Classic match: Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2, Premier League (9 November 1997)

Arsenal could have been forgiven for approaching this crucial match tentatively. A third of the way through the season, Arsenal’s promising start had been undermined by failing to score in three consecutive league matches - the last of those a dreadful 3-0 defeat at Derby.

Meanwhile Manchester United had won the last two Premier League titles, and had just scored 16 goals in three games. The Gunners were also missing both Dennis Bergkamp and Emmanuel Petit, through suspension. By the end of the match, Arsene Wenger said: "We were really only expecting a point from today, but for me it was very important for us to win a big game at home. We lost all our important games at Highbury last season and it starts to affect the pride of your fans if it keeps happening. At half-time I thought we would probably lose."

Wenger would quickly lose this inferiority complex; by the end of the season Arsenal were the winners of a magnificent league and cup double. Showing an apparently invincible United that his team were more than a match for them was an important step on the way to this wonderful achievement - in the Frenchman’s first full season as Arsenal manager.

As would become typical of matches between Wenger’s Arsenal and Alex Ferguson’s United, the pace was unrelenting from kick off. Marc Overmars and Ray Parlour epitomised Arsenal’s spirit, flying in to fully committed challenges; it was Overmars’ determination and direct running which led to the opening goal. After his run from the left ended in a blocked shot, the loose ball fell to Nicolas Anelka and the 18-year-old fired in a low, powerful shot from the edge of the area, past Peter Schmeichel. It was Anelka’s first goal for the Gunners.

Anelka, Ian Wright and Teddy Sheringham all managed shots on target as the game went from end to end. Then, Gary Neville conceded a corner under pressure from Overmars - Neville had struggled to cope with the Dutchman all evening. Parlour’s corner was only cleared as far as Patrick Vieira, and the Frenchman, so often urged to shoot by the Highbury crowd, duly produced a wonderful curling and dipping shot, which went over Schmeichel’s head and into the net via the crossbar.

Arsenal probably should have tried to calm the game down but as Rob Hughes, writing in The Times put it: "With the players as committed as human spirit allows and playing at a breakneck pace, there was precious little space to breathe." United found their way back into the match through two goals from Sheringham, who didn’t let the fact he’d just left Spurs stop him indulging in a bit of United badge kissing in front of the North Bank. Those two goals, in eight minutes, meant the scores were level at half-time. It was hard to imagine a more thrilling half of football.

The second half was much tighter - in part due to Vieira’s withdrawal at half-time due to an injury. The Frenchman was replaced by Steve Bould, which inevitably meant Arsenal’s three at the back giving less space to United, and leading to a less adventurous approach from the Gunners overall. Arsenal, with Ray Parlour superb in midfield, managed a couple of long shots and, although they dominated possession for long periods, United found it difficult to get anywhere near David Seaman’s goal.

With ten minutes left, Wenger introduced Christopher Wreh for Anelka, and Arsenal found an extra spark going forward. Ian Wright, pulling out to the right wing with great effect as he so often did (particularly later in his career), found Wreh for a shot that was deflected, but Schmeichel saved brilliantly. Gary Neville and Schmeichel celebrated the save with a man hug – a celebration that would prove short-lived. From the resulting corner, Nigel Winterburn launched in an outswinging cross, which David Platt met with a magnificent, soaring header that neatly found the top corner.

The goal was Platt’s finest moment in an Arsenal shirt (unless you count this 1991 cameo). Platt did nothing wrong in his time at Arsenal, but given his status in the world game, his role was underwhelming - in part due to injuries. Platt would only score one more league goal for Arsenal - another header, against Leicester, on Boxing Day - but he had played a small and crucial role in Arsenal’s eventual title triumph.

Arsenal saw out the victory relatively comfortably, and might even have added a fourth goal, when Wright’s brilliance set up Wreh for a chance to score his first Arsenal goal, but alas the Liberian put the ball wide from close range. Wreh’s time would come - playing a crucial role in Arsenal’s success later in the season.

It took a bit longer for the Gunners to find the consistency necessary to mount a title challenge, but Wenger’s Arsenal had shown they were more than a match for United. Arsenal repeated the trick with a fine win at Old Trafford in March - the second in a sequence of ten straight wins, which would bring the title to Highbury.

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