Wednesday, 31 October 2012

5 great Arsenal performances at Old Trafford

As Saturday's mammoth fixture comes around yet again, here are 5 of Arsenal's key victories in Manchesters's "Theatre of dreams." These games between Wenger and Fergie's teams have often produced season-defining moments, and have regularly been the seen the top two teams in the country lock horns in fierce encounters.

Despite Arsenal not winning at Old Trafford since 2006, throughout the Wenger regime there have been amazing victories there, that have spurred us onto title winning campaigns. It is very interesting to note that in the three seasons that Arsenal have won the league under the Frenchman, Arsene's side haven't lost in Manchester.

14 March 1998: Manchester United 0 – 1 Arsenal 

Arsenal visited Old Trafford towards the end of Wenger's first full season as Arsenal manager. The game was a gargantuan affair, with the sides locked in a confrontation, ready to decide the destination of the seasons Premier League title.The Gunners, looking for their first title since 199,1 were trailing their rivals by 9 points, but crucially had 3 games in hand. In the end the game was not a classic, but the Arsenal victory rellied upon solid defensive impetus, and characterised the winning mentality that had appeaered around the club.

Manninger Dixon Adams Keown WinterburnParlour Petit Vieira Overmars Bergkamp Wreh

Subs: Garde, Anelka

The side had to rely on the young, inexperienced goal-keeper in Manninger to produce another impressive display, whilst the classic back four  superbly controlled proceedings, successfully nullifying the threat of Beckham, Sheringham and Cole.

Arsenal outplayed an understrength United team throughout the game, with Bergkamp and Overmars continuing their amazing end of season form. In the end, the Gunners had to wait till the 80th minute for the goal, as a long ball from keown was flicked on by Bergkamp, and again by Anelka to the onrushing Overmars, anticipating the playwell. He headed the ball forwards into his path, before slotting the ball through Schmeichel's legs into the far corner of the net, sparking amazing celebrations from the Arsenal end.

The game was a pivotal moment, and spurred Arsenal on to claim their first league title under their new French manager, playing delightful football in the process. This match gave the whole side the belief they needed, convincing them that they were the best in the country. The leaders in the Arsenal side particularly stood out, with Adams and Keown commanding the side from the heart of defence, and the soon to be world cup winning duo of Vieira and Petit dominating the midfield throughout the 90 minutes.The game came right in the middle of an 18 match unbeaten run, and Arsenal's inspired run of form continued as they overhauled United to win the title with two games to spare as well as then completing the Double.

8 May 2002: Manchester United 0 – 1 Arsenal

It was to be another amazing game at Old Trafford that led to Arsenal's second double four years later. Just four days after clinching the FA cup, the Gunners traveled to Old Trafford, needing to win to guarantee the league.

Lauren Keown Campbell Cole
Parlour Vieira Edu Ljungberg
Wiltord Kanu

Subs: Jeffers, Wright

Despite an aggressive assault by United in the opening minutes, Arsenal held strong to deny their opponents, maintaining their unbeaten away form and inflicting the 6th home defeat of the season for United. The physical barrage should have led to cards for United players, as the clearly tried to disrupt the fluid passing and rhythm built by this amazing Arsenal side.

Without key players in Bergkamp, Adams and Henry, they still played some amazing football, but did still rely on some rearguard action to make sure of the win. The physical battles on the field created an amazing atmosphere, but only one sides fans were cheering in the 55th minute.

Mikael Silvestre carelessly gifted possession to Wiltord, who found Freddie Ljungberg on a trademark run from midfield. Ljungberg, the man on form, beat Blanc before forcing a fine save from Barthez, but Wiltord was on hand to steer home a composed finish. Causing pandemonium among the Arsenal faithful.

As Manchester United went for broke, the Gunner held firm, and showed the resilience that compliments their silky style, and demonstrated exactly why they were worthy champions. Despite the few nerves among the Arsenal fans, the players were in a mood of calm command, and closed out the game with ease.

After the game, as the players celebrated winning the league on the pitch of their rivals, Vieira showed his passion for the club, saying "I've proved the club means a lot to me - I hope I have given the club back what it deserves".

The rest is history. ‘We won the League, in Manchester, we won the League in Manchester, we won the League at Old Trafford, we won the League in Manchester.'

21 September 2003 Manchester United 0 - 0 Arsenal

The original "Battle of Old Trafford" epitomised the hatred that had developed between the two sides, as tempers flared throughout, and famously after, the memorable fixture. The match was nothing less than a battle, as the tackles flew in from both sides, producing a hostile atmosphere at Old Trafford. But in the end the game finished goalless as the 10 man Gunners were able to bring back a vital point to Highbury.

Lauren Keown Toure Cole
Parlour Vieira Gilberton Ljungberg
Bergkamp Henry

Sub: Edu

Arsene decided to leave out wingers Pires and Wiltord in favour of Parlour and Ljungberg, who were able to add some steel to the Arsenal midfield. The tactic worked, as Arsenal successfully subdued United attacks throughout the game in a disciplined defensive display. The flair was still there, provided mainly by Henry and Bergkamp, but chances were few and far between.

The game was never a classic in terms of entertainment, with both sides lacking their usual attacking ambition in the late summer heat. United's main threat came from free kicks given away by Arsenal, whilst frankly Arsenal produced next to nothing in terms of attempts on goal.

The game was brought to life in the 80th minute, as recently booked Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card for a kick aimed at Van Nistelrooy, who completely exaggerated the "contact". As United pressed forward, the Gunners, who were without Sol Campbell after the death of his father, stood firm.

That is until the 90th minute, where Forlan was "fouled" and up stepped Van Nistelrooy to take the all important penalty. But the Dutchman crashed the shot against the crossbar, and Arsenal's unbeaten run remained in tact, as they went on to complete the season undefeated.

The match is famous for the post match fracas, where several Arsenal players confronted their United counterparts, and in particuler Van Nistelrooy, who was struck in the neck by Keown and pushed by Lauren. These actions led to Arsenal receiving numerous charges of improper conduct, as well as a a £175,000 fine, the largest ever given to a club by the FA. Whilst Lauren, Martin Keown, Patrick Vieira and Ray Parlour were all suspended for between one and four matches for their actions during and after the match. 

The fighting at the end proved that no-one could mess with Arsenal that season, and highlighted that despite the loss of Adams, Bould, Dixon and Winterburn, Arsenal still could not be bullied. It encapsulated the strength shown by Arsenal all season, as the defeated teams with technical brilliance as well as a strong resilience as they became the first team in over 100 years to unbeaten through a league season.

16 February 2003 Manchester United 0 - 2 Arsenal (F.A Cup)

Later on in that same season, the sides met in the F.A Cup, where Arsenal were able to breeze past Manchester United into the last eight, striking a significant psychological blow for the remainder of the season by doing so without their strongest side.

Lauren, Keown, Campbell, Cole
Parlour, Vieira, Edu, Pires
Jeffers, Wiltord

Subs: van Bronckhorst, Henry, Toure

Arsenal completely dominated the game, showing the style their football could produce in that memorable season, and brushed past an almost full strength United side with consummate ease. A bitter day for United was highlighted by a glaring miss by Ryan Giggs in the first half, which gave the Arsenal the momentum they needed to go on and win the game.

As ever, the tie was full of aggressive tackling, and the game opened in explosive fashion - with three bookings inside the first seven minutes. After another United foul, the Brazilian Edu saw his 25-yard free kick deflect of Beckham's head and loop over Barthez into the goal, giving Arsenal the all important lead.

Edu then turned creator following the half time interval, by slotting through a delicate pass to Wiltord, who evaded Wes Brown before side-footing past Barthez.

Arsenal were able to snuff out any United fight back and comfortably strolled into the last 8, with a resolute and stylish performance synonymous of Champions. It was yet another clear indicator that they were the greatest team in the country, and demonstrated the "invincible" air that surrounded the club that year. The second string side highlighted the strength in depth at Wenger's disposal and was yet another memorable performance, and a memorable win.

After the game, the Arsenal manager said, 'Vieira and Edu dominated the game, we were in control from the first minute to the last, the whole of our midfield did very well, in my opinion.'

17 September 2006 Manchester United 0 - 1 Arsenal

Arsenal's last victory at Old Trafford came back in 2006, where Arsenal completed the double over Manchester United with two famous wins. The sides met at the end of September, with United still unbeaten as Arsenal claimed their first win of the season.

Eboue Djourou Toure Gallas
Rosicky Ljungberg Gilberto Fabregas Hleb

With Henry out injured, and Arsenal starting the season in a disappointing manner, Wenger tried to sort things out by starting with 5 across the midfield, remembering the gruesome midfield battles that had previously happened when these two sides met.

Despite United seemingly running away with thing at the start of the season, Arsenal were by far the better team from start to finish, as United - who were without a League title for 3 years now - failed to really ever get going.

Fabregas was superb for Arsenal and combined well with a strong Adebayor throughout the game. It was the Spanish magician who created the goal too, nicking the ball form Ronaldo and going on a delicate, twisting run, before slotting in the Togolese striker who finished well past Kuszczak.

Arsenal's management of the ball was sublime at times and their five-man midfield made it difficult for United to pick their way through, in a display reminiscent of their glorious European Run the season before.

Yet even with the continued dominance, at times it looked like Arsenal were not going to get the win they deserved. In the opening minutes, the debutant kepper, Kuszczak hauled down Adebayor, giving Arsenal a penalty. Yet the young Polish keeper redeemed himself, as Gilberto slipped as he struck the penalty allowing Kuszczak to atone for his error.

Arsenal kept streaming forward in attacking waves throughout the game, with the slick passing easily cutting through United's defence. That they had to wait till the 85th minute of the game to strike the winner shows just how strong United are; even when they're not at their best, it's still hard to beat them.

Unfortunately, the impressive performance was not emblematic of Arsenal's season, as they went on to produce some miserable displays such as losing at Sheffield United and 4-1 at Anfield. The Gunners could not keep up the pace in the title race, and finished in fourth place, 21 points off the Champions, Manchester United.

As the sides are about to face off yet again, it promises to be an enthralling encounter, especially following the 8-2 battering dished out by United to Arsenal last year. The Arsenal defence still has some signs of weakness, as illustrated in their 7-5 victory over Reading yesterday and the indifferent start made to the season by Wenger's side.

The rivalry may well have lost its bite in recent years, with Chelsea and then City emerging as title rivals for United, as Arsenal languished in 3rd or 4th place, but this season there is an added drama to proceedings as Van Persie prepares to face his former club or the first time since leaving this summer.

With Arsenal needing to avoid defeat to keep alive any hopes of winning the league this season, and Manchester United looking to make up on losing ground through to disappointing defeats earlier in the season, the game may well be a classic, and hopefully Arsenal can take some inspiration from these 5 heroic performances by Arsenal sides at Old Trafford.

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