53 min Sanchez plays a fine pass to Valencia, whose cross eventually reaches Ashley Young. He hits a half-volley that is deflected behind for a corner.
GOAL! Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal (Mkhitaryan 51)
Mkhitaryan equalises against his old club! It came from a United mistake, with Herrera and Matic leaving the ball to each other in midfield. Xhaka nicked it off them and played it to Mkhitaryan, who moved into the D and drove a low shot that went through the legs of Lindelof and into the net. It wasn’t the cleanest strike but De Gea was unsighted and it drifted into the corner.
51 min “I come from a younger generation of fans who never really got to experience the rivalry in its pomp,” says Abhu Tyagi. “Yet it was those battles of those early 2000s that ignited my interest in football. My best friend as a five-year old was British and he was a United supporter who hated Arsenal. As a five-year old is wont to do, I started doing the exact same thing. Since then, I loved every moment of it; Ronaldo and Rooney running amok in 2009, that counter-attack in 2010, 8-2, RVP’s goal but perhaps my most vivid memory is more recent: the abject 3-0 defeat in 2015, where for the first time in a long time, United lost to Arsenal in a meaningful Premier League game. I saw my childhood crumbling to dust, as I received message after message from Arsenal fans, all too keen to gloat. Perhaps the worst moment (and there were many) of the LVG era.”
50 min Marcus Rashford replaces Lukaku, who is hobbling off the field. It looks like a knock rather than something that might keep him out of the FA Cup final, but you never know with these things.
50 min Lukaku is down after a strong but fair tackle from Mavropanos. I think he needs to come off.
49 min “Is it fair to single out any one Arsenal player as an example of stasis, or worse?” says Charles Antaki. “Probably not. But if you wanted to, Kolasinac is a decent candidate for the familiar trope of declining expectations. He started out as a terrific lump of muscular, marauding attacking wing-backery, and now, on today’s basis at least, he’s become just a terrific lump. But as with the game as a whole, it’s hard to care at the moment.”
48 min Maitland-Niles makes a surging run into the United area, only to mishit a left-footed shot that takes a double deflection and bounces through to De Gea. It was a lovely run though.
47 min Crikey, what a statistic this is from the folks on Sky Sports. United have led at half-time in 268 Premier League games at Old Trafford. They’ve won 253, drawn 15 and lost none.
47 min “The 2-4 at Highbury in 2005 is my favourite,” says Liam Moseley. “Arsenal were at the end of a cycle; United were at the beginning of theirs. Neither side were anywhere near winning the league yet the game so was intense and full of hatred for one another that it made a compelling and thrilling encounter. There hasn’t been a game like it in the Premier League since.”
Yeah, what I like about that game is that it meant absolutely nothing and absolutely everything. Chelsea were also going to win the league, but by then Arsenal and United loathed each other so much that context was irrelevant. It was just wonderful.
46 min Peep peep! United begin the second half of this
“Hi Rob,” says Ted Lee. “I had to staff a computer fair the day of the 1999 semi-final replay, so I couldn’t watch the game. There were no smartphones back then, limited internet connectivity where I was, and it was still a time where to watch the I had to drive 40 minutes at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to find a sports bar carrying Setanta. But the FA Cup game was being televised, so I recorded it at home and it wasn’t too hard to avoid the result. I turned on the TV before rewinding my VCR, and the TV tuner was on the station it was recording and in that odd way you hear the TV’s audio for a couple of seconds before the video came on, I heard what was unmistakably Ferguson’s voice say ‘We got out of jail.’ I muted the TV to not hear any more and very much enjoyed the next two hours.”
I bet you enjoyed minutes 69-109 a lot more than most United fans did.
Half time: Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal
Peep peep! United lead through Paul Pogba’s goal in a subdued match. Arsenal’s reserves have played some nice stuff and probably deserve to be level.
45 min “I still love the 6-2 in the Rumbelows Cup,” says Anthony Perrin. “Wallace and Sharpe on the rampage. United were around 25 years without the league and Arsenal had been exchanging league titles. It made be break the tab on my VHS so it couldn’t be recorded over. That was a massive commitment in the early Nineties.”
I got the worst mark of my life in an exam the next day, having been far too giddy to do any last-minute revision, or care less about the exam itself. I’d like to say I was also giddy about Thatcher resigning that day, but that would be a bald-faced one.
44 min A cross from the right is headed wide from 12 yards by the flying Nelson. It was a decent enough effort. There wasn’t much pace on the ball so he had a lot of work to do, and he couldn’t do it.
41 min Young’s mishit cross from the left smacks off the outside of the near post!
40 min Xhaka, already booked, is penalised for handball. Kevin Friend decides not to give him a second yellow, presumably because it was a misjudgement rather than a cynical handball.
39 min “Surprised you have got this far without anyone mentioning the 1979 Cup Final yet,” says Nicholas Porritt. “A vivid childhood memory made more memorable because there was so little live football back then. At that time Arsenal really were vile, barely above Leeds United in the popularity stakes and encapsulated perfectly by the Willie Young foul the following year. That Man Utd team was typical of the post-Busby, pre-Fergie United: stylish, expensive, but ultimately unreliable and disappointing. The Jaguar of the Football League. You couldn’t help falling in love with them.”
Dave Sexton’s United stylish, really? It was before my time, but I’ve read one or two alternative appraisals.
38 min A bit of pinball in the Arsenal area ends with a shot from Lukaku that deflects off Bellerin and is easily saved by Ospina.
37 min Back in the year 2018, Arsenal are having an excellent spell. As Martin Tyler says on Sky, an equaliser wouldn’t be undeserved.
GOAL! Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal (Wiltord 57) Arsenal are surely going to be champions now! Sylvain Wiltord has continued their record of scoring in every game and taken them to the brink of glory. Ljungberg, inevitably, was involved. He ran through a woolly challenge from Blanc and hit a shot that was pushed away by Barthez. It came to Wiltord, who slid it nonchalantly into the net with his left foot!
36 min Aubameyang misses an excellent chance, heading weakly at De Gea from 10 yards after a good cross from Bellerin.
34 min Has anyone trademarked the phrase “end-of-season feel”?
31 min “Mkhitaryan so far looks like he never left,” says Adam Roberts. “Some nice touches but rubbish at crucial points.”
30 min After a decent United break, Lingard’s long-range shot is blocked by the trailing leg of Chambers. He should have played in Valencia on the right.
27 min Maitland-Niles clips a quick pass into the area for Aubameyang, who can’t make room for a shot. Arsenal have played some lively stuff going forward.
26 min Arsenal have two unsuccessful penalty appeals in 20 seconds. The first was a Mkhitaryan dive, the second was a tackle by Sanchez on Maitland-Niles. I don’t think it was a penalty.
25 min Pogba’s free-kick hits the wall and deflects to Sanchez, who is offside.
24 min Xhaka is booked for a foul on Lingard 25 yards from goal. Pogba will want a piece of this.
23 min “One of the saddest things is that if you’d told someone 10 years ago that there’d be an Arsenal-United game in late April, with no impact on the title race, with neither team anywhere near winning the title, no one would have believed you,” says AB Parker. “This game has a look of a preseason friendly at the moment. With the team we’ve put out, United should be battering us.”
21 min “One of my least favourite footballing games in history has to be Arsenal 1-2 United in Nov 2014, in which Arsenal had about 300 shots on goal and United had one,” says Jordan Pickering. “One shot on goal and they came away with a 2-1 victory. It so encapsulates what it means to be an Arsenal supporter.”
20 min Mkhitaryan almost equalises after a fine move. Bellerin crossed low to Maitland-Niles, who flicked a dainty backheel to Mkhitaryan on the edge of the box. He took a touch and drove a low shot just wide of the far post.
19 min “My favourite Arsenal/United moment is more down to circumstance than any actual investment in the rivalry,” says Matt Dony. “I’m a Liverpool fan, who also harbours a fairly intense dislike of Wenger and Arsenal (but my word, do I respect him!) Anyway, May 2002, I spent a Monday night watching Bob Dylan in Cardiff CIA (followed by drinking in a hotel bar being bored by Ebdon’s slow slow victory, but that’s another story). I spent the next few days staying at a friend’s house, the smuggest United fan I know, still on a giddy, Dylan-induced high. I did not particularly want Arsenal to win the league that fateful Wednesday, but the fact that I got to enjoy my friend’s disappointment, anger, and dejection at Wiltord’s goal was a wonderful thing, having spent the previous few years having to tolerate his pride in Fergie’s success. Ah, magical memories. The future’s yours, the past is mine.”
I didn’t find that game too distressing, weirdly. The title was gone. Losing to Leverkusen on away goals the week before; now that was pain.
17 min Sanchez’s header was actually diverted onto the post by Bellerin, an heroic and entirely futile intervention.
GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal (Pogba 16)
United take the lead. Lukaku’s brilliant chipped cross was headed against the post by the flying Sanchez, and Pogba followed up to volley home from six yards.
15 min Matic sprays a superb crossfield pass to Valencia, whose good cross is headed away by Chambers. United are having a lot of the game now.
14 min “The defining match was 28 November 1992,” says Paul Hayes. “United had signed Cantona two days before and I was still reeling with shock. He was brilliant.and, let’s be honest, very tough. (He had even got me grudgingly admiring Leeds.) My father had brought me up on stories of the toughness of United players able to boss the opposition with skill and also physicality – Edwards and Stiles being his favourites. That steel had been developing – remember the United vs Arsenal brawl two seasons earlier, defining in the way that United began to compete in every aspect while not quite gelling.
“But that’s not this story. In the end, Cantona wasn’t in team to face Arsenal. Instead Giggs was brilliant on the right wing and Lee Sharpe was quick on the lift and Hughes was bolshie, aggressive and bundled in an ugly goal bettering Adams after Giggs and then Sharpe had bettered Winterburn and Dixon, I think. The second half was dour, fractured and attritional but United clung on for a win this time. When I spoke with my father that evening I told him that United would win the league because they’re bloody tough physically and mentally and with Cantona in the team they’d have the flair to beat anyone.”
12 min United are slowly starting to dominate possession, though the game is still fairly flat.
10 min “Hello Rob,” says Russell George. “My most vivid memory of United-Arsenal was probably the brawl in 1990. I was 16 at the time, sitting in the main stand at Old Trafford so had a pretty good view of it all. The crowd reaction that day was positively feral, both exhilarating and frankly pretty scary. If only OT had a little bit more of that I’d probably try and go a bit more. I also remember watching Grandstand when we were losing in the cup match in 88. The reporter was doing an update when we got the late penalty so they stayed with it. When McClair hit it over I was absolutely distraught. Still, there have been more happy times than sad. After we beat them 4-1 in the Michael Knighton game in 1989 I wrote a full-length report which I sent to Patrick Barclay at the Independent. I really wanted to be a football reporter at the time, and Patrick was gracious enough to ring me up one Sunday morning to say how much he liked my writing.”
8 min Smalling pokes a pass towards Lingard, in space on the right of the box. He drills a low cross-shot that is kicked away from inside his own six-yard box by Chambers.
7 min “Hi Rob,” says Brad McMillan. “As a United fan, it was a blessing that my best mate from school supported Arsenal. During that period, 1996-2005 (age 15-24 for us both), we were almost inseparable, and there’s no way either of us would have enjoyed it as much without the other. For both of us, Utd v Arsenal means growing up: girls, (not fast) cars and alcohol. The rest of the time was obviously squandered. Anyway, when I look back, my most prominent memories are Utd losing, specifically the Old Trafford defeats in 1998 and 2002. The next, possibly my favourite, is the feeling of incredulity when John O’Shea chipped in at Highbury I’m 2005. Keane-Vieira in the tunnel would have meant nothing without that cherry. Also, it now feels like the very last blow of that era – and Utd won, even if the league was Chelsea’s by then.”
6 min United have started slowly, as they wont to do. Arsenal look much more sprightly, particularly the returning Mkhitaryan.
5 min “This may be common knowledge,” says Doremus Schafer, “but I only just now realized that Bergkamp’s saved penalty strictly speaking should have been retaken for encroachment by Paul Scholes.”
That’s a good spot. Can you imagine if David Elleray had ordered a retake? Roy Keane would have been straight out of his early bath to administer advice.
4 min Matic’s mishit volley falls nicely for Pogba 10 yards out. He spins around, takes aim … and shanks the ball well wide of the near post with his left foot.
3 min It’s been a decent start from Young Arsenal, with lots of possession in the United half.
2 min “Arsenal’s late win in 2007 over perhaps Ferguson’s greatest ever side (with the bonus addition of Henrik Larsson) always sticks in my mind, not so much for the quality of the football, which was probably excellent, but for Henry’s late headed winner,” says Matt Loten. “I’m sure he scored one or two others with his noggin over the years, but I struggle to recall any, and at such a crucial moment. Bit like Messi in the 2009 Champions League final.”
That was the same game when he celebrated in Gary Neville’s face, wasn’t it?
Sir Alex Ferguson has presented Arsene Wenger with a special memento on behalf of United. Jose Mourinho is in the mix as well. It’s a love-in! It’s an unlikely, moving scene, and a lovely touch from Ferguson. They’ve come a long way from the days when Wenger said he would “never talk about that man again”.
The players emerge from the tunnel. Arsene Wenger follows them, and is applauded down the touchline by the United fans.
There will be no Champions League final for Manchester City – their former player Lucy Bronze scored the winning goal against them for Lyon in the semi-final second leg.
“Some great memories,” says Yoxall. “The 4-1 on the opening day 89/90 was great; we just didn’t expect it. The 99 cup game, the game at Highbury when RVN netted, and the tide turned in the title race, the superb counter in the Champions League and the 8-2. Plus all the various “battles”! But on a personal note, my son’s first game was the 2-1 where Arsene was sent to the stand but had nowhere to go. You never forget your first time! I’m sure we’ll give him a respectful reception today.”
One for the Arsenal fans “How differently does Wenger’s legacy play if Keane doesn’t do his knee at Elland Road in 1997?” says Harvey Auzorst. “Without that half of the first double you’re looking at one FA Cup in his first five years, and the idea of Wenger changing everything seems a bit flimsy.”
They might have won it anyway but it’s an interesting point. There are so many ifs in the rivalry: the Treble and the Invincible season wouldn’t have happened had Bergkamp and Van Nistelrooy scored last-minute penalties.
There are a few minutes remaining at the London Stadium, where West Ham are playing the champions Manchester City. You won’t believe the score!
At its furious peak, the United/Arsenal rivalry brought out the Danny Dyer in almost all of us. I had to be held back at least twice. What are your favourite memories of that rivalry? It doesn’t have to be from that glorious period between 1996 and 2005. It could be before (Whiteside v Rocastle, Winterburn v McClair), or after (the late sting at Highbury in 2007, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring from a different postcode in 2009).
Or it could just be 14 April 1999, the greatest game in English football history. Were you on the pitch? Were you the fan whose fag breath is one of David Beckham’s most vivid memories of that night? If you have any good tales or memories, email them in. I promise that, when I brazenly nick them for the book I’m writing on this very subject, I’ll give you a credit.
The best fan story of all belongs to Barry Ferst. You might not know his name. But I bet you know his face.
Arsene Wenger has picked a deluxe Carling Cup team, with eight changes from the side that drew with Atletico Madrid on Thursday night: David Ospina, Hector Bellerin and Granit Xhaka are the survivors.
Manchester United (4-3-3) De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Young; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Lukaku, Sanchez.
Substitutes: Pereira, Rojo, Mata, Fellaini, McTominay, Martial, Rashford.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Ospina; Bellerin, Mavropanos, Chambers, Kolasinac; Maitland-Niles, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Nelson, Iwobi; Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Cech, Osei-Tutu, Holding, Monreal, Willock, Welbeck, Nketiah.
Referee Kevin Friend.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of Arsene Wenger Day in Manchester, where a sexagenarian Frenchman says an emotional goodbye to two erstwhile nemeses: Old Trafford, the place for which he created a new word, and Jose Mourinho. Nostalgia will be rife before the game starts, with memories turning to those Homeric battles between United and Arsenal from 1996-2005.
Since then, United v Arsenal has become a common-or-garden big game. Today could barely even be described as that, as there is nothing much riding on it. The two teams will almost certainly finish in their current positions of second and sixth, and Arsenal have a trip to Madrid on Thursday to consider. It’s a kind of testimonial for the glory years. And by heaven, what years they were.
Kick off is at 4.30pm.