Man United - The Real Rivalry?
Totten*am may be geographically our closest rivals, but unquestionably during the Wenger years Manchester United have been our fiercest rivals in a footballing sense.
The giants of north and south have traded titles, cups, and mind-games in equal measure until the arrival of the Russian`s millions in West London, and United are threatening to land the Premiership yet again.
The last ten years have seen tense, high-profile clashes between the protagonists from opposite ends of the country. In Wenger`s first full season United were humbled home and away as Arsenal romped to the double. David Platt secured a 3-2 triumph at Highbury, with Marc Overmars scoring the only goal in a crucial contest at Old Trafford.
The following season started with Arsenal comfortably lifting the Charity Shield, 3-0 against United at Wembley, yet ended with United claiming a dramatic treble. Arsenal claimed four of the six league points on offer but were stunned in the FA Cup semi-final when Bergkamp`s last-minute penalty miss gave Giggs the chance to grab the winner in extra-time.
United claimed the first two titles of the twenty-first century which began with Arsenal claiming a second Charity Shield at United`s expense. The next three league clashes produced one win, one defeat, and one draw, before United crushed a weakened Arsenal side 6-1 at Old Trafford in December 2001.
Revenge was fully extracted the following season as Arsenal won all three games against Fergie`s charges (including a 4-0 League Cup triumph). Thierry Henry struck twice in a 3-1 win at Highbury, but the big contest of the season saw the Gunners clinch the double, at Old Trafford of all places, with a single Wiltord strike.
In 2002-03 United won 2-0 at Old Trafford, yet Arsenal returned the compliment at the same venue on the way to another triumph in Cardiff. Honours were shared in the league game at Highbury and United regained the title. As 'the invincibles` reclaimed the Premiership in 2004 United did as well as anyone against the undefeated champions, drawing both home and away.
2004-5 opened with another Arsenal Community Shield triumph, but it was United who ended the forty-nine match unbeaten run at Old Trafford, and went on to claim victories in a League Cup clash, and the return League fixture at Highbury. Arsenal ended the season on a high however with a penalty shoot-out victory in the FA Cup Final at Cardiff. So to last season and United`s last appearance at Highbury ended in a no-score draw. The hosts claimed the homours with a 2-0 win at Old Trafford.
Most of these clashes have been high octane affairs which have gripped the imagination, and there is little doubt that the latest instalment on Sunday will be eagerly anticipated by fans worldwide. Arsenal have already toppled United at Old Trafford, courtesy of Adebayor`s superb finish, but Fergie`s men are desperate for the points to strengthen their grip on first place. It looks like being a real belter!
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