Manchester United and Arsenal’s Premier League clash this Sunday represents the end of an era. Under Arsene Wenger, the Gunners emerged as the Red Devils’ ultimate title rivals during the late 1990s and early 2000s. But having announced he’ll be leaving the club at the end of the season, this could well be the last time the Frenchman faces his oldest foes, not to mention one of his most bitter enemies in United counterpart Jose Mourinho.
So will Sunday’s concluding instalment provide the perfect end to this 22-year Premier League subplot, and can previous encounters tell us anything about what to expect this weekend? Here’s the complete Premier League history of Man United vs Arsenal…
Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford in 2002 to clinch the title remains one of the most celebrated occasions in Arsenal’s recent history, but their overall record against Manchester United is actually quite modest considering how competitive their rivalry was throughout the first 15 years of the Premier League. They’ve only won 13 games against United from 51 attempts, and that famous victory on United’s patch was just one of three they’ve managed there out of a possible 25 in the Premier League.
United though, have suffered their own slump in recent years and that’s seen the balance of this fixture largely level out; both teams have won two, lost two and drawn two of the last six meetings, with Arsenal scoring two more goals than the Red Devils during that time.
Arsenal inadvertently played a key role in announcing Wayne Rooney to the world as a teenager and throughout his career, no club has conceded more goals from the former England captain.
Nine of those 15 came in 24 Premier League appearances for United, making Rooney the all-time top scorer in this fixture. He’s closely followed by Thierry Henry, who notched up eight in 14 top flight appearances against United, failing to net past them during just two of his full Premier League campaigns.
Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck, meanwhile, have represented both sides of the Arsenal-United divide. With the Dutchman on six, a hat-trick for the England international this weekend would see him move just behind Henry in this fixture’s top scorer chart.
He may have broken a million hearts and earned the moniker Judas when he jumped ship to Old Trafford in 2012, but Robin van Persie was without a doubt Arsenal’s most talented player by a considerable distance at that time. Eight seasons in north London produced 132 goals, three Premier League Goal of the Month awards, a Golden Boot and an FWA Player of the Year award – but just one piece of silverware from 2004/05.
Upon joining the Red Devils, van Persie instantly fired his new employers to the Premier League title, clinching a second consecutive Golden Boot in the process. It provided the parting gift Sir Alex Ferguson deserved, a final title before retiring, but that’s when RVP’s importance to United started to wane. After scoring just 22 league goals in the following two seasons under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, the Dutchman was allowed to leave for Fenerbahce.
There have been far more entertaining clashes down the years in terms of goals, not least including a succession of heavy hammerings handed out by the Red Devils. But few, if any, have matched the significance of this meeting at Old Trafford in 2002 when Arsenal clinched the Premier League title on their rivals’ patch.
It was an ugly, bitter-fought game with few clear-cut chances – between a United side in transition and a Gunners outfit starting to evolve into the Invincibles – but Sylvain Wiltord remained a menace all afternoon and it was the Frenchman who eventually proved the difference. His counter-attacking run in the second half lead to a Freddie Ljungberg shot that Fabien Barthez could only manage to parry, leaving an onrushing Wiltord to tuck home the rebound.
United pushed for an equaliser but that only made them more open and Arsenal had the chance to extend their lead. Not that the scoreline truly mattered; this clash was all about the result.