Goalscorer: Marc Overmars 79
Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, John Curtis (Ben Thornley 52), Denis Irwin, Henning Berg, Gary Neville, Phil Neville (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 77), Ronny Johnsen (David May 79), David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Teddy Sheringham, Andy Cole
Arsenal: Alex Manninger, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown, Tony Adams, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira, Ray Parlour (Remi Garde 70), Marc Overmars, Christopher Wreh (Nicolas Anelka 66), Dennis Bergkamp
Referee: Alan Wilkie, Attendance: 55,174
It wasn’t quite a title decider but this match between Manchester United and Arsenal in March 1998 was a pivotal one in deciding who would claim the advantage in the season. Two weeks earlier, United had beaten Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. Most bookmakers’ stopped taking bets and some even started paying out on another title for the men from Old Trafford.
However, Arsenal dug in and were starting to be rewarded. Three days earlier, they had won at Wimbledon to close the gap at the top to nine points with three games in-hand. Defeat at the Theatre of Dreams would all but end their aspirations for a title tilt. Victory would put them within striking distance of their opponents, who still had European action on their minds.
Alex Ferguson’s options were restricted by injuries. Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and Nicky Butt were among those on the treatment table whilst Alex Manninger passed a late fitness test to keep his spot in-goal for the Gunners’ with David Seaman still absent through injury.
After early pressure from the home side, it was Arsenal who looked the more energised. Marc Overmars was the most threatening player to Manchester United. His best chance of the first half was a shot into the side netting after splitting the defence. Gary Neville and youngster John Curtis were struggling to handle the pace of Overmars throughout. United’s best opening came seven minutes before the interval. Andy Cole looked in an offside position but the flag stayed down. This meant Cole was played through but he was to be thwarted by Manninger.
There was little change in terms of the momentum in the second half. Arsenal were the more likely side to score but were passing up opportunities to inflict the damage. Finally, they broke the deadlock 11 minutes from full-time. Substitute Nicolas Anelka flicked the ball onto Overmars, who once again ran beyond Gary Neville. His header gave him the advantage to run onto the ball and saw him beat Peter Schmeichel as the Dane started to close down his angles. It was the first goal Arsenal had scored at Old Trafford since 1991 and what a crucial one it was.
As they tried to rescue the game, there was worse to come for Manchester United. Schmeichel decided to make a run into the Arsenal penalty area for a corner but when the move broke down and he tried to sprint back, he pulled his hamstring, ruling him out of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg with French side AS Monaco.
Arsenal had done it and became just the second side to double Manchester United in a season in Premier League history. They wouldn’t drop another point before wrapping up the title in early May. Arsene Wenger became the first foreign manager to win the Premier League and the platform for this success was this result at Old Trafford.