Fight! Fight! Fight!
A classic Premier League rivalry adds its latest chapter on Monday night when Manchester United host Arsenal at Old Trafford. Keane vs Vieira; Van Nistelrooy vs Keown; Fergie vs Pizza – it's all kicked off between these two giants, even if the fixture has lost some of its sheen over recent years.
Football has a long history of fine feuds, from managerial nemeses to battling team-mates. For example...
Nicolas Anelka v Raymond Domenech
The sulky Frenchman’s stormy relationship with Domenech came to a head at the 2010 World Cup when he was sent home mid-tournament after reportedly aiming some unsavoury remarks at his coach during half-time of a 2-0 defeat to Mexico.
The players refused to train the next day in protest and Anelka was suspended for 18 games by the French Football Federation, effectively ending his international career.
The bad blood has continued: in 2017, Domenech snidely said French starlet Kylian Mbappe “has the choice of being Ronaldo or Anelka”, leading his nemesis to defend his own achievements before replying: “He can also follow Domenech's career; that of a small player of the French championship who has become a 15-year-old coach of teams including France, without winning any trophies and then unemployed since 2010. It's for Mbappe to choose..."
Samir Nasri v Emmanuel Frimpong
This feud began after Frimpong was sent off during a 2-0 defeat for Arsenal against Liverpool, and Nasri blamed his team-mate for the result. It sparked a row that rolled on for years.
Nasri left days later anyway, and the pair clashed during a League Cup tie between Manchester City and Arsenal in November 2011. "During the game, he told me he could buy me," Frimpong later told The Athletic. "That's how stupid this guy is. He probably could then because he had millions, but that's no respect. That's what happened. I feel like he was a bully, I feel like he didn't know his responsibilities as a senior player to be able to help younger players."
Louis van Gaal v Johan Cruyff
The two Dutch legends supposedly first fell out in 1989 when Cruyff was angry that then-Barcelona boss Van Gaal left a Christmas meal at his house without saying thank you, after hearing that his sister had passed away. “I will never forgive what he did,” Van Gaal vowed.
Cruyff denied his adversary’s account of events, hissing: "Nonsense. If Van Gaal actually said this, he has Alzheimer’s. Seriously, if someone thinks that of me, he lost the plot – he probably lost the whole trilogy."
The pair also had clashing football theories, which didn't help, while the rivalry came to a head in 2011 when Cruyff went to court to block the future Manchester United manager's appointment as a director at Ajax.
Mauro Icardi v Maxi Lopez
The two strikers were best friends at Sampdoria until Icardi burned all his bridges by marrying his team-mate’s ex-wife Wanda Nara, who now also acts as his agent.
Icardi moved to Inter soon after and Lopez refused to shake his former team-mate’s hand when they next came face-to-face on league duty. To make matters worse, the now-PSG striker decided to get a tattoo of Lopez’s children from his marriage with Nara on his arm. Not cool.
Edmundo v Romario
It was supposed to be a forward line dreams are made of, but instead pairing Romario and Edmundo together made for an enormous ego clash.
Their friendship came to an end in1998 after Romario posted a cartoon of his international team-mate sitting on a deflated football on the entrance to a toilet, with a similarly unflattering depiction of his ex-girlfriend on the opposite door.
Brian Clough v Don Revie
Clough admitted live on Yorkshire Television that part of his dislike for Revie came from competitiveness, as his Derby side tussled with Revie’s Leeds for the First Division title.
But they were very unalike as characters; Clough encouraged attractive football and had a reputation for being abrasive and arrogant, while Revie’s side were infamous for their dark arts on the pitch – although the man himself was considered courteous and respectful.
Stan Ternent v Neil Warnock
The ill feeling between the two lower-league stalwarts started when Ternent accused then-Sheffield United Warnock boss of sending staff to eavesdrop on his Burnley team talk in 2001.
“I'd rather cut my grass than talk about Warnock,” Ternent responded after the Yorkshireman called him a “deranged lunatic” in his own book.
Brian McClair v Nigel Winterburn
In 1989, Winterburn made the mistake of mocking McClair for missing a penalty during a clash between Manchester United and Arsenal at Highbury. The following year, Winterburn brought down Denis Irwin to concede a penalty at Old Trafford - and all hell broke loose.
"The United players decided it was payback time," Winterburn later told the Independent. "I remember being on the ground and getting a few kicks in the back – I don't know how many – and then pretty much everyone piled in except the goalkeepers."
To his credit, McClair spoke of his regret at the reaction. "Within a few minutes the red mist had disappeared and I was looking round in disbelief,” he said. “I couldn't believe what I'd just done. The worst thing of all was watching myself on television behaving very badly.”
Arrigo Sacchi v Fabio Capello
He may have gone on to build one of the greatest AC Milan sides ever, but Sacchi’s appointment at San Siro in 1987 wasn’t a popular one with the fans, who preferred Capello as an option.
Those doubts were soon cast aside as the trophies poured in, but attacking football advocate Sacchi wasn’t impressed by Capello when he eventually succeeded him in 1991, despite the coach leading Milan to four league titles and the European Cup. “For Capello, football is all about winning,” he lamented. “He does not see beauty in the game?”
Kieron Dyer v Lee Bowyer
In perhaps the most infamous on-field bust-up of the Premier League era, the two Newcastle midfielders piled into each other with their side 3-0 down at home to Aston Villa.
They were separated by Gareth Barry and Stephen Carr, but Dyer was subsequently handed a three-match ban; Bowyer four. Legend has it that Graeme Souness offered to fight them both in the changing room afterwards.
Jose Mourinho v Pep Guardiola
Like his clash with Arsene Wenger, Mourinho's differences with Guardiola extended to their contrasting football philosophies as much as their personalities.
The peak of their feuding came while they led Real Madrid and Barcelona in the spring of 2011, when the rivals came face-to-face four times in 17 days – although their clashes while in charge of the two Manchester clubs were surprisingly well-behaved.
Michael Owen v Alan Shearer
Owen’s new book ‘Reboot – My Life, My Time’ sees him pull no punches over his lucrative and unsuccessful spell at Newcastle. He claimed, among other things, that he felt no need to justify himself to fans who he accused of being “deluded” about their club’s stature.
Those comments sparked a Twitter row with Magpies legend Shearer and even led to a Newcastle shop refusing to stock the book. There's more left to run with this one, too…
Alex Ferguson v Arsene Wenger
This long-running feud took flight between 1996 and 2004 as Manchester United and Arsenal took turns lifting the Premier League title, culminating in the infamous Battle of the Buffet at Old Trafford.
As time went on the two managers mellowed; maybe because they were getting older, but mostly because Wenger’s side were no longer competing at the top.
Andy Cole v Terry Sheringham
"I walked onto the pitch, 60,000 or so watching," Cole recalled of his England debut against Uruguay in 1995. "Sheringham is coming off. I expect a brief handshake, a 'Good luck, Coley', something. I'm ready to shake. He snubs me. He actively snubs me, for no reason I was ever aware of then or since."
Although the pair went on to have good chemistry on the pitch, from that moment on they didn’t speak a word to one another off it. At least they’ve got some medals to show for their work together.
Arsene Wenger v Jose Mourinho
Mourinho is hardly a shrinking violet at the best of times and has come to loggerheads with many Premier League managers over the years, from Alex Ferguson to Rafa Benitez.
However, nothing was quite like his rivalry with Arsenal boss Wenger. Not only did the two bosses sit on different sides of the fence ideologically, but the Portuguese lashed out at his counterpart by branding him a “specialist in failure” in 2014/15. Meow.
Lothar Matthaus v Stefan Effenberg
The two midfielders spent the best part of a decade at each other’s throats, especially while on international duty with Germany. Effenberg accused Matthaus of lacking bravery when he didn’t take a penalty in the 1990 World Cup final, while Matthaus struck back by telling Bayern Munich to ditch his old enemy when the Bundesliga giants lost to Hansa Rostock in 2001.
Later, Effenberg found a creative way to lash out at his compatriot as he wrote a chapter heading titled “What Lothar Matthaus knows about football” in his autobiography – which had nothing but a blank page underneath it.
Roy Keane v Alex Ferguson
They may have enjoyed massive success together, winning seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League, but it was hardly calm seas between the two hot-tempered characters. Keane abruptly left Old Trafford in 2005 after a fall-out with the Scot and their rapport worsened after Fergie criticised the Irishman in his 2013 autobiography.
In 2019, it's not water under the bridge for Keane. “People talk about Ferguson's man-management," he told Off The Ball. "Don't be kidded on by all of it. I was at the club when Bryan Robson left, when Steve Bruce left, two brilliant servants for Manchester United, and I didn't like the way they were treated."
Rio Ferdinand v John Terry
In his 2014 autobiography, Ferdinand wrote: “For me, the biggest idiot will always be John Terry.” The comment came two years on from Terry being accused of racially abusing Rio’s brother Anton when Chelsea faced QPR.
“I’ve never actually spoken to John about the case. I no longer talk to him," Ferdinand continued. The incident tarnished more than just the relationship between the England centre-backs; Rio also admitted his friendship with Ashley Cole was over “the day he decided to go to court in support of John Terry”.
Rodney Marsh v Dennis Tueart
“Before I left his [Manchester] City farewell party, I stuck my hand out to him and said: ‘Good luck Rod,’” said former Citizens star Tueart. “F*** off,” came the abrupt reply. The feud between the England internationals at Maine Road had simmered for years.
Tueart told City boss Tony Book that Marsh was a “show pony” and “self-indulgent”. Marsh argued that Tueart was “miserable and two-faced”. The pair, who both went on to feature in the USA, never made up – although Marsh tried to inject some humour into proceedings, telling Tueart: “You’re a b***ard, but I can’t remember why anymore,” when they bumped into one another at a party decades later.
Roy Keane (again) v Patrick Vieira
This midfield duel symbolised the bitter rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal at the turn of the millennium, and their tussles have gone down in Premier League folklore.
Tensions peaked at Highbury in February 2005 when the Irishman took exception to comments by Vieira, who he later revealed he thought was “bullying” team-mate Gary Neville. Referee Graham Poll had to step in as Keane made a beeline for the Gunners midfielder while shouting “we’ll see out there!” He had a point; United won the game 4-2.
Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio.
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