Those Big Bad Neville Brothers

Last updated : 02 November 2007 By Editor

"That match was terrible. It was one of the worst in my career, one of the hardest ones I have ever lived through. United just provoked us all afternoon and I still don't know how our players avoided injury. We were lucky. As for the incidents in the tunnel — still I do not have a very clear story of them.

"In the dressing room before a United game, Wenger would have one message every time. He would just ask us to be calm and to play with our usual style and not to be affected by the opposition. Specifically, he would tell us not to enter into wars with people like Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney or the Neville brothers. He would tell us that he knew what United would do but that we had to be professional. But Wenger badly wanted us to beat them. In the run up to those games he would remind us of the rivalry and tell us what it meant to our supporters. There was no extra money on offer, of course. The win bonus would be the same for United as it would, for example, against a team like West Brom. But Arsenal players don't need an extra incentive when they face United. It's all in their heads already."

"I did doubt Arsenal after the exit of Henry but the young players are demonstrating their excellence already. The match against United will be a test of fire for them. If Arsenal beat them I think they will win the title and that would give me a lot of satisfaction.

"What exactly motivated this rivalry in the first place is not totally clear to me. But I believe towards the end it was all to do with Manchester United's excessive arrogance and their excessive physical play.

"With each triumph, Ferguson would insist that his team was the best and that never went down well at Arsenal. These things irritate players.

"For any Arsenal player, there are six matches each season that really matter more than the others: the ones against Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United."