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Arsenal set sights on record

Published: Saturday 27 March 2004, 12.25CET
Arsenal FC could make English top-flight history if they beat Manchester United FC on Sunday. features

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Published: Saturday 27 March 2004, 12.25CET

Arsenal set sights on record

Arsenal FC could make English top-flight history if they beat Manchester United FC on Sunday.

Arsenal FC will enter a class of their own if they win or draw Sunday’s Premiership meeting with arch-rivals Manchester United FC at Highbury. Anything other than an away victory would allow the London club to become the first English team to remain undefeated in their opening 30 top-flight games.

Unique group
Their victory against Bolton Wanderers FC last Saturday equalled a record set by Leeds United AFC in 1973/74 and matched 14 years later by Liverpool FC. Twelve points ahead of Sir Alex Ferguson's team, Arsenal can also emulate the feat of United in 1998/99, when they claimed the Premiership, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Arsène Wenger's team are already in a strong position in the European competition, having held Chelsea FC 1-1 in the away leg of their quarter-final tie on Wednesday.

Extra spice
The fact it is United who stand in the way of history adds extra spice to the highly-anticipated encounter and is reminiscent of Liverpool's memorable run 16 years ago when arch-rivals and reigning champions Everton FC finally managed to derail Kenny Dalglish's team. Wayne Clarke scored the solitary goal in a 1-0 victory on 20 March of that year - to ensure the record set by the Leeds team containing his brother Allan remained.

Illustrious wake
That Liverpool side followed in the wake of the illustrious teams managed by Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley which garnered four European Champion Clubs' Cups, the UEFA Cup and a UEFA Super Cup among an incredible haul of honours.
Glorious Leeds
Stoke City FC prevented a Leeds team boasting the likes of Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer from breaking the 30-game barrier in the previous decade, defeating the Yorkshire outfit 3-2 in February 1974. Don Revie's men reached the European Cup final in 1974/75, losing 2-0 to Bayern München FC in Paris, four years after winning the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

Greater achievement
Wenger, however, claims Arsenal's current unbeaten sequence is a considerably more worthy achievement. "If anyone equals or breaks a record it is fantastic, but because the Premiership is now possibly the best league in the world I think Arsenal's run would be more important than Leeds' or Liverpool's," he said. "But we have not really spoken about it. We are hungry to do well in every game and we just want to keep going. The consequence of that is you can beat records, which we have already done by scoring goals in every game."

United relish
United have not won at Highbury since 1999 but drew there last term and the match is followed next Saturday by an FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park. Predictably, the reigning Premiership champions are not about to shy away from the challenge against a team with who they played out a goalless draw in Manchester earlier this season. "The game at Highbury and the semi-final are the fixtures that any player wants to play in," United defender Phil Neville said. "We are probably the one team that actually enjoys playing Arsenal."

Forest milestone
Should Arsenal overcome United, the next domestic milestone would be to overcome Nottingham Forest FC’s record of 42 matches unbeaten over two seasons between November 1977 and December 1978. Forest were then under the charge of the legendary Brian Clough. Wenger is a considerably more reserved character than the outspoken Clough, but whatever the result on Sunday, the Frenchman is firmly established alongside 'Old Big Head' in England's managerial hall of fame.

Last updated: 28/03/04 18.19CET

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