Ruud van Nistelrooy says the rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal became ‘personal’ during the infamous ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ in 2003.
The striker was involved in all the drama when he missed a late penalty to win the game after colliding with Patrick Viera, who saw the Gunners’ captain dismiss.
Viera was ordered to kick out at Van Nistelrooy, but the Arsenal players were furious at the decision and the United striker.
Man United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy recalls his intense ‘personal’ rivalry with Arsenal
The former striker was in the midst of drama during the Battle of Old Trafford in 2003
The Gunners were even more outraged when the home side received a penalty kick in the final stages for a foul by Martin Keown on Diego Forlan.
Van Nistelrooy stepped up to take the penalty kick, but his attempt fell off the crossbar and came back into play, ending the game 0-0.
‘That afternoon kind of ignited … that was more personal to me, I remember’, the Dutchman said to the civil servant. UTD Podcast.
The Dutchman missed a late penalty to win the match when his attempt crashed off the crossbar
Earlier in the game, Patrick Viera was sent off after an elimination of the attacker
‘That day and that afternoon, with the penalty miss and the red card and post-game incidents. It made it all a bit ballistic. ‘
After his miss, the striker was taunted by Keown, who jumped up behind him at the full-time whistle.
Van Nistelrooy insisted he held no grudges towards the former Arsenal man and described him as one of the nicest men outside the football field.
“It was a great image of him flying above me, but the point is, he’s actually the nicest guy you’ll meet outside of a football field,” insisted the former striker.
Van Nistelrooy was taunted by Arsenal defender Martin Kewon after missing his penalty kick
‘When things gain momentum and pressure is on, you are able to do things that don’t look right when you look back on them. It was the same for me, for him and for everyone who played, I think. ‘
The 44-year-old also said he was more motivated by his rivalry with Arsenal striker Thierry Henry. The two leaders regularly competed for the Golden Boot of the Premier League, which Van Nistelrooy won in the 2002-2003 season.
“I just wanted to be the top scorer in the league and that was of course … of course, Thierry was always there, high in the league goals,” he said.
‘I checked whether he scored and how it went, yes, certainly. That rivalry forces you to perform. ‘
The 44-year-old said he was more motivated by his goal rivalry with Thierry Henry