Interviews

Gilberto Silva explains how Manchester United inspired Arsenal to 2003-04 Invincibles season

Gilberto Arsenal Man Utd

Former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva has told FourFourTwo that being beaten by Manchester United in 2002-03 inspired the Gunners to unbeaten glory the following campaign.

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The north London club were locked in an annual two-way battle with Manchester United for the Premier League crown at the start of the millennium.

In 2002-03, Arsenal threw away an eight-point lead in March to hand Sir Alex Ferguson’s United the title - a season which hurt Gilberto.

But the Brazilian midfielder says that served as motivation for Arsene Wenger’s side to win the league without losing a match the following year.

Speaking in the January issue of FourFourTwo, available now, Gilberto says: “We tried to distance ourselves from talk of an undefeated league season. We were really stung by how we’d blown the lead we had over Manchester United in the 2002-03 title race, and all we wanted to do was take the title from them. 

“Arsene did give an interview saying that we could win the league without losing a match, and that could have put a lot of pressure on us. Instead, we tried to enjoy the challenge of playing each game like a final.”

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While Arsenal won two Premier League titles and two FA Cups in the early 2000s, one trophy which eluded them in this period – and has done throughout their history – is the Champions League.

The closest that the Gunners came to lifting Europe’s premier competition during this period was in 2006, where Wenger's side led Barcelona with 15 minutes to go before conceding twice to the La Liga giants.

Gilberto says that night in Paris was one of his career low points.

“It was disappointing that we didn’t do better in Europe,” he tells FFT. “We had a team good enough to have challenged for the Champions League, but that’s football – sometimes things don’t go your way, even when the odds are favourable for you. 

“I still feel a little bit sad talking about the Champions League, because we were so close to winning it in 2006 and ended up losing to Barcelona in the dying minutes.

“Arsene Wenger did a fantastic job keeping together a side with so many individual talents. 

“He managed to earn our respect without having to fight with anyone, and all of the players admired him.”

Read the full interview with Gilberto in the January 2020 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out in shops and available digitally now. Our belting awards special features a return of our 100 Best Players in the World list, plus exclusive interviews with Megan Rapinoe, Santi Cazorla, Vincent Kompany, Brendan Rodgers, Teemu Pukki, Wesley, Kleberson and many more. We also find out how Lyon Feminin became the most dominant side in world football, remember a mad decade of fun and visit Japan to find out more about their very own Barcelona-lite, Vissel Kobe.

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Gilberto Silva