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The rivalry between Arsenal and Manchester United in the late 1990s and early 2000s was the greatest in English football history. It is the only time two teams have completely dominated the league for a decade. It was a mixture of the epic and the pathetic, with glorious football, hateful confrontations, and even a pizza fight.
Like all great rivalries, this was a study in contrasts: north versus south, British and Irish versus French. Both regularly tried to claim the moral high ground, often at the same time. The rivalry centered on four people: the managers, Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, and the hard men, Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane, who regularly came together like nitroglycerin and gunpowder.
Over time, those involved have developed the mutual respect of boxers embracing after the final bell. They played when football was a mixture of silk and steel, artistry, and aggro, and know such a feud could no longer happen because of the sanitization of the game. Their rivalry was not just the greatest of its kind in English football; it was also the last.
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About the Author
Rob Smyth is a specialist in modern sport history who has written about football for the Guardian, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, FourFourTwo, Yahoo, Manchester United, ITV, Intelligent Life, GQ, and Virgin Media. He is co-author of Danish Dynamite, one of the Observer's Sports Books of the Year 2014, and was highly commended at the 2010 Sports Journalists' Association awards.