Ruud van Nistelrooy will have mostly fond memories from his five-year spell as a Manchester United player.
But one moment that probably still haunts him now is *that* missed penalty against Arsenal, United’s fiercest rivals at the time, back in September 2003.
With the scores tied at 0-0 after a tense 90 minutes, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were awarded a dramatic late penalty at the death – and the chance to seal all three points in front of their home fans at Old Trafford.
Van Nistelrooy, arguably the best finisher in world football at the time and certainly one of the best penalty takers about, watched in horror as his thunderous strike cannoned back off Jens Lehmann’s crossbar.
We all remember what happened next: Martin Keown and some of his Arsenal teammates taunted the shell-shocked Van Nistelrooy by shouting, pushing and jumping all over the Dutch striker.
The final whistle was blown shortly afterwards and Arsenal ended up going that entire Premier League campaign unbeaten.
How were Arsenal punished for Van Nistelrooy incident?
However, the Gunners were slapped with a record £175,000 fine by the Football Association for failing to control their players.
Keown, Lauren, Patrick Vieira and Ray Parlour, meanwhile, all received fines and bans.
The image that best sums up the chaos at the end of that infamous fixture is Keown screaming at and jumping over Van Nistelrooy.
He received a £20,000 fine for his part in the incident, plus a three-game ban.
When Rio Ferdinand put Martin Keown in his place
Fourteen years later, in 2017, the former defender reminisced fondly about that sunny September afternoon in Manchester and appeared to have very few regrets.
When asked if his wife thought he was in the wrong, Keown said: “She did, bless her. I rang her up and she said ‘I think you’ve gone and done it now’.
“The clamour from the media was huge. I think half the team were suspended and we all got huge fines.
“But that game, we loved it. We absolutely loved it. And that’s the mentality…”
Rio Ferdinand, who played the full 90 minutes for United in the game, was also part of BT Sport’s punditry team and interrupted the former Arsenal centre-back at this point.
“You were bang out of order,” he said.
Keown responded: “It was just passion, my fella.”
“No, it was out of order,” Ferdinand added.
“You were lucky we didn’t see it. We turned around because [Van Nistelrooy] missed the penalty and you were all over him like a rash.”
Keown then said: “What was out of order was that nobody came to his rescue…”
Watch the clip here:
Although lots of time has passed since 2003, it’s clear that those involved in the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ will never forget the emotions they felt that day.
What next for Man Utd? (Football Terrace)
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