the field during this match, complained at the lack of intensity shown by the players on both sides during recent matches.
In spite of all this, Manchester United and Arsenal supporters are always excited when the two teams meet and look forward to the match. This season, the rivalry has gained a new dimension with Jose Mourinho,the newly appointed Manchester United manager set to renew his infamous rivalry with Arsene Wenger.
As a Manchester United supporter,I am also looking forward to this weekend’s clash hoping that it would be a reminiscent of the old.