Manchester United welcome old foe Arsenal to Old Trafford this Saturday in what is one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures of any Premier League campaign. Jose Mourinho’s men have only won one of their last five league outings – the impressive 3-1 victory over Swansea City prior to the international break – while the visitors are unbeaten since their opening day defeat to Liverpool and sit just two points adrift of the top of the table.
The match up between the two sides is always fiercely contested and has thrown up some classic encounters through the years, from the 8-2 in 2011 and the Keane versus Vieira battles to ‘Pizzagate’ and Sir Alex Ferguson’s rivalry with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger. This fixture has had it all.
The teams last met in February this year as United beat the London side 3-2 at The Theatre of Dreams. A certain Marcus Rashford was making his Premier League debut and the rest, as they say, is history. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended and Wayne Rooney’s involvement unclear, the 19-year-old Englishman may well lead the line come Saturday lunchtime.
Let’s take a look at a few players who have represented both clubs, starting with non other than Robin van Persie.
Robin van Persie
The Dutchman is the one player who epitomises the difference between the two sides over the last 10 years. Arsene Wenger hasn’t guided his side to Premier League success for over a decade whereas United have lifted the coveted trophy five times in the same period. Loved at the Emirates and club captain, van Persie became Sir Alex Ferguson’s priority transfer in the summer of 2012. He made the move up north and it paid dividends almost immediately. In the season that followed, the striker hit 26 goals – the most in the league – as United claimed their 20th top-flight crown. He scored home and away against the Gunners in his first season at United and is now resented by the Emirates faithful. Van Persie recently stuck the boot into the Gunners by claiming that Old Trafford is like playing ‘at home‘ despite spending eight years in the capital.
French international defender Mikael Silvestre enjoyed vast success during his time at Old Trafford, where he spent the majority of his career. The Frenchman was a mainstay at the back under Sir Alex Ferguson in what was one of the most successful periods at the club. Silvestre made 361 appearances in all competitions for the Reds over nine seasons and won five Premier League titles, the Champions League (07/08), the FA Cup (03/04), the League Cup (05/06), the Intercontinental Cup (99/2000) as well as two Community Shields (03 & 07). A move to Arsenal followed in 2008 by which time he was passed his peak and was eventually released on a free two years later.
Third on the all-time Premier League top scoring charts with 187 goals, Andy Cole spent the majority of his career at Old Trafford however actually came through the Gunners youth system. He never started a game for Arsenal, appearing just twice from the substitutes bench before being sold to second division side Bristol City as a 20-year-old. A move to Newcastle United followed suit before United signed Cole in 1995. The Englishman went on to make 275 appearances for the Reds, scoring 121 times. He spent almost seven years at Old Trafford, winning an impressive five league titles, two FA Cup’s, two League Cup’s and the Champions League in 1999.
Defender Viv Anderson has a couple of historic accolades to his name. He became the first black footballer to represent England back in 1978 and also had the honour of being Sir Alex Ferguson’s first signing when the Scotsman took charge at The Theatre of Dreams in 1986. Anderson’s most successful spell as a player came at Nottingham Forest before he joined Arsenal in 1984 where he won the League Cup three years later. Ferguson brought Anderson to Old Trafford in 1987 where he would win the FA Cup, the Charity Shield and the European Cup Winners’ Cup before departing on a free transfer in 1991.
I think I speak for the majority of United fans when I say I was gutted to see Danny Welbeck move to Arsenal in 2014. He wasn’t an out-and-out striker who would score 20 goals a season but he was one of our own, he came through the youth academy and you could tell he just loved playing for United. He was adjudged to have fallen down the pecking order in 2014 and was subsequently sold by Louis van Gaal. He netted 29 goals in 142 games in all competitions for the Reds. ‘Welbz’ – as he is known – came back to bite United six months later when he scored the winning goal to send Arsenal to the FA Cup semi finals at United’s expense, a competition that the Gunners eventually went on to win.