Manchester United vs. Arsenal: Premier League's greatest rivalry?

Story highlights

  • Man United hosts Arsenal Saturday
  • One of Premier League's fiercest rivalries
  • Wenger, Mourinho have bitter history

(CNN)Before Manchester City's Middle East millions made the club a contender in the north of England, Manchester United had another rival a bit further from home.

While Liverpool always guarantees a ferocious northwest derby, the fixture against London side Arsenal -- once a permanent challenger for the Premier League title -- usually provided the most mouthwatering match of the season.
From the late 1990s to mid-2000s, the clash created countless iconic moments.
    From Ryan Giggs' famous solo goal and hairy-chested celebration, to Martin Keown manhandling Ruud van Nistelrooy, to "the Battle of the Buffet" (an incident which culminated in Alex Ferguson being hit in the face with a slice of pizza), Manchester United vs. Arsenal never failed to create theater.
    Although Arsenal's most recent title was in 2004, and United has struggled since Ferguson's 2013 retirement, this season the fixture has an added layer of drama: Jose Mourinho.
    Rarely has there been a managerial rivalry as one-sided as this one.
    While Wenger and Ferguson shared nine Premier League titles in succession from 1997 to 2004, the Frenchman has managed just one victory over Mourinho in their 15 meetings -- the 2015 Community Shield preseason match -- compared to the Portuguese's eight.
    This weekend, however, arguably provides Wenger with his best opportunity to finally get one over on his old adversary in the league.
    While Arsenal has started this season like a title challenger -- undefeated in 16 games in all competitions since losing to Liverpool on the opening day -- Mourinho's players are floundering, both domestically and in the Europa League.
    Sixth-placed United is eight points behind league leader Liverpool, and six adrift of Arsenal.
    Despite the inevitable interest in the managerial battle set to take place on the Old Trafford touchline, Wenger insists Saturday's match is all about the players on the pitch.
    "I was in a press conference today where it was more about controversy between Mourinho and me," Wenger told Sky Sports.
    "That's not what football is about, people do not enjoy that. People enjoy the quality of the game today, they have access to the best quality in the world.
    "I do not make of these games a competition between two managers, it's between two clubs and two teams.
    "I think the managers have to respect each other -- I made mistakes, he made mistakes, we all make mistakes. But what is important at the end of the day is how good the game will be on Saturday."
    Wenger's choice of the word "mistake" might be something of an understatement.
    Their relationship has been marked by public feuds since Mourinho arrived in England in 2004 -- the following year he called Wenger "a voyeur."
    Arguably the lowest blow was Mourinho's "specialist in failure" jibe during his second stint at Chelsea in 2014. Later that year, Wenger shoved Mourinho on the touchline and the pair had to be held apart by the fourth official.
    Mourinho also downplayed their history in his Friday press conference -- but claimed Wenger, 67, gets more respect for his achievements in football.
    Both have three Premier League titles, while Wenger previously won the French league and Mourinho has championships from stints in Portugal, Italy and Spain -- plus two European crowns.
    "My record against Mr. Wenger is not important," the 53-year-old said. "I don't play against managers; my teams plays against other managers' teams.
    "Tomorrow is the game between the two managers with the best records, since Sir Alex Ferguson is not here anymore," he added.
      "It means we should be respected, even in periods when our results are not the best. I think Mr. Wenger has that respect, but I don't think I have. My last title was 18 months ago, not 18 years ago, but I don't feel I have that respect."