Remembering the past: Manchester United’s Roy Keane and Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira tussle in the tunnel

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Admit it, you love a good football story. Whether it’s a long drawn-out novel from your mate about his recent footballing endeavours, the unbelievable story of how Blackburn won the title in 1995 (yes, they actually won the EPL title), or that moment in history when Eric Cantona tried kung fu on a rabid Palace fan, there will always be stories from the past that allow us to reminisce about how great football was back then.

With the 2008-09 Premiership season less than a month away, we only thought it was right to take a look back at some of the insane and impossible moments from the past 20 years of the Premier League. Each week, we will highlight a particular moment in history that may have gotten pushed aside. Where were you when the moment happened? Were you right in the heat of the action? Or did you have one too many, and subsequently missed the moment because you were flat on your back? Wherever you were, we want to know what you remember most about these Premiership moments.

Tuesday Feb 1, 2005: Manchester United/Arsenal

To call Arsenal and Manchester United’s battle at Highbury on that cold Tuesday night one of the true Premiership classics would be an understatement. Whilst most games that garner the word “classic” usually have some stellar play on the pitch, this match was known more for the pre-game battle that made a highly-anticipated game part of Premiership lore.

Arsenal had watched four months earlier as Manchester United put an end to Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten streak at Old Trafford, as the Red Machine used a controversial van Nistelrooy penalty and a second goal from Wayne Rooney to put the first dent in the Arsenal armour in more than 18 months. Word came in after the game that Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas and Ashley Cole had allegedly chucked pepperoni at Sir Alex Ferguson to “commemorate” their first loss in 50 matches. If anything, the post-game antics foretold that the next encounter was sure to have some fireworks.

As Arsenal and Man United poured out of their dressing rooms prior to the match at Highbury that February night, Sky Sports just happened to catch what seemed to be a bit of a verbal volleying going on between two players. Little did anyone know that the two players involved in the war or words were none other than football legends, Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane.

“Roy, Roy, Roy,” was the lone word that kept getting repeated over and over again, as Vieira made his way down the tunnel; a look of fear was definitely on his face. Arsenal team-mates Pascal Cygan and Dennis Bergkamp came swiftly down the tunnel after him to make sure things were fine, but before they could get anything more out of Vieira, Keane appeared right next to Frenchman at the front of the line. The words that followed would go down in history.

“I’ll see you out there,” Keane said to Vieira. “Every week you, pretend like you’re a nice guy,” Keane continued, before adding, “see you out there,” and, “tell (Vieira) to shut the fuck up about it.”

The “it” we later found out was a reference to a conversation that Gary Neville and Viera had prior to the game, where the Frenchman had asked the smaller Neville if he was “going to kick us again” (a reference to Jose Antonio Reyes’ claim that Neville had kicked him constantly during the previous 2-0 encounter). Keane, as it turned out, was just sticking up for Neville when he confronted Vieira. Regardless, the words alone had sparked a firestorm between two of the biggest names in the game.

For the rest of the match, Keane and Viera went at it on the pitch in a fantastic midfield battle that turned an already-heated game into a cracker of a match that saw United triumph 4-2 in front of the Highbury faithful (Vieira and Keane didn’t shake hands before or after the match).

In a footballing world where players hide from personal attacks by using the paper as their mouthpiece, and football legends have all but been replaced by prima donnas, the verbal battle on that night between Keane and Vieira — two legends in their own right — is something that we might never see again.

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