Speaking ahead of Manchester United’s visit to the Emirates on Sunday, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry reminisced about the old encounters between the two rivals (via Sky Sports).
At the turn of the century, United and Arsenal were the two unquestionable juggernauts of English football; and their matches were always furiously contested both on the pitch and off it. Footballing legends such as Vieira, Henry, Bergkamp and Pires turned out for Arsenal, while United had their famous class of ’92.
In terms of sheer star power itself it was a massive game; and that was before the charged fights in the tunnels and the non-stop action over the course of the 90 minutes. Also, whoever won the match would gain a massive advantage in the title race, which was at the time dominated by the two teams.
Henry, a player known to relish the big games, said fondly of the old days in an interview to Sky Sports:
“It is the game. For me, it has always been the game. At one point of time, that game decided the League. Nowadays, Chelsea has come along well, Man City has come along; but to me, it will always be the game,” the Frenchman said.
“Sometimes, it was a battle more than a game. Arguments, fights, crazy goals, last minute goals; it all happened. It was the game; for the players, press, managers, fans, everyone.
“When two teams who are always in the Top 4 meet each other, it will be a game worth watching. There are quality players on both sides, and it is a game you will not want to miss.
“[Speaking about Sunday’s game] It is a game you can’t lose, you must win; and put some doubt into their minds. You need to come out of it feeling good about yourself and it can definitely give you momentum going forward.
“I am excited for the game, and everybody is looking forward to it. Hopefully, it will be a good game. Hopefully, something will happen; hopefully, we will see good football.
“Previously, it used to be the game. Now, maybe not so much after Chelsea and Man City have closed the gap, but you can still feel that excitement when they play each other.”
After the rise of Chelsea under Abramovich, and more recently City’s rise to prominence, the fixture has become somewhat less crucial; but it still remains one of the biggest matches on the Premier League calendar. Arsenal are a Top 4 side, and so are United despite their struggles over the past couple of seasons. Both sides still possess star-studded lineups. Any match between the two is, rightly, a big deal.
With United sitting at the top of the League table, it is once more a crunch game, like in Henry’s time. Arsenal are only three points behind so a win on Sunday would see us climb into the top 2. A loss would allow the Red Devils to solidify their lead. Maybe not a late-season title decider, but a massive game nonetheless and one in which we should be looking to secure the victory and stake our claim for the title.