Manchester United comprehensively beat Arsenal during last season’s Champions League semi-final. We battered them at home but the match finished with just a 1-0 advantage thanks to the Man of the Match performance from Manuel Almunia.
At the Emirates the game was over after ten minutes with Park Ji-Sung and Cristiano Ronaldo giving us a 2-0 lead. With an hour played, the ground started to empty after we taught our opponents a footballing lesson, taking the ball from our box to the back of their net in ten seconds.
After the match Patrice Evra compared the differences between the team as ‘men against boys’. Arsenal players and fans were outraged by this ‘disrespect’ and when the clubs met again in the league a couple of weeks later, their players targeted Evra for nasty challenges. Evra of course got the last laugh though, being named Man of the Match, and lifting the Premiership trophy after finishing 18 points ahead of Arsenal. But our left back was not at all happy with the challenges that came flying in which could have injured him for the Champions League final.
“What Arsenal did that day was shameful,” said Evra. “I was asked if it felt like there was a contract out on me and I had to say ‘yes, yes, yes’. It’s not at all the way in which Arsenal normally handle matches because they usually play really good football and are not overly aggressive – it was a big change. That’s why I have to thank the referee. He came up to me and said ‘Look I don’t know what’s going on but since half-time all the Arsenal players seem to be out to injure you. Don’t get involved’.”
Nasri was booked for a foul on Evra, but the worst challenge of the day came from Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas. His foot went in to Evra’s knee, leaving him needing treatment off the pitch, but it obviously could have been a lot worse with such a high challenge.
“I particularly didn’t like the reaction Fabregas showed in that game when he knew full well we had a Champions League final to play that month,” he added. “Yet he put in a bad tackle on me which could easily have robbed me of that final. We’ll meet again one day, hopefully off the pitch, and I’ll be able to let my personality tell him what I think.”
Any regrets over the comment which sparked such a reaction in the Arsenal camp? Apparently not.
“I only said what many other people were thinking given that we beat them home and away and 4-1 on aggregate,” he said. “Everybody knows I don’t mind winding things up a little bit but all I did was speak the truth in this instance. Maybe I could have said ‘Yes, we have a little bit more experience than this young Arsenal team’. But I simply like to express myself a little more frankly than that so I said what I thought. If people are honest then they’ll know that most agreed with my point of view. I’ll always speak honestly but I’m still disappointed in the way all this has ended up. I know very well that every time we play Arsenal this row will surface. But I’ll deal with it, no problem. That’s just football as far as I’m concerned.”