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The rise and fall of the Manchester United-Arsenal rivalry
sokapro-The rise and fall of the Manchester United-Arsenal rivalry

No rivalry in club football has ever caught the hearts and minds of football fanatics like the Arsenal vs Manchester United rivalry.

The games between Arsenal and Manchester United used to be one of the biggest highlights of the English Premier League season. The two clubs were arguably the best in the league with games between them having the potential to decide who between the two clubs would be crowned the Premier League champions. Their rivalry back then can only be likened to the one we are witnessing between Manchester City and Liverpool who are modern EPL rivals exchanging positions 1 and 2 on the table between themselves in the past recent seasons. But where did this sweet old Premier League rivalry between Arsenal and Manchester United disappear to? There was a time when Arsenal's and Manchester United's positions at the top of the EPL table were so much cemented such that it felt like things had always been that way, and they always would be. 

In fact, there are nine seasons continuously when these two teams were permanently at the top of the table; 1995/96 season. 1996/97 season, 1997/98 season, 1998/99 season, 1999,00 season, 2000/01 season, 2001/02 season, 2002/03 season, and 2003/04 season. Manchester United won the league in 6 of the above seasons while Arsenal were crowned champions in the remaining 3 seasons. During this period, the two clubs largely owned the top two spots of the table. Never before had two teams at the peak of their powers gone toe-to-toe for such an extended period. This was a very intense kind of rivalry between the late 90s and early 2000s. Over the course of nearly a decade, this rivalry gave the general public almost everything from heated battles to classic encounters to mind games, not forgetting to mention lots of drama characterized by disparaging insults and even crowd trouble. Those were the days when Arsene Wenger who was in charge of Arsenal and Sir Alex Ferguson who was at the helm of Manchester United did not ‘see eye to eye’ in matters of football. The rivalry had run so deep. 

The powers of the two clubs have faded slowly ever since; both clubs are struggling just to finish in the top four of the table instead of battling for titles and cups. In the just-concluded season of 2021/22, Arsenal finished at 5th place while Manchester United finished 6th making them only eligible to contest in the UEFA Europa League as they are out of the UEFA Champions League battle with the EPL only producing the top 4 of the table as contenders in the most coveted club competition in the world. But when the two clubs meet for a season, it gives football fanatics the opportunity to reminisce on a golden era. There also existed a personal rivalry between Ian Wright and Peter Schmeichel which only served to raise the temperature between the two teams. 

One of the most memorable moments of this rivalry was when Manchester United won the treble and thrashed the Gunners 6-1 during the 2000/01 season but Arsenal's sweet, sweet taste of revenge came when they were crowned the champions of the 2001/02 Premier League season at Old Trafford in front of the Red Devil's fans and players. United also credit themselves with killing the Arsenalinvincibles’. The Gunners had been crowned champions of the 2003/04 EPL season unbeaten in any of their games making them the second team after Preston North End in 1888/89 season to go through an entire campaign undefeated. Arsenal's 49-game unbeaten run was brought to an end when Manchester United hammered them 2-0. We might be in the era where we are experiencing a rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester City but we can all agree that it is nowhere close to what the Arsenal-Manchester United rivalry gave the football world. Respect! to Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, the football managers who gave the world an unforgettable decade of Premier League football.