You have got Arsenal in one corner and Manchester United in the other and in between: the flame that never dies. The two rivals will meet again on Sunday for the 225th time in history. The laurels are almost even: the Gunners have won eighty of those while United – 94.
Among the sea of goals, there are some that stand out. Here are the top ten goals between Arsenal and Manchester United:
10. Freddy Ljuingberg
If it wasn’t Gary Neville’s case of Alzheimer memory, this goal would’ve surely kept irking him today.
Neville gave the ball away to Robert Pires who distributed it to Freddy Ljuingberg near the edge of the box on the right. The Swede executed a two-touch lob sending the ball gently over the keeper. Calculated, masterful and beautiful.
9. Andrey Arshavin
The dwarf from Russian thrived in restricted space. Imagine the consequences if he happened to be free.
Well, United know. Receiving the ball in the hole on the left with 10 yards of free space, Arshavin blasted the ball on a fierce trajectory which looked destined to go into the left top corner. In fact, it didn’t. It went into the right top corner.
A beautiful long-range effort and a deserved ‘shush’ from Arshavin. Unfortunately for Arshavin, the uninspired Gunners lost 2-1.
8. David Beckham
It’s a shame really because Beckham’s curl against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup was eclipsed by an iconic Ryan Giggs run in extra time. Beckham’s whipped shot from about 25 yards left David Seaman helpless in the 16th minute of the game.
Beckham’s had his share of well-timed beauties in his career. This wasn’t one of them, but without it, 1999 United would’ve been just double-winners United.
7. Thierry Henry
The year is 2004 – the penultimate season of Arsenal at Highbury – the month is March, the season is undefeated.
When they met Manchester United, Henry had already crawled his way to the top of English goal-scoring charts. Not by chance. Receiving the ball 35 yards off goal, Henry slashed it, sending it on a chaotic trajectory to hard for United’s keeper Roy Carrol to figure out. As the ball touched the net, Henry was still frozen is gracious shooting posture.
6. David Rocastle
Rocastle had something to prove after having falling out Geroge Graham’s graces in the previous year. He did in the most spectacular way possible and on the right stage – Old Trafford.
Rocky started a run from his own half. Did a Gascoine-flick over a player and abruptly stopped, eliminating another player, nudged it forward like Ronaldinho to get past another and produced a chip which Bergkamp would’ve been proud of.
5. Ashley Young
It’s not Young’s beautiful curl that hurt Arsenal in this game, it’s the result: 8-2. United ran rampant on the day, with now Arsenal player Danny Welbeck giving them the lead.
Then Young’s moment came in the 28th, curling a textbook ball high and beyond the reach of Szczesny to find the net. Unstoppable shot.
4. Patrick Vieira
If Vieira hadn’t made any introductions to English football by November 1997, he made sure he did against Manchester United at Highbury. Both clubs missed key players due to injuries or suspensions – Dennis Bergkamp, Emmannuel Pettit, Roy Keane and Dennis Irwin.
In the 57th minute, Vieira stepped in to double the Gunners’ lead. After a Ray Parlour corner, the deflected ball rolled free towards the edge of the box. Vieira closed in and half-chipped it with the inside of the foot to find Schmeichel’s weakest spot just above him.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo has always been adroit at free-kicks, but his goal against Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final in 2009 was something else.
Ronaldo coughed up a thunder of a strike from 35 yards out beyond the desperate dive Manuel Almunia – the quality of the goal reflected on the faces of both teams’ players.
“It’s too far out for Ronaldo to think about.” the commentator had said a second before the shot. Don’t worry; he’s still got a job.
2. Thierry Henry
It’s indicative of the quality of the goal when good commentators are stunned to silence or revert to clichés in their struggle to explain what happened.
It was the drowsy atmosphere at Old Trafford that Henry cut with two touches: One) to flick the ball upwards, and Two) to execute a falling leaf which turned keeper Fabian Barthez into a statue. That’s how a golden moment cast Barthez in bronze.
1. Ryan Giggs
Have you ever wondered what a slow Messi would be like? Wonder no more. In 1999, Giggs intercepted a Vieira wrong pass inside his own half in extra time in the FA Cup final at 1-1. He zigzagged past four Arsenal shirts and as he entered the penalty box, a venomous shot followed.
Wenger later admitted that this goal had crushed the Gunners’, allowing United to pip them to the title that year.