Manchester United and Arsenal will reignite their storied rivalry when the two teams take centre stage at the hallowed turf of Old Trafford on Saturday. The rivalry between the two clubs reached its pinnacle at the turn of the century when the Premier League was ruled by these two giants and the titles were shared by the two clubs for 9 consecutive years.
Then it was all about the domination of Sir Alex Ferguson and the defiance of Arsene Wenger. The animosity between the two clubs has mellowed down in recent years, firstly due to the transition of The Gunners from being title contenders to also-rans and then due to the departure of Sir Alex from the Theatre of Dreams.
However, with the arrival of the Special One and the ascension of The Gunners into title challengers, the rivalry is once again expected to hit fever pitch today – especially considering the ‘substantial past’ that Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger share.
Two of the most successful club in the history of English football will cross paths at Old Trafford for the 224th time and it is the Red Devils of Manchester who have the better head-to-head record having registered 94 wins against the North London outfit as against to the 80 that Arsenal have been victorious in. The remaining 49 matches have seen the two giants share the spoils.
Wenger has never tasted success in the league against Mourinho and in fact, the Frenchman’s only victory over the Special One in 15 encounters came in the Community Shield of 2015. Not only does Mourinho have Wenger's number but he has also been the more successful of the two managers.
The Portuguese does not spare any opportunity to take a jibe at Le Professeur, from ‘voyeur’ to ‘Specialist in Failure’, Mourinho doesn’t believe in holding back, not against Wenger. The hatred is real, the animosity palpable. Wenger is one with enormous resolve and self-restrain but even he doesn’t desist when it comes to the Portuguese, having once famously said- “When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent.”
Wenger also resorted to shoving the ‘Special One’ at Stamford Bridge during a tense encounter with Chelsea in October of 2014, when The Blues recorded another win over The Gunners.
Today, once again it is about Wenger’s defiance, a defiance to get one over his nemesis, a defiance to end his horrid run at the Theatre of Dreams, a defiance to once again be counted amongst the elite, while for Mourinho, today is all about beating the ‘Specialist in failure’ – nothing more nothing less.
However, when it comes to these two clubs it is hardly ever restricted to two men. It encompasses hundreds of thousands of fans, millions of emotions, the history and tradition of the two clubs, their hatred, their mutual respect and above all – an unrelenting battle to be the best in England.
This may be Mourinho vs. Wenger version 2.0 but it is still the good old Manchester United vs. Arsenal.
And that’s the thing about great rivalries, they have intriguing and fascinating stats attached with them and here we look at the best of them:
#1 And so it began.... Manchester United 0 – 1 Arsenal (20th October 1990)
Arsenal travelled to Manchester United with one eye on the summit of the league table. The Gunners were second on the league table behind Liverpool were leading at half-time courtesy of a goal from midfielder Anders Limpar. The second half started and near the hour mark Limpar was subject to heavy pressure from United defender Denis Irwin and Arsenal full-back Nigel Winterburn put in a lunging tackle to stop the defender.
This resulted in a melee between the two set of players, wherein all 21 players except Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman were involved. Although the brawl lasted for only 20 seconds the punishment handed out by the FA to the two clubs was unprecedented. It is the only occasion in English football history when a team has been docked points for player misconduct.
The Gunners were docked 2 points while Manchester United were docked only 1 as Arsenal players had been involved in a 19-man brawl against Norwich City just a year before. Although the points deduction did not have much impact on the eventual league table as Arsenal romped to the title suffering only 1 loss during the entire campaign.