Arsenal v Manchester United A five-goal thriller that relives the ancient rivalry

Matches between Arsenal and Manchester United lost their spice for a while around 2011 when Arsenal arrived at Old Trafford for a Premier League match and were dispatched to an 8-2 draw.

Arsenal had fallen below the upper echelons of English football by then, still routinely qualifying for the Champions League but having failed to mount a serious title challenge since 2008 and, at that point, without a trophy since the FA Cup in 2005.

United were still at the peak of their powers at the time. Only Didier Drogba’s what should have been an offside goal in 2010 and a late collapse against Everton in 2012 denied them what could have been an unprecedented five English titles in a row. As such, their matches against an increasingly uncontested Arsenal became increasingly meaningful.

Then came the downfall of United themselves. Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 paved the way for nearly a decade of false dawning of new eras, wasteful spending and underperformance. It wasn’t until the arrival of Erik ten Hag in the year 2022 that identity and mental toughness returned. Mikel Arteta, of course, has had the same kind of impact at Arsenal over a slightly longer period.

But in the years that followed, people didn’t care much about Arsenal and Manchester United as a match. Not when Manchester City and Liverpool started setting new standards in the Premier League and Chelsea were still around or there for most of the time.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, it was the Premier League match that everyone instantly searched for on their match list. Both of them are always fighting for the title and whenever they meet will have huge implications for how a particular season turns out.

Moreover, given what was at stake when they came together, many of the Premier League’s best games and/or most famous moments were when Arsenal and Manchester United played.

After a long while, Sunday’s five-goal thriller at the Emirates Stadium reminded the rest of football of what Arsenal and Manchester United matches should be like.

For starters, it meant something in the broader context of the season. This was the league leaders and, through Al-Ittihad, the title favourites, against a rapidly improving side who had only been beaten once in all competitions since the beginning of October.

The players on the field also did not disappoint. Both vibrant teams wanted to win the game and win it the right way. He attacked all of them and was rocking back and forth to keep both sets of fans and neutrals on the edge of their seats.

United took the lead through Marcus Rashford, only for Arsenal to strike back with braces from Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka. It was great players doing great. The Red Devils equalized when Lisandro Martínez scored, before Nketiah scored his second at the death to win it for Arsenal and propel them one step further towards a potential title.

Given the journeys both clubs have taken, it is high time that the matches between them brought back some of that old spice and may last for a long time.

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