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It is a great reason for pride when the team you support is very successful even beyond the borders of the country and when any opposing side in the fixtures against your favorites dreads the clash. If this lasts for years, the team becomes something like an institution, notable players from the team’s history become legends, and most of the inhabitants of the city the club comes from show almost religious-like dedication. If it happens that a manager continuously brings success to the club and still spends a long time with it and doesn’t get lured away by vast sums of money he is offered by other teams, he gets God-like status from the fans, and becomes even more loved than any player ever. His decisions are unquestionable, even if unpopular, and anyone who openly confronts him immediately becomes hated by the fans. In this world of money in sports such dedication and love is extremely rare, and, thus, more special. Now imagine two such clubs playing in the same league. And the league being the English Premier League, where the entire sport is considered a sanctity.

This is the rivalry from the headline. The previous two rivalries we discussed stem from history and social circumstances, which transferred to the pitch and the stands. This one does not. It is solely based on the sport rivalry between these two, and everything that constitutes the rivalry comes from the pitch.

Manchester United has been in the top of world football for a long time. They are one of the clubs which is much adored even outside England. They have won the League 19 times, the FA Cup 11 times, League Cup 4, Charity Shield 19, Champions League 3, UEFA Cup 1. Admirable for any club. The list of clubs notable players is huge, including the likes of George Best, Sir Bobby Charlton, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Bryan Robson (the longest serving captain-12 years), Roy Keane, Eric Cantona just to name a few. Even the managers are special here. First of all Matt Busby (in the club from 1945 to 1969) brought the team its first bright years assuming full control over player transfers, selection and training. His team from the year 1956 won the title with the average age of just 22 and was named “Busby’s Babes”. A huge tragedy hit these boys while returning from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade in 1958 when their plane crashed while taking off from the Munich airport, killing 23 people including 8 players. Busby started over, picked up the club again and resigned in 1969, having his name forever written in the hearts of the fans and the club. The club’s following years were not as successful but with the arrival of Sir Alex Ferguson in 1986 the things got a lot better. After a few slow years they won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990 and won the 1991 UEFA Super Cup beating Red Star Belgrade in a match which showed the genius of Ferguson, since in the first half they were beaten to their knees and lucky not to be behind. In the second half Ferguson made a few changes and secured a victory in a match which had seemed lost. In the following years Manchester became one of the biggest clubs in the world and Ferguson still remains manager serving more than 26 years.

Arsenal won the league 13 times, FA Cup 10 times, League Cup 2 times, FA Charity Shield 12 times and European Cup Winners’ Cup once. The best players are Tony Adams, Denis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Frank McLintock, Thierry Henry, Bob Wilson, Cesc Fabregas, David O’Leary, Lee Dixon…  Their first golden era was in the 1930s, winning five league titles and two cups, and again in the 1970s. But their best years were yet to come.  In the end of the 1980s and 1990s they came strong continuing into the new millennium and winning the 2003-2004 season UNBEATEN. Their records may seem a bit smaller than those of Manchester United but Arsenal would actually place on top of the league if the entire 20th century were put together. The manager who brought the first major success was Herbert Chapman in the 1930s, but he died suddenly in 1934 leaving his successors to win three more titles in the decade. The beginning of the seventies brought new success under the physiotherapist/manager Bertie Mee. In the 1996 French manager Arsene Wenger was appointed. He brought everything new to the club and marked the beginning of the new era which still lasts.

 Their rivalry has been fueled by troubles on pitch. Some feel that it had begun earlier, but the match which is thought to be the beginning of the trouble happened in 1990 which resulted in both sides being punished. In 2003-2004 season they played two draws but with many brawls between the players during the matches. You can imagine the effect these had on fans of both teams. During the first match Vieira was sent off and Keown conceded a penalty in last seconds of the game. This fired things up, but van Nistelrooy missed the penalty after which Arsenal players started celebrating-especially Keown getting into van Nistelrooy’s face. This started a big mess on the pitch even after the game ended.

Many memorable matches-wins in last seconds, high-scoring matches and frequent returns from seemingly lost games- before and after this fueled the future confrontation between many players and hate between the fans of the two clubs, but the managers did their best to slow things down and bring this back to one of rare unspoilt sport rivalries. With both teams still going strong the rivalry is bound to continue despite Manchester’s current dominance.


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