In Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, he has talked about the reaction of the Arsenal camp after United beat them 2-0 at Old Trafford and ended their 49 game unbeaten run.
Arsenal were furious about the result after United went 1-0 up thanks to a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty. Replays showed that no contact was made. Five minutes after we scored, Cristiano Ronaldo was fouled in the penalty area by Ashley Cole, but the ref waved play on.
The Guardian: The referee Mike Riley indulged Rooney on his 19th birthday and Van Nistelrooy fired the ball low into the corner of the net. Although Arsenal were victimised then, they should agree that the officials favoured them by taking no action when Ashley Cole, for once bested by Cristiano Ronaldo, felled him inside the box in the 78th minute.
BBC: United did threaten, with Heinze heading wide, and they took the lead when Rooney earned a penalty after a foul by Campbell. Van Nistelrooy stroked in the spot-kick and United could have had another penalty when Cole brought down Ronaldo as Arsenal pressed for an equaliser.
United then went on to score again, having had more possession over the 90 minutes and having committed fewer fouls. The best team won. Arsenal didn’t see it that way though and responded like the spoilt little twats we know them to be.
My recollection of that fabled incident is that when [United striker] Ruud van Nistelrooy came into the dressing room, he complained that [Arsenal manager] Arsene Wenger had been giving him stick as he left the pitch. Right away I rushed out to say to Arsene: ‘You leave my players alone.’ He was incensed at losing the game. That was the reason for his combative behaviour.
‘You should attend to your own players,’ I told him. He was livid. His fists were clenched. I was in control, I knew it. The next thing I knew I had pizza all over me. We put food into the away dressing room after every game. Pizza, chicken. Most clubs do it. Arsenal’s food was the best.
They say it was [then Arsenal midfielder] Cesc Fabregas who threw the pizza at me but, to this day, I have no idea who the culprit was. The corridor outside the dressing room turned into a rabble. Arsenal had been defending a 49-game unbeaten record and had been hoping to make it 50 on our turf. It seemed to me that losing the game scrambled Arsene’s brain.
That day created a division between us, without doubt, and that rift extended to [assistant manager] Pat Rice, who stopped coming in for a drink after games. The wound was not fully healed until the Champions League semi-final in 2009, when Arsene invited us into his room after the game and congratulated us. When we played them at Old Trafford a few weeks later, Arsene came in with Pat, just for a few minutes.