One of the most absorbing rivalries in English football will assume a European dimension when Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United FC take on Arsène Wenger's Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
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One of the most absorbing rivalries in English football assumes a European dimension when Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United FC take on Arsène Wenger's Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. These two long-serving managers have been seeking to outwit one another for the past 13 seasons and there is little between them going into this first ever European contest between the clubs with Wenger having overseen 14 wins against his rival's 13 from a total of 37 matches played.
• While Wenger is seeking to guide Arsenal to a second final in four seasons, Sir Alex's aim is to retain the trophy United won by defeating another Premier League adversary, Chelsea FC, in last season's final. The only side yet to lose a game in this season's UEFA Champions League, United enter the semi-finals unbeaten in 23 games in the competition dating back to their May 2007 semi-final loss at AC Milan. They are also protecting a 20-match unbeaten run at Old Trafford in the UEFA Champions League.
• Arsenal, for their part, are seeking only a second away victory in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League. That solitary win was the 5-2 success at Fenerbahçe SK on Matchday 3 in October although they can take confidence from having prevailed in their one previous meeting this season with United in the Premier League.
• United reached the semi-finals with a 3-2 aggregate victory against FC Porto (2-2 home, 1-0 away). They had previously overcome FC Internazionale Milano (0-0 away, 2-0 home) after finishing top of Group E with a record of W2 D4 L0.
• Arsenal beat Villarreal CF in the quarter-finals (1-1 away, 3-0 home) after the drama of a penalty shoot-out victory against AS Roma in the previous round (1-0 home, 0-1 away, 7-6 pens). They had earlier finished second in Group G with a record of W3 D2 L1.
• This is United's eleventh semi-final in the competition and their record is W3 L7:
2007/08 FC Barcelona 1-0 won (0-0 away, 1-0 home)
2006/07 Milan 2-5 lost (3-2 home, 0-3 away)
2001/02 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 3-3 lost (2-2 home, 1-1 away)
1998/99 Juventus 4-3 won (1-1 home, 3-2 away)
1996/97 BV Borussia Dortmund 0-2 lost (0-1 away, 0-1 home)
1968/69 Milan 1-2 lost (0-2 away, 1-0 home)
1967/68 Real Madrid CF 4-3 won (1-0 home, 3-3 away)
1965/66 FK Partizan 1-2 lost (0-2 away, 1-0 home)
1957/58 Milan 2-5 lost (2-1 home, 0-4 away)
1956/57 Madrid 3-5 lost (1-3 away, 2-2 home)
• This is Arsenal's second semi-final, their solitary past appearance having brought victory against Villarreal in 2005/06 (1-0 home, 0-0 away).
• United won on the only previous occasion they have faced another English club in the UEFA Champions League – last season's final against Chelsea in Moscow. Sir Alex's men prevailed 6-5 on penalties after Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard had traded first-half goals.
• Looking further back, they won their sole previous all-English two-legged European tie, defeating then holders Tottenham Hotspur FC in the first round of the 1963/64 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. United overturned a 2-0 first-leg loss with a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford.
• Arsenal will be hoping for third time lucky when it comes to facing compatriot clubs in Europe following earlier losses to Chelsea and Liverpool FC. The Gunners went down 5-3 on aggregate to Liverpool in last season's UEFA Champions League quarter-finals (1-1 home, 2-4 away) having previously lost at the same stage to Chelsea in the 2003/04 competition (1-1 away, 1-2 home).
• United and Arsenal have met 204 times in all competitions. The head-to-head record is 82 United wins, 77 Arsenal victories and 45 draws.
• The respective managers are the two longest-serving in the English Premier League, Sir Alex having arrived in Manchester in 1986 and Wenger in London in 1996. Rivals since the 1996/97 season, their clubs' full head-to-head record in that time is 14 wins for Arsenal, 13 for United and ten draws, although two of those drawn matches were settled in a shoot-out. Arsenal won the 2005 FA Cup final 5-4 on penalties following a goalless draw, Robin van Persie converting for the Gunners and Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney doing likewise for United, although Paul Scholes was the only player to fail from the spot.
• United did emerge triumphant in the 2003 FA Community Shield match between the teams, winning 4-3 on penalties with Scholes and Rio Ferdinand among the successful takers.
• Arsenal were 2-1 winners in the teams' most recent meeting in north London in November. Samir Nasri (22, 48) struck twice for the Gunners before a late reply by Rafael (90).
• The teams that day were:
Arsenal: Manuel Almunia (Łukasz Fabiański 78), Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Mikaël Silvestre, Gaël Clichy, Theo Walcott (Alexandre Song 77), Cesc Fàbregas, Denilson, Samir Nasri, Abou Diaby (Kolo Touré 86), Nicklas Bendtner.
Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville (Rafael 63), Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić, Patrice Evra, Cristiano Ronaldo, Anderson (Ryan Giggs 72), Michael Carrick, Ji-Sung Park, Wayne Rooney (Carlos Tévez 77), Dimitar Berbatov.
• United won the sides' last encounter at Old Trafford on 13 April last year. They fought back from Emmanuel Adebayor's opener (48) for Arsenal through goals from Ronaldo (54 pen) and Owen Hargreaves (72).
• United also won their most recent cup encounter – 4-0 in the FA Cup fifth round in February last year. Rooney (16), Darren Fletcher (20, 74) and Nani (38) got the goals.
• Arsenal's last victory at Old Trafford came on 17 September 2006, Adebayor scoring the only goal of the league game four minutes from time.
• United have never lost a semi-final meeting with Arsenal – including two successes for Sir Alex over Wenger. The clubs' record in semi-final duels is:
FA Cup 2003/04, United W 1-0
FA Cup 1998/99 United D 0-0, W 2-1 (replay, AET)
FA Cup 1982/83 United W 2-1
League Cup 1982/83 United W 4-2 (a), W 2-1 (h)
• Two of United's old guard have scored semi-final winners against Arsenal: Scholes in the FA Cup in 2004, and Ryan Giggs, with a famous extra-time solo effort, in their 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay.
• United have a strong home record against Arsenal: W55 D24 L17.
• The teams first met in Manchester in the old second division on 13 October 1894 and the game finished 3-3.
• United's biggest win in the fixture is 6-1 – a result they managed for the first time in a league meeting at Old Trafford on 26 April 1952. They repeated the feat in February 2001 in a Premier League match that featured Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Scholes and – in the red of United – Mikaël Silvestre.
• Arsenal's biggest away victory at United was 4-1 in the 1908/09 season. But at Old Trafford, where United moved in 1910, their biggest winning margin is two goals:
3-1, English first division 1970/71
2-0, English first division 1978/79
2-0, FA Cup 2002/03
• Arsenal defender Silvestre scored United's goal in the sides' 1-1 draw in the 2003 Community Shield – a contest United won 4-3 on spot-kicks. Silvestre spent nine years at United between 1999 and 2008 and collected a clean sweep of domestic medals, playing his part in four Premier League successes and FA Cup and League Cup victories.
• This semi-final will reunite plenty of current international colleagues as United's England contingent Ferdinand, Rooney and Brown come up against Theo Walcott, while Patrice Evra has played alongside the injured William Gallas, Bacary Sagna and Nasri for France. Edwin van der Sar and Van Persie were part of the Netherlands squad at UEFA EURO 2008™.
• A less known international connection is that United midfielder Anderson played alongside Arsenal's Denilson for the Brazil team that finished runners-up at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru in 2005. Another Arsenal player, Carlos Vela, scored the opening goal for winners Mexico in their 3-0 final triumph.
• The second leg will take place at the Arsenal Stadium on 5 May with the winners advancing to a final against Barcelona or Chelsea at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on 27 May.