Martin Keown has revealed what sparked his infamous reaction to Ruud van Nistelrooy’s penalty miss for Manchester United against Arsenal.
Back in September 2003, the two sides met in an encounter later dubbed the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ for the fiery way in which the action ended.
With the deadlock still intact, Patrick Vieira saw red for kicking out at United’s Van Nistelrooy, before the former Netherlands international had the opportunity to pour salt into the Gunners’ wounds after being brought down by Keown.
The striker, though, smashed his spot-kick against the crossbar, sparking ugly scenes as Arsenal players, led by Keown, goaded Van Nistelrooy for his miss.
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Tempers continued to flare at the final whistle, with both sides being hit hard with ends by the FA afterwards.
It’s an incident that has followed Keown around since he made the move into punditry, and when asked about the incident again by former team-mate David Seaman, the 55-year-old revealed exactly what had risen him up that day.
“It’s funny, it’s about a week since someone last asked me about it! It used to be every day,” Keown told the Seaman Says podcast.
“Do you know what? I kind of became like Patrick Vieira’s protector, and I just felt that day, he got Patrick sent off (Van Nistelrooy), and we already had previous, I had to pay a huge bill at the FA the year before for an incident with him .
“Here, it was all happening again, and then I gave a penalty away which was dubious, I didn’t think it was a penalty.
“I just thought I’m going to have to give it to him, and I didn’t realize that the cameras were panning in, and then the game finished within a minute or so.
“We just turned from that and we were all just so angry because the game was easy, it wasn’t that tricky, and it was like the Alamo. As soon as they had a player sent off, it was a totally different game.
“It was like they sucked us into that game and we were going to get beaten once more. There was no justice when we played Man United, that’s what it felt like, so then we reacted like we did.”
Arsenal, in particular, were hit hard, with the combined fines for the incident said to have cost them around £275,000, with Keown especially having to dig into his pockets.
“When you look back at it, the number of players who got suspended, the ends, and Man United players hardly got any ends,” he added.
“The funny story about it was that season, I was on quite a low basic (wage), and I was on large appearance money, so every game I missed was quite a lot of money.
“When I got like five games, and then a fine on top, I don’t think anyone’s paid that kind of money before, but David Dein told them and they said they still wanted to do it!”
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