Former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher has explained how the infamous tunnel bust-up between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira unfolded.
In February 2005 Arsenal welcomed United to Highbury and Sir Alex Ferguson’s side ran out 4-2 victors, but the match will forever be remembered for the altercation between midfield rivals Keane and Vieira prior to kick-off.
What created the modern Man Utd v Arsenal rivalry? Five key things to know…
- Man Utd were the dominant force when Arsene Wenger was appointed Arsenal manager in 1996 and he immediately challenged their domestic supremacy.
- Wenger won the title during his second season and masterminded an unbeaten title campaign in 2003/04.
- This set up a long-standing rivalry between the teams as they battled for success, leading to a number of fiery encounters.
- One of the more memorable affairs was the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ which saw Ruud van Nistelrooy shoved by Martin Keown after he missed a penalty in 2003.
- Throughout the late nineties and early noughties Ferguson and Wenger locked horns for domestic dominance.
At the time of the scuffle, Fletcher was just a 21-year-old prodigy still finding his feet in the game, but he has now shed light on why Keane initially confronted the Arsenal midfielder in the Highbury tunnel all those years ago.
“I heard Gary Neville come into the dressing room, saying that a few of the Arsenal lads had just started on him in the tunnel,” Fletcher said to UTD Unscripted.
“It sounded surreal because that doesn’t happen. It hadn’t happened before and hasn’t happened since. It was a unique situation.
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“Gaz didn’t seem too bothered by it, he just let out that laugh that he does. But it was game time, so Roy did what he does.
“I think it was kept among the players. He didn’t broadcast what he was about to do. It was just said to a few of the lads; it wasn’t as though Alex Ferguson had sat us down and spoke about it. Roy took it upon himself.
“So we get into the tunnel and it all kicks off.
“Suddenly, Roy Keane starts having a go at Patrick Vieira, before we’re even on the pitch.”
United were trailing to the Gunners 2-1 at half-time but a second-half Cristiano Ronaldo brace and late John O’Shea chip secured a remarkable comeback for the Red Devils.
The latest instalment of the United-Arsenal rivalry came at the Emirates on Sunday, which was naturally a more subdued affair, with Unai Emery’s men claiming a 2-0 victory.
A vital three points took the north London club above United into fourth, enhancing their chances of clinching a Champions League qualification place this season with just eight matches remaining.
Next up for Emery’s men is the second leg of their round-of-16 clash against Rennes in the Europa League on Thursday, with the hosts trailing 3-1 on aggregate.
United face Wolves in the FA Cup on Saturday and will be keen to secure a place in the semi-finals at the expense of a fellow Premier League side.