Football

Three reasons Man United and Arsenal rivalry can re-spark this weekend

Keown taunts Nistelrooy after missed penalty (©GettyImages)
Keown taunts Nistelrooy after missed penalty (©GettyImages).

Arsenal take on Manchester United at Old Trafford this Sunday in a fixture which has lost its old spark from years gone by. However here are three reasons to suggest that it may heat up again this weekend.

Since Arsene Wenger's arrival at Arsenal in 1996, the Frenchman's side were able to disrupt Manchester United's dominance of English football, at least to some extent, becoming Sir Alex Ferguson's closest competitors during the late 1990's and early 2000's.

In 1997 Arsenal won the title, finishing one point ahead of United who had previously won four of the first five Premier League campaigns. 

The following year, it was United's turn to win the league by one point, ahead of Arsenal, as the rivalry really began to take shape between the two strongest clubs in England.

But since Arsenal's last Premier League success - the 2003/04 Invincible season - the United and Arsenal rivalry has whimpered some what.

In 2004/05 Arsenal finished above United, but since, Wenger's men have finished no higher than third with Manchester United in that time winning the league five times.

That period has seen the emergence of Chelsea as a title rival and then Manchester City, so they have not been directly competing. Arsenal have usually been fighting for fourth place as opposed to the title, come May.

With players such as Patrick Viera and Roy Keane also not around any longer, there has been less ingredients to spice up the game.

In the later stages of their managerial careers, Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson seemingly gained more respect for each other and it was less of the mind games and sniggering as it all became a bit too friendly for a fixture which was always so tasty and highly anticipated.

However there are some new factors which could contribute to the relighting of this fixture:

1. Competitiveness

A key component in any non-geographical rivalry, and as mentioned, with Arsenal's demise and failure to compete as well for trophies, this has been lost. But with Arsenal's storming start to the campaign, they go into the fixture eight points clear of United and will most certainly be competitive.

United need to win to stay in the title fight. And this competitive edge could bring back the memories of old where players were extremely passionate and committed in this game.

2. David Moyes and Arsene Wenger history

The new Manchester United manager and Wenger have not always seen eye to eye.

Disagreements in the past over alleged comments by Cesc Fabregas to an official, along with a recent conflict where Arsene was unhappy with Moyes' physical approach in the previous fixtures when in charge at Everton.

Moyes told Sky Sports in regard to one game last season at the Emirates: "I'm not here to make friends with other managers. My job is to win games for Everton. I thought that was the case [Wenger was disrespectful]." 

With these two in the dugouts, with the importance of the game, we could see some touchline drama, handshake refusals and arguments in the heat of the moment, which fans respond to, as do players.

3. Robin van Persie

Another key component in the potential for this game to come to life is the RVP factor. Thought of as a Judas by Arsenal supporters for turning his back on the side for Manchester United in 2012, he has not been forgiven for leaving to their rivals and maybe some of the players at the club will not be shy in looking to prove themselves to the Dutchman who left for football reasons, claiming a lack of ambition at the Arsenal.

Hopefully, a combination of these three components can create a new chapter in this rivalry which was once so enjoyable, but has not been the same of late.

Topics:
Football
Manchester United
Arsenal
Robin Van Persie

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