Arsenal v Man United – How much do we miss the Vieira v Keane rivalry

4 Reasons we miss Vieira Vs. Keane Battles

When Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira locked horns, the football world would watch. Arguably, two of the best captains and midfield players ever to play in the Premier League were at the two biggest clubs at the time in England. The rivalry was no secret, and on more than one occasion the players came face to face with one another. For those of us watching from home or for the supporters inside the stadium, it was football gold. 


Nowadays, the former footballers have a great relationship off the field. For those of us who got to watch the two play against each other, it’s still difficult to see them in the same room together discussing football. They were both complete athletes, with a very competitive mentality which made for incredible football games. Both players controlled their team, and we’re not afraid to give orders to their fellow teammates. If either player found one of their teammates in trouble, they were the first at the scene trying to sort it out. 


Nowadays, Manchester United and Arsenal would love to have players like Patrick Vieira or Roy Keane on their side. 


Both were not afraid to get involved

It seems like a lot of the modern footballers in the Premier League these days are afraid to tackle their opponents. When Keane and Vieira were playing, neither player would think twice about going in for a 50/50 challenge. As midfielders, it was their job to win the ball in the centre of the park, and they did it better than almost every single player who has played in England’s top division. 


Both midfielders covered a lot of ground during a game, and very few players managed to get past them. If a player was to get past either captain, then without a shadow of a doubt they would work hard to track back to regain possession for their side. Not only did this help Manchester United and Arsenal win games, but it gave their teammates a chance to see what their captains would do for them. 


In today’s game, some players refuse to help out their teammates. Roy Keane has been very critical of Paul Pogba, due to his attitude. On many occasions, the French midfielder has lost the ball, but instead of chasing the ball, he stands around complaining. Although Pogba is a talented footballer, neither he nor Patrick Viera would have allowed that in their side. 


The Fights

When Manchester United took on the Gunners while Keane and Vieira were captains, the atmosphere at Old Trafford or Highbury (Arsenal’s former stadium) was incredible. Not just because it was the two biggest sides in England playing each other, but because the winner of the game would normally go on to win the competition. 


Keane and Viera had their fair share of fights, but the one that sticks out in the mind of most football fans is the fight in the tunnel. Roy Keane had felt Patrick Viera had bullied  Gary Neville, and Patrick Viera had felt the United players had intentionally hurt some of his teammates the last time the two sides had met. The two collided in the tunnel before the game, which was normal for a lot of players at the time. The big difference was that the television crew captured the heated argument and showed it live on air. Millions of people watching the game at home observed the situation, which made for a thrilling game. Viera scored the first goal however United went on to win the game 4-2. 


Why is it so Different these days?

The same rivalry between the two sides isn’t what it once was. Arsenal and Manchester United have struggled to compete for the league, especially since the Manchester City and Chelsea owners started to invest heavily into their clubs. Players have to be very careful what the do on and off the pitch nowadays, because of the amount of money sponsorships have put into the game, betting sites like kasyna online and clothing companies like Adidas expect their players to act a certain way.


Both sides have problems behind the scenes, and it has affected the team’s performance. Fans have been left frustrated, and the days of Manchester United and Arsenal going head to head for the title seem to be a distant memory for many supporters. Both sides were able to attract some of the most talented players in the world, but with so much competition out there it is hard for them to get who they want in the transfer market. Both sides have found it difficult to recruit leaders or captains that the rest of the players will listen to and respect. 


Highbury was a very difficult stadium for any away side. Unlike their new stadium, the supporters were very close to the pitch which made it very difficult for teams. It almost felt like the fans were the twelfth man. The supporters have struggled to create the same atmosphere in their current stadium, and they have won very little since they made their move to the Emirates stadium. 


Invincibles vs The Treble

Going through an entire season in England’s top division was unheard of until Patrick Viera and his teammates managed it in the 2003-04 season. Although Keane won several major trophies during his time at Old Trafford, he was never able to captain his side to an unbeaten season. Arsenal managed to play forty-nine games in a row without being beaten once. Nobody could have predicted this, nor is any club expected to do the same in the future.


Keane did lead his side to the treble in the 1998-99 season when Manchester United won the Champions League, Premier League, and the FA Cup. Sir Alex Ferguson believed the semi-final, a clash between Arsenal and Manchester United, in the FA Cup was the most important game of the season. Roy Keane was sent off in extra time due to a late challenge after Denis Bergkamp missed a penalty late on, and to finish off one of the most exciting clashes between the two sides, Patrick Viera passed the ball that landed in Ryan Giggs’ path. The Welsh winger ran from the halfway line to score what is regarded as the greatest goal in the FA Cup history.


Boy, do  we miss clashes like that nowadays!


  1. gotanidea says:

    Partey could be the next Vieira if he can stay fit, but he could also be Diaby 2.0

    1. Highbury Hero says:

      What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and experience just one of those clashes. Those were the days!

      1. gotanidea says:

        Maybe you still remember about Vieira vs Van Nistelrooy. Our captain was a hothead like Xhaka, so I’m surprised to see him so calm today and he even spoke at TED Talks

        1. Dan kit says:

          A rivalry yes but viera was head and shoulders above Keane talent wise .
          Diaby could have been even better and have always said that .

          1. ken1945 says:

            Dan, how right you are – Diaby was the replacement that AW found for Patrick and one moment of absolute thuggery ended it.

            OT Dan, I answered your question regarding being at the game versus watching it on TV.
            Would be interested in your response.

        2. Highbury Hero says:

          The calmness comes with age for most probably. I and Arsenal fans in my area loathed van Nisterlooy. I think he was called every bad word in existence at that time.

          I hated all Man Utd players but strangely I ended up warming up to them once they left Old Trafford. Even van Nisterlooy.

          The article has brought wonderful memories. I always remembered the tunnel fighting to have taken place in the Old Trafford match in our invincibles season. I remembered wrong it seems.

          1. Dan kit says:

            That era will always go down as the best we have seen in England ,2 legend managers going for it every time they faced each other ,an angry Scots man and a mild mannered french man ,You couldnt make that up but produced the best teams to ever play on these shores .
            Never to be repeated IMO
            I believe vieria cost 7.5 mil 😂

          2. Highbury Hero says:


            Two best and passionate managers and a pool of extremely talented players, it was literally clash of titans.

            I remember reading a long time ago that Arsenal vs Man Utd games of that era were the most watched sport games with more than 1 billion people tuning in. If I remember wrong again coffee is the culprit.

          3. Dan kit says:

            Best times I had growing up ,out with mates before we all got the ball and chain around our ankles .
            This is why Arsene will always go down as one of the top premier league managers ,the players he bought to this club and pretty much all unheard of before rolling up in England and then producing the best football I’ve ever seen , pretty magical .

          4. SueP says:

            @ Dan kit
            What would £7.5m be in today’s money?

          5. Val says:

            7.5m probably gets you Jack Grealish’s left hand

          6. Dan kit says:

            Well sue now you have asked I did abit of research….
            This is what I came up with
            Inflation is 62 % over the 25 years since we signed him in 1996 .
            If my figures are right then my 😂 emoji is spot on .

          7. Highbury Hero says:


            We appreciate them for all memorable moments.

          8. Highbury Hero says:


            Remember the legendary Zidane to Madrid record fee of 40 million I think and it was a mammoth fee back then. How much would a prime Zidane cost now?

  2. Websurfer says:

    Never rated Keane because of his too brutally playing style. Don’t miss him.

  3. gerry burke says:

    any player, be they professional or amateur, who, deliberately, goes out to break an opponents leg is the very worst type . keane, a fellow irishhman, is the very worst there is /was.i loathe the man ,even to this day, he is a loose cannon, even at the best of times.i regret that keane are both irish, but, there is nothing that i can do about that.viera was a gentleman compared to keane the cur, viera was superior to him in every sense. and thats not just me looking at this through red and white glasses.viera was one of our greatest players, somewhat under valued, even to this day .anyways, they were always great games , you were guaranteed your moneys worth .

    1. Declan says:

      I love Vieira a great player but a gentleman? Hmmm a gentleman does not spit directly into another players face, as he did to Neil Ruddock and got £45000 fine and six match ban.

    2. ken1945 says:

      Gerry, so pleased you remembered and brought that incident up.
      I could never understand why, after admitting that he went out to deliberately maim another person, he was never charged with GBH!!!

      Yet here he is, lauding it up on our screens and preaching how football should be played!!!

      PV was no Saint, but he never went out to destroy another player, that’s for sure.

      1. jon fox says:

        Ken, on the narrow point of Kean admitting (effectively ) what amounted to GBH, I MUCH agree with you.

        BUT on the wider picture, I mourn the loss of warriors like Vieira, Keane and all our older legends who would have chased the likes of Wilian, Ozil and Auba out of the club. They would never have stood for such feeble attitudes.

        The price we paid back then was to have the occasional real villain such as KEANE, Storey, Hunter, Chopper Harris, etc.

        But do YOU agree with me that we have lost something far more precious in losing those warrior attitudes that are now quite rare? Not the true villains but the honourable though fierce true warriors.

  4. A J says:

    Sod Keane, how much do we (still) miss Vieira !

    What a player – a one off.

    1. Alanball08 says:

      PV is a legend for us but he was one cog in a well oiled machine
      Bergkamp. Henry even our Romford Pele parlour and list goes on
      But on RK .. not as gifted as PV but if you asked most players then and now most would say I would rather have him in my side rather playing against him

      1. A J says:

        Hi Alanball08.


        The Vieira era side of course speaks for itself, and for me is one we never stepped on and built upon.

        The sad fact of the matter in today’s game R K would be on the pitch for approx’ the first 5 mins’ – in fact he’d probably get set off in the warm up !!

        These types of players have sadly long since become a dying breed.

        Love your handle – Little Alan Ball – another you’d much rather have alongside you than against !

        Came across his lad Jimmy for a while (well it was my lad directly), but never met the great man himself.

        Take care.

  5. Ozziegunner says:

    A reality check is required. In the 2020/21 season Manchester United finished second and Arsenal finished eighth, so which club is failing to compete?
    I agree that the Arsenal/Manchester United rivalry was the most intense football, I have seen. The highest occolade that could be paid to Arsenal was Alex Ferguson openly admitting that Manchester United had to try and kick them off the park, because they couldn’t match Arsenal playing football.
    Today, I just want to see Arsenal being combative in all games, regardless of the opposition and play positively believing they can win. Back to the days, when teams came to Arsenal knowing they were in for a tough day. This Club has lost its aura, its strong mentality of players playing with professional pride and pride in the badge and now is seen as a soft touch.
    It is hard to see now a today’s Arsenal dressing room, where Tony Adams and Marin Keown apparently fronted Ray Parlour, when playing his first game against Spurs and told him “we don’t lose this game.”

  6. Bobs says:

    Those days might be great but Roy Keane will be playing in Championship in today’s football.
    He was no good and has no football brain.
    There are so many players playing in those era because they know how to create fear in opponent’s mind which Keane happens to be one.
    But in today’s football, no one will sign such player because of fear of been a one man down. Even Mourinho won’t sign such players.

    Only Viera out of the two will be playing at a big club.
    And this is not because I’m an Arsenal fan

  7. jon fox says:

    A nostalgic and pleasant trip down Memory Lane. But what this article does now is to EMPHISISE HOW FUNDAMENTALLY the old warrior attitudes of so many players of yesteryear has been relaced but by a selfish, self centred, anti- team mentality that pervades so often today.

    Our most prominent obvious examples of this sad latter day mentality are Ozil, Auba and Willian. NONE of that type would have lasted five minutes in a dressing room full of the likes of Adams, Vieira, Keen, Neville and Co.

    Society itself is far more to blame then just football in bringing this softer, more feeble mentality and showing us – as does PATS excellent article- how precious were the things now largely lost forever.

  8. Reggie says:

    Vierra and Keane were winners and warriors and hated defeat with a passion. Both world class footballers and both gave the premier league a level of power we may never see again. Vierra we miss you, we now have xhaka. How far have we fallen?

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