Ruud van Nistelrooy has claimed that Arsenal were obsessed with him and Manchester United during his time at the club.
Martin Keown, Lauren, Ray Parlour and Patrick Vieira famously received bans after clashes on the pitch when van Nistelrooy missed a last-minute penalty against the Gunners at Old Trafford in 2003. Arsenal were also fined £175,000.
Vieira, who gave away the penalty by bringing down van Nistelrooy, described the Dutchman as a “cheat” after the clash and there were altercations in the dressing-room area. Speaking in Oxfordshire, where Keown lives, van Nistelrooy was shocked when informed about his former rival’s location.
“Really? He’ll probably be jumping all over me!” van Nistelrooy joked.
“That game was incredible. It was this unbeaten Arsenal side, a last-minute penalty, and I hit the bar. Then it went crazy, loads happened.
“The truth is, I wasn’t aware because I was so gutted about missing the penalty. I couldn’t care less what they were doing. I was in shock, thinking: ‘I missed, I missed.’ Patrick Vieira was sent off, he was waiting in the tunnel, but I couldn’t care less. I walked past him.
“I barely ever missed. I was in the dressing room and trying to analyse what I did wrong. I took it too quickly. In those big moments, you have to take more care. I didn’t settle and focus. I think Arsenal were a little obsessed with United at the time, and with me. I was never as involved with them as they were with me. There was always big build-up and media talk, but on the pitch I usually kept my calm. I don’t have a problem with them. I miss the rivalry, of course.”
Van Nistelrooy eventually made up for the missed penalty by scoring the goal which ended Arsenal’s unbeaten league streak at 49 games. The Dutchman was a truly world-class striker and one which United could do with right now as they continue to search for silverware this season.