The landscape has changed with both clubs having fallen down the Premier League pecking order and the FA Cup struggling to retain its magic
As FA Cup ties go they do not come any bigger than Arsenal against Manchester United and the two most successful clubs in the competition’s history kick off a weekend of fourth-round action at The Emirates today.
The record books are littered with epic clashes between the clubs with Ryan Giggs’s bare-chested celebration of a magnificent solo winner in the 1999 semi-final replay one of the abiding FA Cup memories.
That clash came at a time when United and Arsenal were the dominant forces in English football as rival managers Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger battled for supremacy.
Twenty years later the landscape has changed with both clubs having fallen down the Premier League pecking order and the FA Cup struggling to retain its magic.
The spiteful edge that often accompanied their duels has also disappeared but today’s meeting in north London will need no hyping as 12-times winners United, rejuvenated under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, seek an eighth successive victory since their former striker was put in temporary charge last month.
United’s burst of form under the attack-minded Norwegian has pushed them back into contention for a top-four finish and they are in sixth place level on points with Arsenal and just three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, the Cup holders.
Arsenal top the list of FA Cup wins with 13 and, after some stumbles under new manager Unai Emery in the past month, returned to form with a convincing league win over visiting Chelsea last weekend.
United will likely adopt the same attacking approach that has been a feature of Solskjaer’s unbeaten time in charge – so a dour stalemate is unlikely.