Match of Their Day: How Wenger’s Arsenal turned the tables on Manchester United
Martin Keown’s Arsenal allegiance is clear to see in the three games he has chosen for Match of Their Day.
You can hardly blame him, though, as he did make more than 400 appearances for the Gunners.
In his 12 seasons at the club, the centre-back helped them win three Premier League titles, a trio of FA Cups and triumph in the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
The two games he has picked in which he played are both ones that saw Arsenal seal the top-flight trophy – the 4-0 home win over Everton in 1998 and 2002’s 1-0 victory at Manchester United.
And his selection for a game in which he did not feature has a tongue-in-cheek dig at the Gunners’ north London rivals Tottenham – in the shape of the thrilling 2-2 draw at Chelsea, which saw the end of their 2015-16 title challenge.
One game he did not include – but was inevitably asked about – is a notoriously fiery 0-0 draw between Arsenal and Manchester United at Old Trafford in September 2003.
In a scene evocative of the rivalry between the clubs, Keown aggressively jumped over United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy after the Dutchman missed a penalty.
“Let’s just say there had been a few spats before,” said Keown. “When he got Patrick Vieira sent off we were enraged. We gave him what for.
“Do I regret that? I don’t know. I don’t tend to have regrets in life. I tried to tell my kids for many years after that you can’t behave in that way.”
Keown, who played 43 times for England, also had spells with Aston Villa, Everton, Leicester and Reading and is now a regular pundit for the BBC on radio and television.
Here are Keown’s three classic matches.
Arsenal 4-0 Everton
Arsene Wenger guided the Gunners to a first top-flight title in seven years when they triumphed in 1998
3 May 1998
“It’s Tony Adams, put through by Steve Bould, would you believe it?! That sums it all up.”
This classic piece of commentary has gone down in Arsenal folklore, describing as it does the final goal of the Gunners’ 4-0 demolition of Everton to give them their first Premier League title.
It came at the end of Arsene Wenger’s first full season in charge at the club and signalled that here was a new type of manager – one who would go toe to toe with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and forge a new, modern Arsenal.
Keown was one quarter of a well-drilled back four that Wenger inherited from the George Graham era, upon which he would also build his own successful side.
Keown: “It was a truly memorable day for me as an Arsenal fan and player. It was remarkable how that team was, it was a real pleasure to be with those players.
“Overmars on the day was unstoppable. It was a great day to celebrate with the fans and an amazing story for Arsene Wenger.
“It was good news when Wenger came in and he offered us all a brand new contract and gave us a hefty pay rise, that really got our attention.
“He was really educational about diet, stretching, prolonging our careers and being open to change.
“He had to adapt to us as well. We had difficult teething problems early in the season, it wasn’t perfect by any means, but we found a way to work with each other. No manager has given me that kind of belief before, he got the best out of me. He was a joy to play for.”
Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal
Unusually the FA Cup final was played before the league title had been decided in 2002
8 May 2002
Fast forward four years, during which the Arsenal-Manchester United rivalry largely defined the top flight.
The Gunners had finished second to United in the three previous seasons, but would pip them this time around, clinching the title with this win at Old Trafford.
Sylvain Wiltord’s goal, on his 100th Arsenal appearance, gave them the win, the title and the Double, having beaten Chelsea in the FA Cup final four days earlier.
Keown: “This was immensely special. What we’d been through from the 1998 win, watching United win the Treble in 1999, we’d lost the Uefa Cup final in 2000, the FA Cup in 2001 and each season we came second to Manchester United.
“We felt like we climbed a mountain when we went to Old Trafford and were able to win the Premier League there.
“It was almost the complete performance. They tried to kick us off the park but that was never going to happen with the likes of Patrick Vieira and Ray Parlour on the pitch.
“I didn’t play in the FA Cup final. Arsene Wenger dragged me into his office to say ‘you can tell me where to go Martin but you’re not going to play’. I was astounded.
” He said ‘like I said at the start of the season you and Tony Adams were going to have to share the role with Sol Campbell, there’s a bigger game coming up in four days’ time, get ready for the Old Trafford game’. And as it turned out he was probably right. I was very angry for that Manchester United game.”
Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham
This result prompted a huge party at Jamie Vardy’s house
2 May 2016
The game that ultimately sealed the most remarkable Premier League title win of them all.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham went into it knowing that only a win would maintain their challenge for the top-flight crown.
But their 2-2 draw – from a truly thrilling game that included brilliant goals, tasty tackles, touchline melees and nine yellow cards for Spurs – handed the trophy to Leicester City.
The Foxes, one of Keown’s former clubs, had been 5,000-1 to win the league before a ball was kicked.
Keown: “The game was almost out of control. Eden Hazard was remarkable.
“Watching the scenes of the Leicester players in Jamie Vardy’s house, you just know how they feel. It was an amazing story.
“You could call them the dirty dozen, along with the manager Claudio Ranieri. He was the ‘Tinkerman’ at Chelsea and all of a sudden he kept it really simple and a lot of those players had difficult times at other clubs.”