MIKEL ARTETA wants to bring the passion back into football’s feistiest fixture but admits the modern game simply won’t tolerate history repeating itself.
Arsenal versus Manchester United was once renowned as the most fiercely contested match in the English calendar.
Mikel Arteta wants to bring the passion back to Arsenal’s clashes with Man UtdCredit: Reuters
Mikel Arteta spent five years as an Arsenal player and never featured on the winning side against Man UtdCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
From an infamous 21-man Old Trafford brawl to Keane vs Vieira in the old Highbury tunnel, this was a guaranteed clash of the titans with no holds barred.
But things have calmed down considerably since Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger retired from the managerial ring.
And now the two teams which once dominated the Premier League are fighting just to remain relevant in the modern era.
Arteta spent five years as an Arsenal player and never featured on the winning side against United.
But all the old animosities had gone by then and today’s encounter at an empty Emirates is sure to be played out in relative peace.
Arteta admits: “It’s not only the Arsenal and Manchester United fixtures which have calmed down.
“If you look at the way all the derbies used to get played, it’s not the same right now.
“The game is evolving and we are educating the players in a different way.
FREE BETS: GET OVER £2,000 IN SIGN UP OFFERS HERE
Martin Keown confronts Ruud van Nistelrooy after his famous missed penalty in 2003’s ‘Battle of Old Trafford’Credit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
“For sure they are not allowed to get away with some of the things they used to do 20 years ago and with VAR that’s even less.
“The game is much more controlled and policed these days so you know you can’t get away with certain things.”
Yet the former midfielder who also competed in the Glasgow and Merseyside derbies believes there is still room in the modern game for a tribal mentality to exist.
He says: “You need to have a passion to defend your position and show you much you want to succeed.
“That’s part of a winning mentality, for sure.
“In the past this match was about desire because both teams were convinced they were better than the other side and much stronger than all the other teams in the League.
Things have calmed down since Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger retired Credit: Times Newspapers Ltd
“They had the depth of squad and quality that meant that the other teams couldn’t get anywhere near them.
“They knew they were the only two candidates to win the League and that is where the rivalry came from,
“But that’s not happening now because there are six or seven teams who are capable of winning the title and that’s the difference to ten years ago.”
It was back in October 1990 that this fixture first exploded when Arsenal were docked two points and United one following the mass-brawl which involved every single player but David Seaman.
But it was when Wenger arrived to challenge Ferguson’s Premier League dominance that things really got heated.
Martin Keown, Lauren, Patrick Vieira and Ray Parlour were all banned while Christiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Ashley Cole were fined following an explosive Old Trafford clash in September 2003.
⚽ Read our Arsenal live blog for the latest news from The Emirates
The bitter rivals shared an explosive Old Trafford clash in September 2003Credit: Simon Wilkinson
Patrick Viera and Roy Keane famously clashed… over and over
A year later it all kicked off again when United ended Arsenal’s 48-match unbeaten League run in controversial fashion.
Ferguson was hit by a flying pizza thrown by Cesc Fabregas and Ruud van Nistelrooy was handed a retrospective three-game ban.
So tempers were already boiling over for the return match at Highbury in February 2005, when rival captains Keane and Vieira infamously clashed in the tunnel before the game had even kicked-off.
But with Arteta and nice-guy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now in the dug-outs, today’s meeting will be far more respectful.
Arsenal will once again be without captain and star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has missed training this week to be with his ill mother.
But Arteta will otherwise name a full strength team after being condemned for rotating his squad during last week’s FA Cup defeat at Southampton.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty beat Man Utd earlier in the seasonCredit: AFP or Licensors
He said: “The criticism came because we lost the game and then people wanted to find a reason for that.
“We made so many changes when we played at Anfield in the Carabao Cup but we beat Liverpool.
“We went to Leicester in the next round and made a lot of changes and we beat them as well.
“And we played in the Europa League and won all six games with a completely different team and suddenly everyone was saying those players needed a chance in the Premier League.
“So I know I am not going to please everybody. Only if you win. If you don’t, these things are going to come back at you.
“I don’t know what I would have done last week at Southampton if everyone was fit.
“But I do know we didn’t make seven changes. Five players could not play that game to start with.”
Martin Odegaard enjoys first training session with Arsenal More