Battles at Old Trafford: A Bit of Man U vs Arsenal History

December 13, 2010 — by Suman

Cole, Keown, van Nistelrooy - The Battle of Old Trafford, Sept 2003

A very highly anticipated Premier League matchup today, with Man U vs Arsenal kicking off in a matter of minutes at Old Trafford.  Certainly it’s a significant match for this edition of the Premier League race, with Arsenal one point ahead of Manchester United at the top of the table (Man U do have a game in hand, and in fact are undefeated so far in the Premier League–but they definitely haven’t looked invincible).  Beyond just the current standings, however, Man U and Arsenal have developed quite the heated rivalry over the past couple decades–not as historically/geographically rooted as some other English football rivalries perhaps, but given the clashing personalities of their famous managers and especially the strength of their sides, it’s become one of the mostly highly anticipated fixtures in the Premier League. Two clashes in particular stand out–as evidenced by the fact that they have their own Wikipedia entries: The Battle of Old Trafford (a 0-0 draw in Sept 2003) and The Battle of the Buffet (a 2-0 victory for Man U the following season, in Oct 2004).

The events of the Battle of Old Trafford feature heavily in the videos below: van Nistelrooy drawing a second yellow for Patrick Vieira, with Vieira subsequently going buckwild after the Dutchman; and then van Nistelrooy missing a PK in extra time to preserve the draw–with Arsenal defender then getting in van Nistelrooy’s face.  It was a miss that became especially significant in Premier League history, as that was the year of the Invincibles–the only side to go undefeated thru an entire season.

In fact, Arsenal’s unbeaten streak lasted until October 2004–when they returned to Old Trafford and lost 2-0, in what became known as the Battle of the Buffett.  This time van Nistelrooy converted a PK–one that had been drawn by a young promising striker named Wayne Rooney, on what happened to be his 19th birthday.  And Rooney went on to score the second goal himself.  (Some other interesting notes about the squads involved in those games: the starting GK for Man U in 2003 was American Tim Howard, while the substitute that drew the penalty that van Nistelrooy missed was none other than Diego Forlan.  The wingers for Man U that day were Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo.  Arsenal’s starting forwards in both matches were Denis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.  The only Arsenal players involved in either of those matches were Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, who were chosen for the 2004 match but didn’t make it off the bench.  See here and here for details.)

Here is a rather amateurish compilation of great moments in the rivalry:

And here is a “Behind the Rivalry”-type clip which gives more context on the Battle of Old Trafford (following a segment on the 1990 brawl):