Rio Ferdinand explains how Sir Alex Ferguson used to get Man United players fired up to play Arsenal
Rio Ferdinand has revealed the instructions that Sir Alex Ferguson used to give his Manchester United teams before they came up against rivals Arsenal.
The two sides fought out arguably the Premier League’s fiercest rivalry ever since Arsene Wenger entered the world of English football in 1996, continuing until Arsenal won the 2005 FA Cup Final.
Games between the sides have gone down in footballing folklore thanks to the fiery temperament that each team played with and Ferdinand has given an insight into Fergie’s pre-match team talks.
Speaking on William Hill’s Stripped Podcast, the United legend said: ‘Sir Alex Ferguson used to say, “get in their faces. They don’t like it, they can’t deal with it. They’re babies”.’
It appears that the United team listened dutifully to these instructions as both teams used to look to intimidate their opposite numbers on the pitch, often leading to brawls and cards galore as the fixtures played out.
Ferdinand also received personal instructions before games from his manager.
Ferguson used to say: ‘Rio, you’ll overrun them, you’ll overpower them.’
The Manchester United manager would then leave his team before they stepped on the pitch, saying: ‘get right up against them and you’ll win this game.’
Manchester United didn’t always win the game when they got ‘right up against’ Arsenal, but the battles on the pitch created some incredible spectacles.
The most famous fixture between the two sides was the Battle of Old Trafford in September 2003.
In the aftermath, six Arsenal players, two United players and Arsenal were punished following a late brawl.
However, something Ferguson could never have envisaged before a game between the two sides was being hit in the face by a pizza, as seen in 2004’s Battle of the Buffet.