Who makes our Arsenal away XI?
Arsenal v Manchester United: It’s one of the most evocative Premier League rivalries.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, some of the great top-flight tussles took place when the sides went up against each other, whether it was Wenger against Ferguson, Schmeichel against Wright or Vieira against Keane.
The grudge match may have dimmed slightly since the Gunners moved from Highbury to their new home in 2006 – and with the exit of the two great managers in 2013 and 2018 - but it’s still a fixture that gets pulses racing in north London and Manchester.
Calm heads, battle-readiness and quick wits are required when the Reds travel down to N7, and our Arsenal away XI is crammed with all these attributes…
The Spaniard made a Premier League record 14 saves at the Emirates in December 2017, including a miraculous double stop to deny Alex Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez. United went on to win 3-1, and Dave was clear Man of the Match.
The Reds had raced out of the blocks in that encounter, with our Ecuadorian captain combining with Paul Pogba to give us a fourth-minute lead, with a rasping effort that evaded the great Petr Cech in goal. Take that! He also scored the opener at the Emirates in a 2-1 victory in 2012, when powering home a cross by Ryan Giggs.
Smalling also played in that 2017 win, but he makes it into our dream team for a goal-saving tackle on former team-mate Danny Welbeck, during the Louis van Gaal-masterminded 2-1 win in November 2014.
A certified veteran of big nights in north London, Vida led the backline immaculately in 2009’s memorable Champions League semi-final success.
We’re back in the Highbury days now, and who else could we slot in at left-back? Sheasy was never the most prolific of scorers anyway, but there’s no doubt this sumptuous dink in the infamous ‘tunnel game’ was his finest in a red shirt. Pity he couldn’t quite nail the Eric celebration!
At the start of the 2010s, it seemed like United were obliterating the Gunners on the counter-attack every other weekend, and the South Korean midfield man was often a key cog of the Reds’ thrilling forays, scoring in back-to-back victories at the Emirates.
Keano was always up for the fight when it came to United-Gunners clashes, and his set-tos with Arsenal midfield general Patrick Vieira have gone down in legend. An early-season win in 1999/2000, with the Irishman netting twice to silence Highbury, and his great rival, was a particular classic.
The Wales wizard saw his fair share of top-of-the-table tussles between the sides, but there can’t have been many bigger than the 2-2 draw in April 2003. With Arsenal in the ascendancy after recovering from Ruud van Nistelrooy’s opener, Giggsy was on hand at the back post to nod home Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s cross and put United in the driving seat for the title.
The Portuguese trickster straddled Arsenal’s Highbury and Emirates eras, and he is the only United player to score at both grounds. All in all, Ronaldo hit five in front of the Gunners’ faithful, with none better than the exocet missile of a free-kick that virtually settled the 2009 semi-final. He also netted twice in three minutes during the classic 4-2 victory in 2005.
Like Park and Ronaldo, Nani dominated the early Emirates games with his smart wing-play and pace on the counter. An inspirational performance during a league win in 2010 saw the former Sporting man score a remarkable goal – diving between Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri and bamboozling Denilson before lofting a teasing ball across the goalline, which Manuel Almunia couldn’t palm away.
The recently retired marksman registered our first-ever goal at the Emirates, and later added two magnificent counter-attacking strikes to his rivalry resume, in 2010 and 2014. He always loved netting against the team he scored his first-ever senior goal against, during his first spell at Everton.