Arsenal 2-2 Manchester United
Highbury, March 22nd 1994
Manchester United 3-0 Arsenal
Old Trafford, March 22nd 1995
United and Arsenal matches pre-Wenger were just as feisty as after the Frenchman’s arrival in English football, and on this day in 1994 and 1995 were clashes exemplifying that. While there’s no starting point as to when the animosity between the teams began, most people will point to February 1989’s FA Cup 5th Round tie at Highbury.
Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners that day but the game is remember for a missed penalty and ensuing behaviour from the Arsenal players. In the 90th minute United were awarded a penalty kick which leading scorer Brian McClair sent high into the London sky. Rather than breathe a sigh of relief at his team’s reprieve, Nigel Winterburn decided the best course of action would be to rub it in McClair’s face.
McClair didn’t forget this and it was the catalyst for what was to become known as “The Battle of Old Trafford” in October 1990. An off the ball altercation between McClair and Winterburn saw the Scot kick the left-back which in turn led to a 22-man brawl and saw United docked one point and Arsenal two.
The match at Highbury in 1994 came just 3 days after an ill-tempered 2-2 draw at Swindon’s County Ground, where Eric Cantona was sent-off for stamping on Swindon’s John Moncur. Cantona was to see red in consecutive games when referee Vic Callow saw fit to give the Gallic idol his marching orders for the heinous crime of running into Tony Adams near the halfway line when challenging for the ball.
For picking up his second red card in as many matches the FA suspended Cantona for five games, meaning he would miss The League Cup Final and FA Cup Semi-Final.
Lee Sharpe appeared for the first time since December after suffering from viral meningitis and picked up where he had left off. It’s sometimes forgotten, but before his illness Lee Sharpe was the League’s hottest property and in his comeback match at Highbury scored both United’s goals in the 2-2 draw.
The Halesowen-born winger had a habit of scoring against The Gunners during his United career, finding the net on 6 occasions in 10 matches, including a hat-trick at Highbury in a 6-2 demolition.
Arsenal twice pegged United back through an own-goal and a late Paul Merson strike when United were down to ten men. The game was to be part of a United stutter on their way to regaining their Premiership crown which saw The Red Devils fail to win an away League game for over two months.
United’s line-up that night
1. Schmeichel; 2. Parker, 6. Pallister, 4. Bruce, 3. Irwin; 11. Giggs, 8. Ince, 16. Keane, 5. Sharpe; 7. Cantona, 10. Hughes. Substitute: 9. McClair
Exactly one year later on a wet Wednesday at Old Trafford, United dominated Arsenal in a comprehensive 3-0 victory in front of 43,623 people. Goals from Mark Hughes, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis gave United the win against an Arsenal team managed by former United defender Stewart Houston.
Cantona was unavailable for the game because he was two months into his nine month suspension for kicking racism out of football. The suspension was to prove costly for The Reds as they failed in their quest to win a third straight league title after a draw on the final day of the season at Upton Park.
United’s line-up that night
1. Schmeichel; 16. Keane, 6. Pallister, 4. Bruce, 3. Irwin; 14. Kanchelskis, 8. Ince, 5. Sharpe, 11. Giggs; 10. Hughes, 17. Cole.