Follow Your Sport has come up with our very own Arsenal-Manchester United All Time Combined XI in the Premier League era.
At the turn of the century, the Arsenal-Manchester United clash was all about fighting for the bragging rights to be England’s premier football club. Fast-forward to present and the magnitude of this battle has now just shrunk to staking a claim for a top-four finish. The clash on Sunday is the first occasion since 1977 when Arsenal and Manchester United played each other in the second half of a season with both teams outside of the top four.
But in all these years since the inception of the Premier League, there have been plenty of players on both sides of the divide who were so good that even the rival fans can’t help themselves but to adore them and even fantasized about seeing them put on their teams’ stripes. Using a 3-4-1-2 formation, I decided to frame my combined Arsenal-United dream XI of the Premier League era. Don’t mind if some of the selections ruffle your feathers though.
THE GUARDIAN — PETER SCHMEICHEL
A name that naturally comes into the mind for the goalkeeping position. No one can detest the fact that Schmeichel was arguably an all-time goalkeeping great especially in the Premier League era and often came up with goods when needed. The Dane’s farewell act in this fixture was a memorable one as his last-minute penalty save off Dennis Bergkamp in the FA Cup semi-finals not only propelled the Red Devils to cup glory but was also crucial in leading them to an unprecedented ‘Treble’ a month later.
THE WALL — SOL CAMPBELL, TONY ADAMS, NEMANJA VIDIC
Three of the finest defenders the sport has ever seen. ‘Mr Arsenal’ Tony Adams’ managerial innings has been disastrous so far but his playing career was certainly a distinguished one. Even the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson admitted his adoration for the defender and even tried to coax him to Old Trafford on many occasions, only for those attempts to end in failure. The current Granada boss remains the only player in English football history to have captained a title-winning team in three different decades.
Sol Campbell signed from North London rivals Spurs on a Bosman but it was arguably Arsene’s Wenger best piece of recruitment without spending a penny. The defender was a core part of the ‘Invincibles’ squad and at his peak, was considered as one of the best defenders in the world. The same implies for Nemanja Vidic who always preserved his best for this fixture. The ‘Serbinator’ was absolutely fearless when it came to putting his body on the line for the teams’ cause. The trio’s defensive consistency, awareness, strength, aerial ability and leadership at the back is what set them apart from their contemporaries. Personally, for me, there can’t be a better defensive triumvirate than this to imagine.
THE ENGINE — DAVID BECKHAM, ROY KEANE, PATRICK VIEIRA, RYAN GIGGS
Keane and Vieira were the two men who epitomised the Arsenal-Manchester United rivalry. The battles between the two clubs often provided a match within a match involving these two monstrous personalities. From the furious exchange of words in the tunnel to those deadly eye gazes on the pitch, the duo always tried to made it sure neither got the upper hand in their hand and the one who got the edge always led his team to victory in this fixture. A combination of two of the best box-to-box midfielders of their time would make any team in the world look indomitable.
Flanking them on either side are David Beckham and Ryan Giggs. The flying wingers had the stamina, defensive work rate, pace, vision and precision — the kind of all-round attributes that not many modern-day wingers could boast of. The duo at the peak of their powers was every managers’ dream. The latter, meanwhile, is the all-time greatest playmaker of the Premier League with 162 assists and his wonder strike in the aforementioned FA Cup semi-final still continues to haunt Arsene Wenger and Arsenal to this day.
THE STRIKEFORCE — DENNIS BERGKAMP, THIERRY HENRY, WAYNE ROONEY
Between the trio, they have scored a gargantuan 600 club goals of which 25 have been scored in this fixture. The ‘Non-Flying Dutchman’ Bergkamp might have scored just four times against the Red Devils in his 11 seasons at Highbury but his penchant for scoring iconic goals and craft with the ball was magnificent, to say the least. The elegance with which he carried the ball around earned him admirers even among the United faithful. In short, the Dutchman is the perfect no. 10 to have behind your strikers.
Lining up ahead of him are Thierry Henry and Wayne Rooney who are the all-time top-scorers of their respective clubs. The duo also features in the top five all-time highest Premier League goalscorers and their first goals against United and Arsenal respectively were nothing short of spectacular. While Henry’s masterful volley over Fabian Barthez’ brought everyone to a standstill, a 16-year-old Wayne Rooney announced himself to the world with a 90th-minute screamer past David Seaman while donning the Everton colours.The Liverpudlian’s love for scoring against the Gunners is well known and with 12 goals, he is the all-time top-scorer in this fixture as well. Henry ended up with 9 goals and briefly held the crown of being the top-scorer in this rivalry before Rooney took over. The Frenchman’s pace and trickery combined with the Englishman’s physical strength and directness is a perfect recipe for goals.What’s your opinion on this dream 11?