Sunday, 27 September 2015

Arsenal v Man Utd: When Arsenal hated Ruud van Nistelrooy

Arsenal v Manchester United
Venue: Emirates Stadium 
The stark words hang in the air as Patrick Vieira reflects on one of the most tense moments of his Arsenal playing career, when he was sent off - deeply unjustly, he felt - following a skirmish with Ruud van Nistelrooy.
"At that moment, I hated him," confesses Vieira of the then Manchester United striker.
He is discussing, of course, the infamous Manchester United-Arsenal league match in 2003 which finished goalless but certainly did not lack incident and will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
His expression is bashful, as if he were aware of what a bizarrely severe impulse it is to vocalise more than a decade later, older and wiser and far from the heat of the moment.
Vieira is a genial, friendly man and now a key figure in Manchester City's coaching set-up. Van Nistelrooy, also said to be easy-going, has dabbled with coaching in the Netherlands since retiring from playing in 2012.
Yet embroiled in competition, the sparks of ill-will were easily ignited.

Battle of Old Trafford: How the drama unfolded

13 mins: Ryan Giggs free-kick hits outside of the post
21 mins: Roy Keane receives first of eight yellow cards shown in the game
77 mins: Patrick Vieira booked for foul on Quinton Fortune
80 mins: Vieira shown second yellow for kicking out at Ruud van Nistelrooy
81 mins: Van Nistelrooy also shown yellow card in angry scenes
91 mins: Van Nistelrooy misses injury-time penalty and is pounced upon by Arsenal players
There have been some pretty obvious personality clashes between Premier League footballers over the years. In the sense that football is only a microcosm of life, it shouldn't be so surprising to find people disagree, breed dislikes, and sometimes simply decide they can't stand one another.
Some of the cases have been particularly high profile, as when Luis Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra during a stormy Liverpool-Manchester United match at Anfield in 2011.
Chelsea's John Terry and Wayne Bridge could not see eye-to-eye because of an entanglement in their personal lives that emerged in 2010, while in 2001, a long-running feud between Manchester rivals Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland had a particularly vicious conclusion.
Sometimes an enmity develops that is purely about football - a clash of styles and ideology that means a player takes to the pitch very conscious he is coming up against an opponent of whom, to put it generously, he is not particularly fond. It infuses the game with an edge, an energy. Team-mates know about it. Fans can sense it.
Arsenal and Manchester United meet in the Premier League on Saturday and it speaks volumes for where the two teams are now - compared with a decade ago - that the levels of friction are minimal.
That era of rivalry between the two clubs was epitomised by their two charismatic warrior captains - Keane and Vieira. But when the two clubs locked horns in September 2003, the dynamic changed.
It became apparent that one player - Van Nistelrooy - managed to antagonise the entire Arsenal XI and they finally rounded on him in a scene that would not only become infamous but also cost Arsenal the Premier League's biggest ever fine for indiscipline, as well as a string of suspensions.

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