Ranking Manchester United and Arsenal’s combined top 20 players of the Premier League era

(FILES) Manchester United's Roy Keane (L

Manchester United v Arsenal is one of the great fixtures of the Premier League era.

During the early 2000s, it was arguably the best rivalry in English football. Sir Alex Ferguson v Arsene Wenger, Roy Keane v Patrick Vieira - games between the two clubs were unmissable for several seasons.

The rivalry became less fierce when Arsenal left Highbury for the Emirates Stadium in 2006. And when Fergie no longer regarded Wenger as a threat, the two former enemies eventually became acquaintances and then friends. This killed the rivalry completely as the gap between the clubs widened.

Man Utd and Arsenal fans would love to go back to those days when their players hated each other and did everything they could to win.

When the current teams go head-to-head at Old Trafford on Monday night, there will be none of the animosity that this fixture used to be famous for - and that’s a shame.

As we get closer to Monday’s meeting, we thought we’d try the impossible task of ranking United and Arsenal’s best players of the Premier League era.

We’ve gone for the top 20, meaning some big names have missed out, including the likes of Mesut Ozil, Patrice Evra, David Seaman, David de Gea, Sol Campbell, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Gary Neville, Alexis Sanchez, Freddie Ljungberg and Jaap Stam.

Honourable mentions to all of them but let’s crack on with the list…

20. Cesc Fabregas

Arsenal fans don’t particularly like Fabregas these days - his decision to join Chelsea following a spell with Barcelona did not go down well at all - but the Spanish midfielder was a class act during his eight seasons as a Gunner.

He was also the player who infamously threw a slice of pizza at Ferguson during the ‘Battle of the Buffet’ at Old Trafford in 2004.

Manchester United v Arsenal

19. Ian Wright

One of the greatest strikers in Arsenal’s history, Wrighty netted 185 goals in 288 games for the Gunners.

The former England international had a couple of fierce on-pitch bust-ups with Peter Schmeichel during the late 1990s.

Wright Breaks Goalscoring Record

18. Peter Schmeichel

And speaking of Schmeichel the Great Dane is the only goalkeeper on this list.

De Gea, Seaman and Edwin van der Sar were all candidates for the top 20 but Schmeichel, who was the best goalkeeper in the world at his peak, just pips them.

FA Cup semi-final Fredrik Ljungberg

17. Ashley Cole

Cole spent most of his career with Chelsea but he was still brilliant during his time at Arsenal.

Part of the legendary ‘Invincibles’ team, Cole is probably the best left-back this fixture has seen during the Premier League era.

Ashley Cole of Arsenal

16. Tony Adams

One of the greatest captains Arsenal have ever had, Adams has a statue outside the Emirates, which tells you all you need to know about the impact he made.

Tony Adams of Arsenal and Teddy Sheringham of Manchester United

15. Robert Pires

Pires received plenty of rough treatment from United’s players during the early-to-mid 2000s because he was such a threat.

The Frenchman won two Premier League titles and two FA Cups during his six years in north London.

Arsenal's Robert Pires (R) is chased by

14. Nemanja Vidic

A brilliant defender who just loved defending, Vidic was a colossus at the back for United during his eight-year spell with the Red Devils.

Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League

13. Rio Ferdinand

Vidic’s defensive partner, Ferdinand, is arguably the classiest defender of the Premier League era.

The former England international was everything you’d want in a modern-day centre-back.

Manchester United v Arsenal

12. Robin van Persie

The only footballer on this list who played for both clubs, Van Persie broke Arsenal fans’ hearts by joining United in 2012.

The Dutchman was prolific and won a Premier League Golden Boot with both clubs.

Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League

11. Ruud van Nistelrooy

Forget Messi v Ronaldo, back in the early 2000s the biggest debate in football was Van Nistelrooy v Henry.

Van Nistelrooy was a pure out-and-out goalscorer who would rarely miss an opportunity inside the 18-yard box.

However, this fixture always brings back memories of the Dutchman’s stoppage-time penalty miss during a particularly heated clash at Old Trafford.

Arsenal's Martin Keown taunts Manchester

10. David Beckham

Because of how famous he became, it’s easy to forget what a brilliant footballer Beckham was during his United days.

The best free-kick taker - as well as the best crosser of a ball - of the Premier League era bar none.

FA Cup semi-final replay David Beckham

9. Eric Cantona

Cantona only spent five seasons at United but that was more than enough time for the Frenchman to cement his status as a club legend.

He won four Premier League titles and two FA Cups during those five years as a Red Devils before announcing his retirement in 1997 at the age of just 30.

Eric Cantona Manchester United

8. Roy Keane

Eighth place feels too low for Keane, who is probably United’s greatest ever captain.

His battles with Vieira are now the stuff of legend.


7. Patrick Vieira

Keane was fantastic but Vieira was the better all-round midfielder. Only just, mind.

The Frenchman played a key role in Arsenal’s success during the early-2000s.

Patrick Vieira of Arsenal celebrates title

6. Paul Scholes

Rated by many of his former United teammates as the best player they ever played with, Scholes was a genius.

The midfield maestro is unfortunate to miss out on a place in our top five. It shows how many quality players have played for the two teams since 1992.

Paul Scholes of Manchester United scores the 2nd goal

5. Dennis Bergkamp

Bergkamp oozed class. One of the most technically-gifted footballers the Premier League has ever seen, the Dutchman was outstanding during his 11 years at Arsenal.

Like Adams and Thierry Henry, Bergkamp has a statue outside the Emirates.

FA Cup Semi Final: Arsenal v Manchester United

4. Ryan Giggs

A true Man Utd and Premier League legend, Giggs scored the most famous goal in this fixture’s history.

His solo goal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay - and his subsequent celebration - will never be forgotten.

Ryan Giggs of Manchester United

3. Wayne Rooney

A complete footballer, Rooney loved scoring goals against Arsenal.

England and Manchester United’s all-time record goalscorer scored a hat-trick when United hammered Arsenal 8-2 in 2012.

Manchester United's English striker Wayn

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo is one of the greatest players of all time, but let’s not pretend that the best years of his career weren’t spent with Real Madrid.

The Portuguese legend was inconsistent during his first few years at United but he still produced the goods against Arsenal, including scoring two goals in a thrilling 4-2 win at Highbury in February 2005.

Ronaldo was sensational during the final three seasons of his United career and produced several Man of the Match performances against the Gunners, both in the Premier League and the Champions League.

Arsenal v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

1. Thierry Henry

The best player in Premier League history, in the eyes of many, Henry was absolutely untouchable for several seasons.

At times it felt like the Frenchman was playing a totally different sport. He was capable of producing a moment of magic seemingly whenever he felt like it.

Arsenal and United have had many wonderful players since 1992 - but Henry was the most incredible of the lot.

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