Back in 2005, before United took on Arsenal at Highbury, there was a ruckus in the narrow tunnel at the Gunners’ former home.
United captain Roy Keane famously took issue with opposite number Patrick Vieira, who had reportedly said something to United right-back Gary Neville.
What followed was vintage Keane-Vieira. Former Ireland international Keane and France legend Vieira had to be separated by players and referee Graham Poll, while Keane screamed expletives over the crowd.
Now Neville, who Keane believed Vieira was picking on in the tunnel, has lifted the lid on the infamous tunnel bust-up.
Neville told Soccer AM that it stemmed from a previous game between the two clubs, when United’s defence and midfield singled out Arsenal’s Spanish winger Jose Antonio Reyes for some special treatment.
“I think I put in a couple on him, I think Phil (Neville) did, I think Scholesy did,” Neville said. “But I got the brunt of it because I was playing against him as a direct opponent.
“I just remember hearing these footsteps behind me and Vieira shouting, ‘Neville, Neville, you’re not going to kick our players out on this pitch today.’
“Roy obviously turned back, heard him, and started having a go at him and he sort of squirted his water bottle towards Roy and all hell broke loose.”
Neville believes the pre-game sparring rattled and distracted Arsenal, who lost the game 4-2.
“Everyone got pulled back,” Neville added. “It was a bit of nothing, really. But they were wound up, I’ve never seen Arsenal like that.
“People say you win the game in the tunnel, well I’m not quite sure that was far wrong.
“We probably went out onto the pitch knowing we were the better team, knowing we were physically quite tough and we wouldn’t be roughed about.
“The handshake (between me and Vieira) was maybe a bit more prolonged, but what I was saying to him is, ‘look, you can shout all you like, but there’s a football game to play and I’m not going to be influenced by what you’re saying.'”
Whatever happened in that tunnel, it seemed to have paid off for United.