Wideman woe: How wide players fare in Man Utd v Arsenal after Pires retires
Lee Gormley | February 25, 2016
Arsenal club legend Robert Pires has finally announced his official retirement from football, with the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winning Frenchman calling time on a career which began back in 1993, having been a free agent since departing Indian side Goa last year.
The 42-year-old also featured for Metz, Marseille, Villarreal and previously returned to the Premier League with Aston Villa after a successful six-year stint in London, where he lifted two top-flight titles and collected three FA Cup medals.
Pires was most famously a key component of the ‘Invincibles’ side of 2003/04 and, after hanging up his boots for good, the former France international winger stated: “I am 42 years old and now must be the time to say stop – my last experience was in India. Above all it is necessary give way to the young players.”
The former Premier League attacker’s retirement news falls on the eve of the annually awaited fixture between Manchester United and his former club Arsenal, and, having surprisingly never struck in the clash himself, Coral look at how he and other widemen have fared in the match-up.
Arsene Wenger’s Gunners are aiming to clinch the Premier League title for the first time since Pires was within their ranks this season, and a victory over Man Utd (6/4 to occur) would be a huge boost towards that feat.
Surprisingly though, for all his elegant forward play during time with the north Londoners, Pires himself never managed to score against the Red Devils for Arsenal in 13 meetings across all competitions. He did record a single assist in those clashes, though.
In 2000, Marc Overmars was departing the Gunners after a three-year spell while Pires was only arriving to take his place in the squad.
Although, the former Netherlands international did enjoy relative success against Man Utd, notching up just a single goal against his old club’s bitter rivals, having featured in the heated fixture on seven occasions.
The Dutchman secured a league and FA Cup double with the capital club in 1998, after huge domestic and European success with Ajax, where he was signed by current Man Utd boss Louis van Gaal back in 1992.
A rapid wideman currently still plying his trade at the Emirates, Theo Walcott has already been involved in 15 duels with the Red Devils in his career, and has tallied up two goals in those match-ups.
The England international is likely to feature once again during this Sunday’s latest encounter and, following a disappointing display in the Champions League defeat to Barcelona, he is 11/4 to dispatch anytime at Old Trafford.
Previously a long-serving teammate of the now-retired Pires, Freddie Ljungberg enjoyed a great start to his initial meetings with the men from the red half of Manchester, bagging three goals in his first three Premier League fixture outings against them.
Overall the flamboyant Swede’s record finished at four strikes in the fixture, which he netted throughout 21 contests on all fronts.
Jose Antonio Reyes
Once one of the most promising young players in Europe, former Spain international Jose Antonio Reyes arrived at Arsenal with huge expectancy placed on his shoulders, before eventually leaving to represent both Spanish capital giants Atletico and Real Madrid.
During his time in England, the current Sevilla winger got the better of Man Utd just the once in seven clashes, and is an overlooked member of that dominant ‘Invincibles’ outfit.
Pires failed to find the net against the Red Devils in 17 fixtures, but clinical Chilean wideman Alexis Sanchez has had no such trouble since his arrival in north London.
The Copa America winning attacker has already hit two goals in four outings, both coming in this term’s reverse fixture, and will likely be key to any success for his club on super Sunday this weekend, with the rampant South American 7/1 to open proceedings.
Enduring a similarly uneventful streak in meetings with United, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been unsuccessful in front of goal during eight encounters.
The talented England attacker will be looking to impress his international boss Roy Hodgson in the build-up months to Euro 2016, and he is 5/1 to bag his first fixture goal against the Red Devils this weekend.
Russian playmaker Andrey Arshavin became an instant hit in London with his majestic attacking displays, being most fondly remembered for his four-goal haul over Liverpool, but ultimately he exited after a huge decline in form.
The former Zenit St Petersburg forward was once Arsenal’s record signing when arriving in 2009, though that has since been surpassed by Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck. Arshavin managed just a single strike in 10 meetings with Man Utd.
Now a regular football pundit on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, Paul Merson was once a gifted wideman within the Gunners ranks and, across 17 appearances against Man Utd, he tucked away a single goal.
Before making the controversial switch from Old Trafford to the Emirates, England forward Danny Welbeck enjoyed quite a rampant streak against his current employers.
The 25-year-old recorded two goals in four outings against Wenger’s men, and has since struck once for the Londoners against his old teammates, with that of course being an FA Cup quarter-final winner last season.
Robin van Persie
Fenerbahce frontman Robin van Persie made the opposite move to Welbeck in 2012, when Sir Alex Ferguson wrestled him from Arsenal’s grasp for a switch which ultimately won Man Utd the Premier League title the following year.
Against United, the deadly Dutchman netted four times in 13 appearances and, after his switch from London to Manchester, he managed an impressive three in six over his old employers.
Still hailed as an Old Trafford legend and now arguably the world’s most deadly player, Cristiano Ronaldo truly flourished in matches against Arsenal, with the current Real Madrid marksman having fired in six goals in 15 fixture appearances.
When Man Utd legend Ryan Giggs and Arsenal are ever brought up, that famous FA Cup solo strike will always pop up, and rightly so.
That dazzling effort back in 1999 is one of only three goals against the Gunners though, a surprisingly poor return for an illustrious winger that featured in the fierce fixture a substantial 46 times.
Former Old Trafford wideman Andrei Kanchelskis wasn’t renowned for his goal scoring, but against Arsenal in four meetings, the Ukrainian-born Russian racked up a couple of goals during a United career which spanned four campaigns.
Gracing Man Utd’s wide left midfield for eight seasons, Lee Sharpe was a fan favourite at Old Trafford, before injuries plagued the latter stages of his career after departing Manchester.
The winger relished coming up against Arsenal though, scoring the second-highest amount of goals in his career over the Gunners, with an impressive tally of three in nine outings.
Last but certainly not least, David Beckham, the original poster boy at Old Trafford and a former heroic England captain.
The now-retired former Man Utd, Real Madrid, AC Milan and PSG midfielder surprisingly holds a similarly poor fixture record to old rival Pires, having netted just once against Arsenal in 17 encounters.