Manchester United 0 Arsenal 1
1997-98 Premier League, Old Trafford
1998 was a year that saw Emmanuel Petit’s dreams become reality. While a goal in the final of France’s World Cup victory was a defining moment for the midfielder, it was Arsenal’s 1-0 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford that made him believe everything was possible…
You have to remember how this story started for Arsenal that season.
A couple of years before, they appointed this French manager who no one had ever heard of in England and all the headlines were: “Arsene who?”
They didn’t really have foreign managers in England at the time and that was part of the reason why people didn’t believe he could fit into English football. They had a way of doing things, their way. Why did it need to change? Nobody believed this guy Wenger could make it happen.
Even in the season when we won the double, the doubts were there from everyone because we were up against an amazing Manchester United team and they all assumed it would be their title again.
But not this time.
We came out of the Christmas period a long way behind United, with a lot of games in hand, and we needed a lot of wins before we went into this game at Old Trafford.
By the time we got there, we were in a position where we could see them in front of us. Win this one game and everything could change. It was that important.
Arsene had only been at Arsenal for a couple of years, but they knew by that game that he was a threat to them. Alex Ferguson was talking about him in the media and you could see he was worried.
The game with United was a clash of big personalities. They had David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Andy Cole; Roy Keane was injured, but it was still a clash between players who had the personalities to change a game.
Yet we went to Old Trafford believing. Many of this Arsenal team had not won trophies before, but we believed we were good enough.
If we won that game, the title would be in our hands. Marc Overmars scored the goal that changed everything for us as we won 1-0.
Then it was a case of staying focused and trying to win matches and everyone remembers the famous goal Tony Adams scored on the day we won the title
Win this one game and everything could change. It was that important
against Everton at Highbury. After that, we won the FA Cup final against Newcastle and then I won the World Cup with France. It’s a dream and at the time, maybe I didn’t realise what was happening. You go to the next challenge, not appreciating how amazing it was to achieve these things, but that is the way in sport: always the next challenge. This is why we see the problems Arsenal have had in recent years and why it ended so badly for Wenger, with fans telling him he had to go.
It’s always the next challenge, the next trophy. What has happened before is no longer important.
We should not forget what Arsene did for the Premier League, for Arsenal and for so many players, including me. His legacy will always be there: the Premier League titles, the FA Cups, the unbeaten season – these are amazing achievements for a club that has so many great memories inspired by the vision of this man.