How Arsenal and Manchester United became the best of enemies

Roy Keane

Arsenal and Manchester United go head to head in the Premier League on Sunday.

The fixture is one that has been littered by a variety of flashpoints when the sides have met in the past.

Here, we take a look at how this grudge match has developed.

Old Trafford Brawl Leads to Points Deductions

The 21-man brawl which marred the meeting of the sides in October 20, 1990 had been coming.

Arsenal felt aggrieved by the dismissal of David Rocastle during a 1987 meeting of the sides – Sir Alex Ferguson’s first encounter with the Gunners – and Manchester United’s Brian McClair was goaded by Nigel Winterburn after missing a penalty in a 1988 FA Cup tie.

It all boiled over in 1990, as McClair took exception to a Winterburn tackle to spark the melee.

The Football Association took a dim view, deducting Arsenal two points and Manchester United one.

The Gunners overcame that punishment to claim the First Division title.

Martin Keown vs Ruud van Nistelrooy

Arsenal defender Martin Keown could not contain his delight when Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a decisive late spot-kick in a match between the sides in September 2003.

Martin Keown and Ruud Van Nistelrooy argue

He goaded the Dutchman, screaming in his face and hitting him on the back, having conceded the penalty with a foul on Diego Forlan.

The miss was about as close as the Gunners came to being beaten that season, when they became ‘the Invincibles’.

Battle of the Buffet

The next league meeting of the sides in October 2004 saw Arsenal’s 49-match unbeaten run finally come to an end.

On the pitch, it was 2-0 to United, but off it, it became known as the ‘Battle of the Buffet’ after another skirmish in the tunnel included a slice of pizza being thrown at Ferguson.

In 2017, Cesc Fabregas admitted on Sky quiz ‘A League of Their Own’ he was the guilty man.

Fabregas confirmed the pizza hit Ferguson in the face and added: “I apologise Sir Alex, really didn’t mean to do that!”

Patrick Vieira vs Roy Keane

Simmering tensions were evident again when the sides met at Highbury in February 2005.

United captain Roy Keane took exception to what he thought was Arsenal counterpart Patrick Vieira trying to intimidate Red Devils defender Gary Neville.

The incensed Irishman had to be calmed down by referee Graham Poll and repeatedly warned Vieira: “We’ll see you out there.”

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