'There was hatred' - Roy Keane and Thierry Henry talk candidly on the Man United-Arsenal rivalry
United and Arsenal did battle for the Premier League on an annual basis following Arsene Wenger’s appointment as Gunners boss in 1996, with Keane suggesting the animosity that existed between the Frenchman and United boss Alex Ferguson fuelled the rivalry of their players when they went head to head.
“I think there was a general hatred between the managers and the players,” stated Keane, as he discussed the United v Arsenal clashes with Thierry Henry on Sky Sports.
“The players…me and Patrick (Vieira), the back four of Gary (Neville), Martin Keown, these are all big characters…Ruud (van Nistelrooy). The tension between everyone added to it.
“The managers have a bit more respect for each other now, but at the time, there was a rivalry we don’t see in the Premier League now. It was hatred.”
Keane revealed his countdown to a clash with Arsenal felt different to any other fixture in a Premier League season, as he reflected he needed to hype himself up to go to battle against United’s chief title rivals.
“If we were playing Arsenal on the Saturday, any kind of knock or injury I had the Monday before the game, I’d be feeling it, my body was getting ready for battle,” reflected Keane.
“Any tweaks or aches I’ve got, I’d start feeling them because I know I would need to be ready. Arsenal were strong and quick and you knew that it was going to be a tough game. You know you would be aching for weeks afterwards.
“To be fair to both teams, we talk about incidents in tunnels and whatever, there was also some great football played and great goals scored. Let’s remember that.”
Henry also appeared on a show looking back at the great moments in the Premier League era, as he clashed with Keane in the studio over the infamous incident that saw Arsenal players goading United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy after he missed a penalty back in 2003.
“On the day, Van Nistelrooy during the whole game, he wound everyone up,” said Henry. ”He got Patrick Vieira sent off in that game.”
That comment quickly inspired Keane to interject with his own version of events in a game that finished with Arsenal players surrounding Van Nistelrooy amid ugly scenes.
“Patrick got himself sent off in that game,” argued Keane. ”Arsenal players that day crossed that line.
“Why does Martin Keown regret his actions on that day? Martin has done some daft things on the pitch so he must have done something wrong to regret that.”
Keane also poured cold water on Arsenal’s achievement of going through the entire 2003/04 Premier League season unbeaten, as he insisted the record breaking campaign would not have given him any special satisfaction.
“It wouldn’t have worried me too much,” he added as he considered the prospect of an unbeaten season.
“My priority at the start of every season was to win the Premier League. I don’t care if I win it with three games to go, if it’s the last kick of the game, I don’t care. Give me that medal.”