Martin Keown: Perhaps I overreacted with Ruud van Nistelrooy

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Martin Keown has made a confession regarding his controversial confrontation with Ruud van Nistelrooy when Arsenal faced Manchester United at Old Trafford back in 2003, admitting that he overreacted in the aftermath of the Dutch striker's penalty miss.

The former Gunners defender recalled his memory of that pulsating encounter in his Daily Mail column ahead of tonight's FA Cup quarter-final clash, which sees the two bitter Premier League rivals come face-to-face again at the very same venue.

Battling for a place at Wembley in the last four of England's most prestigious domestic knock-out competition, football fans across the country are anticipating another emotionally charged affair when Arsene Wenger's side run out against Louis van Gaal's charges under the lights at the Theatre of Dreams on Monday evening.

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However, nobody will be hoping for the same kind of unsavoury scenes that occurred immediately after the final whistle of that infamous 0-0 draw just over 11 years ago, when several Arsenal players - led by Keown - aggressively hounded Van Nistelrooy after his stoppage time spot-kick came back off the post.

Keown was still reeling from the earlier incident involving the Red Devils marksman that resulted in Gunners captain Patrick Vieira getting sent off. But, that still doesn't justify his actions after abrasively goading his opponent and appearing to strike a cowering Van Nistelrooy on the back of the head.

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It's behaviour that happened in the heat of the moment, highlighting just how intense the rivalry was between the two sides and sets of players during that time. However, looking back at the incident more than a decade on, Keown concedes his reaction was a little over the top.

"People love to remind me of the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ in 2003," he said. "In the little black book of opposition players, Ruud van Nistelrooy was one not to be trusted.

"Perhaps I overreacted, but the whole team was infuriated by him," - Martin Keown

"He was a top player and a fighter, but he would look for any reason to go down. Perhaps I overreacted, but the whole team was infuriated by him. And I’m still not convinced I deserved to give away the penalty that Ruud eventually missed!"

Keown's admission isn't exactly surprising, everyone could see that he was in the wrong, even if Van Nistelrooy's tendency to go to ground easily understandably riled Arsenal's players.

Fingers crossed by the time tonight's game is over, we'll be talking about it for all the right reasons, and it won't be another match that is remembered for its controversy.

Who do you think will come out on top in tonight's FA Cup quarter-final encounter between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford? Leave a prediction in the comment box below!

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Ruud van Nistelrooy
Premier League
Martin Keown
FA Cup
Manchester United

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