The days when the two league matches between Arsenal and Manchester United decided where the title was destined are over, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Friday.
The former United striker featured in many of those matches when managerial legends Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were in charge and passions often boiled over both on and off the pitch.
Such fireworks are unlikely on Sunday at least off the pitch as 15th-placed United host Arsenal, who are two points better off having played a game more.
Solskjaer — who will be taking charge of United for the 100th time — and his Gunners counterpart Mikel Arteta are very different personalities to Ferguson and Wenger.
“When I played it was between us both to win the league, so that was a fierce rivalry,” said Solskjaer.
“There were all sorts of old stories — the passion, the excitement and the importance of those games.
“We knew if we took six points off them we’d more or less win the league, or vice versa.
“There’s still the rivalry, the history, but now we don’t think about them as our rivals or anyone as our rivals.
“We just need to put points on the board.
“let’s hope I can celebrate number 100 with a good performance and a result. I’ve enjoyed it so far.”
‘Pleased with the response’
Solskjaer, whose side have shown character in rebounding from their 6-1 humiliation at home to Tottenham Hotspur earlier this season, said Arteta was making his mark at Arsenal.
The Spaniard played under Wenger for the Gunners before having a spell as assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
He took over at Arsenal last season, replacing compatriot Unai Emery, and guided the club to FA Cup success.
“You can see what he’s doing. He’s got his own ideas,” said Solskjaer.
“He’s worked under a top manager before.
“It’s a great foundation to build from.”
Solskjaer said it was hard for him to judge how far he had brought United since replacing Jose Mourinho in December 2018.
“We want to develop, we want to improve,” he said.
“It’s not up to me to say how far we’ve come.
“I’ve been very pleased with the response after the start of the season.
“I think any result as brutal as a 6-1 would have to get a response and, of course, it has been dealt with internally.
“We wanted to finish that off as soon as we could and just move forward.
“Now we feel fit and strong and competitive in every game.”
United’s home thrashing by Spurs is one of a number of surprising results this season already — Aston Villa whipped champions Liverpool 7-2 — and this makes Solskjaer feel it will be a much more competitive title race.
“So many clubs have developed strength in depth and ability to challenge for trophies,” the 47-year-old Norwegian said.
“The top two (Liverpool and Manchester City) have run away with it in the last two seasons but this year a lot of us would hope to put up a challenge.
“Back then (when Solskjaer played) it was Arsenal, then Chelsea.
“Now it’s more exciting and interesting for the fans. Anything can happen, as this season has shown.”