Manchester United and Arsenal’s rivalry is well documented with the two giants of English football having gone toe-to-toe on numerous occasions down the years.
The clubs dominated the Premier League for much of the nineties and noughties, winning the league title nine times between them between 1996 and 2004.
Who could forget “Pizzagate,” the carnage that followed Van Nistelrooy’s last-minute penalty miss at Old Trafford and, of course, Roy Keane’s pre-match offering-out of Patrick Viera in the Highbury tunnel?
Though the bad feeling between the two clubs had originated long before, the constant bickering and sniping had snowballed as the two sides fought it out between themselves to be the best in the land on an almost annual basis.
But when Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford on August 28th, 2011, things were far from close as Manchester United demolished their most familiar of foes in spectacular fashion in just the third game of the season.
Defending champions United had won their first two games of that campaign, beating West Bromwich Albion and Spurs as they looked to retain the title with a squad that was far from vinatge.
The Gunners, on the other hand, had drawn with Newcastle and lost to Liverpool, meaning they needed something at Old Trafford to get their season up and running.
Arsène Wenger arrived at Old Trafford with his squad that featured the likes of Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey.
And while United had Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra at their disposal, their lineup that day also featured Phil Jones, Nani, Tom Cleverley and Anderson.
Danny Welbeck opened up the scoring on 22 minutes with a flicked header, soon followed by a mouth-watering effort which curled into the far corner by Ashley Young.
United didn’t have it all their own way though with a young David de Gea saving Robin van Persie’s penalty kick before Theo Walcott halved the deficit during injury time in the first half.
The home side took control in the second half though as talisman Wayne Rooney scored two goals, both of them from breathtaking free kicks.
Moments after, Nani made it 5-1 with a volley, making a fool out of Gunners keeper Szczęsny.
Substitute Park Ji-Sung fired in a sixth in the 70th minute, just four minutes before Arsenal’s final goal of the match by Van Persie made the scoreline 6-2.
But United weren’t finished just yet, with Rooney rounding off his hat trick from the spot in the 82nd minute and Young completing his brace a minute into injury time, securing one of the most convincing wins in the club’s recent history.
A painful defeat at the best of times, but that loss is seen by some Arsenal fans as something as a line in the sand moment for the club who have struggled to deliver almost every season in the years since.
“We’ve had a few bad games up there but we’ve also won the league at Old Trafford, so that kind of balances it out a bit,” says Gav from She Wore a Yellow Ribbon who believes that season was a turning point for the Gunners.
“The transfer policy was an absolute joke at the start of that season. We were always, always going to get hammered, so for a lot of people, it was no surprise at all.
“Look at the line-up we had there, it was very inexperienced, very poor quality – it was kind of expected really.
“I wasn’t at the game, but normally if I’m not there I’m making sure I’m watching it at home or in the pub, but my such little faith I actually chose to drive home while the game was on while being away for a few days.
“We were going downhill fast by then, the club was taking our money to go to games and they weren’t investing properly in the squad.
“There was a gradual decline really from a few years previously being Champions League finalists to where we are now.”
Though battered and bruised after the Old Trafford mailing, manager Arsene Wenger lived to fight another day, going on to lead his side to five consecutive top-four finishes and three FA Cup trophies, before eventually leaving the club in 2018.
Though Gav believes that, despite all his achievements, the legendary boss should have departed the club long before.
“Wenger should have gone after we lost to Birmingham City in the League Cup Final,” he says.
“That season was a turning point for me and myself and a few others knew it was time to change.
“Unfortunately we were in a position where there were boardroom struggles so the money wasn’t being invested, that combined with the manager trying a different style of football.
“For me, Wenger should have gone many, may years before he actually did.”
As for Manchester United, they would miss-out on the title in spectacular fashion that season, pipped by goal difference on the final day courtesy of a last-gasp Sergio Aguero goal.
However, they would go on to be crowned Champions again 12-months later just prior to Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure after 26-years in charge and, to date, their last Premier League title.
“The Manchester United and Arsenal rivalry was a fixture to savour for quite some time,” says Alan from United Journal.
“Arsenal had won the Premier League under Wenger as the ‘Invincibles’ while Manchester United under Fergie had won the treble, those victories were special ones and are still remembered now.
“The rivalry started to intensify during the Sir Alex Ferguson and George Graham years, particularly when David Rocastle was given a red card for retaliating against a foul by Norman Whiteside in 1987.
“But in my memory, the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ was one of the breakthrough events that intensified this rivalry even more in the 21st century.
“The game vs Arsenal in 2011 was closer to a cricket score but we didn’t expect it all after seeing the likes of Robin van Persie in Arsenal’s starting lineup.
“The turning point for me that day was when the young Spanish keeper David De Gea saved an early penalty kick from Robin van Persie.
“Though it wasn’t the greatest United team ever, this particular United side was tactically well set-up. There was a proper game plan on how to approach a team playing possession-based football like Arsenal.
“When it comes to Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, a couple of mind games took place before the game to put pressure on both sides.
“Mentally, I think it was Fergie who won it before the game even started while the Manchester United side had unity in terms of achieving one major goal – to win a major trophy.”
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