Sep 21, 2003 at 3pm UK at ​Old Trafford
Man UtdManchester United
0-0
Arsenal

Keane (22'), van Nistelrooy (82'), Ronaldo (84'), Fortune (90')
FT

Toure (54'), Keown (61'), Vieira (79')
Vieira (80')

On this day: Tempers flare between Manchester United, Arsenal

Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrates scoring against Newcastle United on August 28, 2005.
© Getty Images
Eleven years ago today, Manchester United and Arsenal players clashed at Old Trafford after Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a late penalty.

Despite being separated by almost 200 miles, the relationship between Manchester United and Arsenal has been rather spiky for a while now.

There are those that believe that the rivalry dates back to their battle for major domestic honours following the appointment of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal boss in 1996, but there was also dust ups before that.

On Sir Alex Ferguson's first visit to Highbury as United manager in 1987, Arsenal midfielder David Rocastle was red carded, which resulted in a brawl. Three years later, 21 players were involved in a physical incident following a clash between Brian McClair and Nigel Winterburn. Both teams were subsequently fined and docked points by the Football Association.

Yet, despite all that, the conflict between the two clubs reached boiling point at Old Trafford 11 years ago today.

After what had been a largely unremarkable opening 81 minutes, the game sparked into life. United frontman Ruud van Nistelrooy was penalised for having committed a foul on Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira, who flicked out a boot in retaliation. Van Nistelrooy made a point of highlighting Vieira's actions to referee Steve Bennett and much to the disgust of the visiting players, their skipper was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

To rub further salt into the Arsenal wound, a penalty was awarded against them in the first minute of stoppage time when Diego Forlan hit the ground inside the area under a challenge from Martin Keown.

Van Nistelrooy, the antagonist as far as Arsenal were concerned, stepped up to take the kick, even though he had his missed his previous two efforts from 12 yards. His bad luck would continue on this occasion as, although he sent visiting goalkeeper Jens Lehmann the wrong way, his effort crashed to safety off the crossbar.

Soon after, the final whistle was blown, much to the delight of the Arsenal players, who surrounded Van Nistelrooy. The striker was pushed by Lauren, while a leaping Keown struck him around the back of the head. A number of Van Nistelrooy's teammates, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, raced to the defence of the Dutchman and a pushing match ensued.

Once the players had been parted and had returned to their respective dressing rooms, it is fair to say that the two managers viewed the situation differently.

Wenger said: "I think Van Nistelrooy doesn't help, frankly. He's always looking for provocation and diving. He looks a nice boy, but I think on the pitch it isn't always fair behaviour. Patrick maybe should not have reacted [to Van Nistelrooy], but again you punish more the consequence than the source of the problem."

Meanwhile, Ferguson countered: "As far as I'm concerned, I can defend Van Nistelrooy. I've heard Arsene's comments and I'm really disappointed to hear that. Ruud fouled Vieira, but look, there was many fouls in the whole game - Vieira himself had some fouls. He's reacted badly and Ruud has not dived.

"He's tried to get out of the way and looked at the referee as if to say 'what kind of behaviour is this?' The referee has no option [but to send him off]. As for the behaviour at the end of the game, I think the FA will be looking into that, so there is no need to talk about Arsenal's discipline. I can only talk about my own players - their discipline was perfect."

As Ferguson had predicted, the FA did review the incident and handed out punishments to two United players and six from Arsenal, while both clubs were also fined. The £175,000 bill that landed on Arsenal's doormat was the largest ever issued by the governing body.

Meanwhile, four Arsenal players - Lauren, Keown, Vieira and Ray Parlour - were all suspended for between one and four encounters.

Man United: Howard; G Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea (Forlan), Ronaldo, Keane, P Neville, Fortune, Giggs; Van Nistelrooy

Arsenal: Lehmann; Lauren, Toure, Keown, Cole; Parlour, Vieira, Silva, Ljungberg; Bergkamp (Edu), Henry

Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane challenge for possession.
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