The Classic - Arsenal, Man Utd & 'Pizzagate'

In 1952, Manchester United lifted the league trophy for the third time in their history. The following season it was Arsenal who won the championship, so unsurprisingly any match between Matt Busby's men and Tom Whittaker's team were always keenly contested. Fifty eight years on, as the history between the two teams develops, the rivalry has lost none of its passion or significance.

The first league meeting between the two sides took place on Saturday 13 October 1894 on Bank Street, Clayton (a suburb located to the east of Manchester). At the time United were known as Newton Heath, the Gunners as Woolwich Arsenal. The teams played out a 3-3 draw. Since then, they have met 176 times, with the Mancunians winning 71 matches to Arsenal's 65.

Statisticians also agree that the biggest ever Football League match attendance was for a match between Manchester United and Arsenal in 1948. A full house of 83,260 crammed into Maine Road to watch the game. United were sharing neighbours Manchester City's ground because Old Trafford was still recovering from bomb damage inflicted during the Second World War.

Since the advent of the FA Premier League in 1992/93, the Red Devils and the Gunners, have established themselves as the two most successful Premiership sides. Although memories of Arsenal's championship successes have recently been overshadowed by Chelsea's successes. The catalyst for the success of the two teams in recent years has been the appointment of arguably two of the most talented managers in European football: Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, appointed in 1986 and 1996 respectively.

Ferguson has won more trophies than any other manager in the history of English football and been in charge of Manchester United for more than 1,000 matches. With 24 years under his belt, he is the second-longest serving manager in the club's history. At Old Trafford, he has guided the team to elevent league championships. In 1999, he became the first manager to lead an English team to the treble of league championship, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.

Meanwhile in London, Wenger has also become the club's most successful manager, in terms of trophies, and the longest-serving. Wenger is also the only non-British manager to have won the double (league championship and FA Cup) in England, which he has managed twice, in 1998 and 2002. In 2004, he became the only manager in FA Premier League history to go through the entire season without a defeat.

Yet, although these managers are celebrated for their talent, the rivalry between them is also well known. The strained atmosphere between the two sides reached its zenith in October 2004 during the now infamous 'Pizzagate' incident at Old Trafford.

It was a game which saw Sir Alex Ferguson's men end Arsenal's 49-game unbeaten sequence in the Premiership. United won 2-0 in a match that has since been nicknamed the 'battle of the buffet.' The action was tempestuous enough on the field, with former Arsenal forward and Spain international Jose Antonio Reyes reflecting: "In all my sporting life, I have never received so many kicks as I did in Manchester. It was the hardest match I have played." The game swung United's way after a disputed penalty award but it was after the match that the sparks, and the food, really flew.

In a scuffle in the tunnel between players and staff on both sides, a slice of pizza was thrown at Ferguson. The former Arsenal defender Ashley Cole describes the shock of the incident in his autobiography: "This slice of pizza came flying over my head and hit Fergie straight in the face ... all mouths gawped to see this pizza slip off his famous face and roll down his nice black suit!".

Three months after the event, both men promised to end their war of words, with The FA, the Premier League, the UK's Minister for Sport and even the Metropolitan Police urging the men to resolve their conflict. Since 20 January 2005, it has been agreed that public comments from Ferguson and Wenger will be limited to pre-match and post-match analysis of games between the respective sides.

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