Ranking Arsenal vs. Manchester United and the Biggest Premier League Rivalries
Since its launch in 1992, the Premier League has played host to several thrilling rivalries.
Which have been the best battles in this Premier League era?
Manchester United inevitably dominate this list, having finished in the top three in every season since 1992-93, as champions 13 times and as runners-up six times.
The criteria for ranking the rivalries is that the teams had to have finished in the top two places together in the Premier League table for two seasons or more.
4. Manchester City vs. Manchester United
After Manchester City were taken over by Sheikh Mansour and his incredible wealth in 2008 it was inevitable they would eventually pose a threat to their neighbours Manchester United.
By the 2011-12 season City had assembled a highly impressive squad that under Roberto Mancini put together a real challenge for the title.
On the final day of the season City simply needed to beat Queens Park Rangers at home to win the title, but as they entered injury time found themselves trailing 2-1.
This would mean United, who were winning 1-0 at Sunderland would take the title, and when their game ended at the Stadium of Light for a matter of minutes, they were indeed the champions-elect.
But back at the Etihad Stadium, late goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero wrestled the title away from United in the Premier League’s most dramatic ever climax to a season.
The following season City put up a poor defence of their title and United, buoyed by the signing of Robin van Persie, reasserted their authority to win the title with an 11-point margin over their city rivals.
3. Manchester United vs. Blackburn Rovers
At the birth of the Premier League, Manchester United’s most serious competition was provided by Blackburn Rovers.
Blackburn were promoted to the top flight for the first time in 26 years in 1992 and finished a credible fourth in their first season in the Premier League.
The following season it was Kenny Dalglish’s side fuelled by Alan Shearer’s goals who most threatened United’s defence of the Premier League title.
Rovers handed United a rare defeat at Ewood Park in April 1994, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side still finished the season eight points ahead of them.
In the 1994-95 season United and Blackburn fought out an epic battle for the title, which went all the way down to the final day of the season.
Blackburn would lose 2-1 to Liverpool at Anfield, but United’s failure to get more than a 1-1 draw at West Ham meant Blackburn took their first title in 79 years by a single point.
2. Manchester United vs. Chelsea
Between 2004-05 and 2010-11 Manchester United and Chelsea dominated the Premier League.
The arrival of Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004 signalled the start of this new rivalry.
In his first season Mourinho immediately toppled reigning champions Arsenal, but in his second season it was United who provided the opposition and finished as runners-up to Chelsea.
It was thought Mourinho—backed by Roman Abramovich’s seemingly bottomless pot of money—would prove to be unbeatable, but United stormed back with the youthful talents of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo to win a hat-trick of titles between 2007 and 2009.
Chelsea had finished as runners-up to United in 2007 and in 2008 under Avram Grant’s charge before reclaiming the title in 2010 under Carlo Ancelotti by a single point over United.
In the 2010-11 campaign United and Chelsea competed for the title again before Sir Alex Ferguson’s men finished nine points ahead of the south London side.
1. Manchester United vs. Arsenal
This is by some distance the most compelling and intense rivalry of the Premier League era.
For the nine seasons between 1995-96 and 2003-04, Manchester United and Arsenal shared the Premier League title between them—United winning six titles and Arsenal winning three.
In five of those seasons from 1997-98 to 2000-01, and then again in 2002-03, Arsenal and United fought out a battle for the title and finished in the top two positions.
This rivalry had many layers. On the pitch it was epitomised by the battle between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira in the centre of midfield on the pitch, while in the manager’s dugout, it was the clash between Arsene Wenger and his new ideas and Sir Alex Ferguson’s perceived more traditional approach to management.
As Keane recalls in The Independent, per Robin Scott-Elliot, “I can’t think of any other word that springs to mind when I was going into battle with Arsenal. Hatred was the word.”