Patrick Vieira gives his side of events in famous Highbury tunnel clash

Patrick Vieira gives his side of events in famous Highbury tunnel clash
Patrick Vieira gives his side of events in famous Highbury tunnel clash

Manchester United and Arsenal formed one of the greatest rivalries English football has ever seen between the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Both teams would frequently go head-to-head for the title and the games were noted for their abundance of talented players on the pitch. But the games were so much more than this.

The sheer intensity and dislike between the two sides is something which has arguably never been recreated in the Premier League era.

The battle was often encapsulated best through the duels and confrontations between the two captains, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.

Speaking to The Overlap on Sky Sports, Vieira revealed exactly what happened on the infamous event 19 years ago in the Highbury tunnel.

To whet the appetite of the fans even more, TV cameras picked up United captain Roy Keane rushing towards Vieira, veins throbbing and pointing his finger at his opposition, claiming he would see them on the pitch.

Gary Neville, who was the source of argument claimed, “the context of this is that we’re warming up before the game and I run down the tunnel at Highbury, and I can hear thuds behind me all of a sudden, and Patrick shouting my name, “Oi you”, or something like that.”

“He ran up behind me in the tunnel and said, ‘you won’t kick our f—ing players today”, or something like that.”

Vieira then admitted that this was pre-meditated by him and claimed, “because of the nine years I spent at Arsenal, I didn’t like you at all. It is true, I couldn’t stand you at all [Gary Neville] because you were kicking everybody, and especially Robert [Pires] when he was there.

“In that game I was like I must make you aware that today you are not going to touch Robert – I knew that was the plan for you because you struggled against Robert.”

“That day I had to tell you to leave him alone. I felt that you were over the top against him. Robert was nice, he was too nice to complain, and I felt at that time you went over the top, it was too much, and it was too obvious.”

The Frenchman then used the tired argument that because United had control of the referees, they could get away with such acts.

Neville then stated that he had entered the dressing room and told some of his teammates what had happened in the tunnel.

This infuriated Keane and when he came out, he went straight after Vieira in a piece of iconic sporting television. He justified his response by claiming “I came out and I knew there were noises. I forgot my armband so that’s why I had to go back up the tunnel.”

“When I came back out the second time, I knew that something had gone on, and I remember what you [Gary] told me previously.”

“I was agitated. My annoyance was that he went after Gary – you go after one, you go after all of us.”

Both sides would channel this aggression into a classic encounter where United would end up 4-2 winners on the night in a pulsating game of football that defined the era.

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