Courtesy of Footballfancast
Written by Tom Costello
With Chelsea looking a shadow of the side that regained the Premier League crown last season this season’s title looks set to be heading to either The Emirates or Old Trafford come May. A week from today Arsenal travel to Manchester United – a game that will go a long way in deciding who will win the Premier League this season.
Arsenal are looking a side that could go all the way in this years title race. Manchester United are a side getting better each week and both sides can boast some very important players returning over the coming weeks. It is all set up for Monday night’s encounter. With Arsenal looking to be Manchester United’s biggest rivals to the title this season, is it about time the lovely-dovey friendship between Ferguson and Wenger ended – Manchester United need to take Arsenal seriously.
Since Arsene Wenger moved to Arsenal in 1996, this has been the most iconic fixture in Premier League history. A major reason for the dilution in this fixture has to be that both teams have lost players that passionately hated each other. You look at the match ups between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. This was a classic rivalry – contested by two of the worlds best. Remember Highbury 2005, when Viera went for Gary Neville in the tunnel. Roy Keane stood up for his team mate and Viera was visibly shaken. Apart from scoring the opening goal, the Frenchman was a spectator in the game, whilst Keane was driving United to victory. Maybe the laws of the game have changed so much in recent years that there could never be such a rivalry any more. Roy Keane and Patrick Viera were their managers on the pitch, do we really have that any more?
In an interview with The Times, Sir Alex Ferguson spoke about this issue.
“There have been confrontations in the past, but one of the reasons was the personalities involved in the two teams at the time,” Ferguson said. “There’s mutual respect between Arsène and myself.”
As well as the lack of personalities in the clash, the emergence of Chelsea changed everything. The media didn’t care about the old guard any more and were seduced by the charms of Jose Mourinho. Ferguson and Wenger had lost control of the media and Mourinho knew it. Chelsea won the league two seasons in a row – Mourinho had substance, class and energy. Manchester United and Arsenal were going through transition. The two managers knew they had real opposition on their hands and fighting each other would be pointless. Ferguson accepted the challenge of Mourinho’s Chelsea better than Arsene Wenger did. Wenger made the same mistakes that Ferguson did when he himself came to England. He didn’t like what Chelsea were doing – their disciplinary record as well as the money. Chelsea were the anti-Christ’s of Wenger’s footballing philosophy. Whilst this was going on, Ferguson had his own bitter feud with Rafa Benitez to contend with – Ferguson won hands down – and that’s a fact.
There can be no doubt that the cooling of hostilities have come from Arsene Wenger’s side not challenging for the title over the last five years. The rivalry was at its most intense in the eighteen month period between September 2003 and February 2005. This was when Arsenal had taken over from Manchester United as the Premier League’s best. They were on their way to completing a season unbeaten, Thierry Henry was becoming unplayable and Cesc Fabregas was coming through as one of the best youngsters of a generation. Manchester United were under threat, so they attacked Arsenal. Arsenal were at the top so they fought back. It sometimes went over the line, but it was a great rivalry – something that gave these games an extra edge.
The rivalry between the two managers has calmed down and some would say that has been a good thing. The answer is yes and no. There is a greater respect between the two which is good. However, the games between the sides lack a bit of Keane and Viera – but of course we must all move on. Both sides have a footballing philosophy and they try and beat each other on the pitch. They have younger less experienced squads now, and the North vs South drama has all been forgotten. Monday’s match will lack something special in terms of the two managers. Lets hope the football can make up for it. The title looks set to be heading to either The Emirates or Old Trafford, these games could decide the location.
Just so we don’t forget what this game meant to everyone, here a few classic quotes from both Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson on Wenger:
“He’s a novice – he should keep his opinions to Japanese football.” April 1997
“Arsenal are the worst losers of all time.” Jan 2005
“To not apologise for the behaviour of the players to another manager is unthinkable. It’s a disgrace, but I don’t expect Wenger to ever apologise, he’s that type of person.” Jan 2005
Wenger on Ferguson:
“Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home.” May 2002
“I will never answer any question any more about this man. He doesn’t interest me and doesn’t matter to me at all. I will never answer to any provocation from him any more.” Jan 2005
“He has lost all sense of reality. He is going out looking for a confrontation, then asking the person he is confronting to apologise.” Jan 2005
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