Ryan Giggs says the rivalry Manchester United had with Arsenal in the 1990s eclipsed their dislike of Liverpool.
From 1996 to 2004 the Premier League was shared exclusively between the Red Devils (six championships) and Gunners (three championships).
Arsenal v Man Utd rivalry: Five things to know…
- Man Utd won the opening two Premier League seasons before Blackburn halted their run in 1995.
- Sir Alex Ferguson’s men would claim five of the next six championships with Arsenal denying them a clean sweep in 1998.
- Under the auspices of Arsene Wenger, the Gunners further claimed two league titles including an invincible 2003/04 campaign.
- Ryan Giggs faced Arsenal no fewer than 48 times winning 25 of those contests and losing on 11 occasions.
- He would only score three goals past the Gunners, most famously in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay.
A graduate of United’s esteemed youth program Giggs would play an integral role in the club’s first two championships under Alex Ferguson, with their 1993 triumph ending a 26-year wait to be English champions.
Blackburn prevented the Red Devils from making it a ‘three-peat’ in 1995, but they’d subsequently won the next two Premier League titles before Arsene Wenger guided Arsenal to an impressive double.
This would usher an incredible rivalry between the clubs, with their on-field clashes ultimately deciding the fate of the championship. Giggs, now a United veteran, would immerse himself in the battle and wouldn’t allow himself to admire the men from north London.
With his focus lasered on Arsenal, there was no time to contemplate United’s traditional rivals most notably Liverpool.
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“I didn’t like Arsenal,” he said (via Daily Mail). “I didn’t like Vieira ‘cos he was dirty and got away with murder. I didn’t like Petit because he had long hair. I didn’t like Bergkamp.
“I didn’t like Pires even though when you meet him now he’s actually dead nice. I wouldn’t even look at them, didn’t know them and didn’t want to. I wouldn’t allow myself to rate any of them.
“Berkgamp? Nah, I told myself he wasn’t as good as Eric Cantona. I wasn’t really that kind of person. It wasn’t really me. But you had to get that in your head, that intense dislike. It was pure motivation. But deep down we knew. They were top drawer and that rivalry was everything to us. Deeper even than Liverpool at that time.”
Battle for Fourth
The days of United and Arsenal battling for the championship now seem a distant memory. Both clubs have in recent years been surpassed by their local foes – Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur – and now currently find himself fighting to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Of course, with both clubs still left in Europe (United face Barcelona in the Champion League quarter-finals whilst Arsenal entertain Napoli in the same round of the Europa League), there’s a possibility of making the 2019/20 edition of European football’s premier club competition by not finishing inside the Premier League top four.
But this is the current state of play in England’s top division. With eight matches remaining third place Spurs (60 points) and sixth place Chelsea (57), with Arsenal (60) and United (58) sandwiched between them, are separated by four points.
United, who lost to Arsenal (2-0) last time out, welcome Watford after the international break with the Gunners hosting Newcastle United.