Robert Pires and Gary Neville were on opposite sides during the peak of Arsenal’s rivalry with Man Utd as the Frenchman opens up on the tactics his opponent would use against him
Arsenal legend Robert Pires has revealed that Gary Neville used to hurl insults at him in order to get the better of the Frenchman during crunch clashes with Manchester United.
The two teams were involved in a fiery rivalry during the late 1990s and early 2000s as they fought for domestic supremacy.
Pires was a key figure for the Gunners having been one of several French imports.
Neville meanwhile was part of the famed ‘Class of 92’ and had helped United establish themselves as England’s leading light before Arsenal challenged their status.
Pires and Neville would often come up against each other down the flank with the England right-back keen to stifle the left winger.
In order to do so he engaged in verbals according to the Frenchman, who was unsure as to what was being said such was the language barrier, but knew it “wasn’t nice words”.
Pires struggled to impose himself in games with United, failing to score against the Red Devils.
He told The Times : “My record against them is catastrophic and I know it.
“My friend Gary Neville. Psychologically, he was always on top of me. He would talk to me all the time, he’d insult me all the time.
“It was in English, so I didn’t understand anything, but I knew they weren’t nice words. He was always talking to me, always barging me, always looking for me.
“He knew how to unsettle me. And unfortunately, he won. I had run-ins with him, with Wayne Rooney, all the time.”
Arsenal under Arsene Wenger claimed three league titles between 1998 and 2004. They also added three FA Cups in that time.
Pires admitted recently that the two teams did hate each other such was their rivalry, which resulted in some hostile clashes.
One of which was United’s 2-0 win over the Gunners in 2004, which ended their 49-game unbeaten run at Old Trafford.
The Frenchman looks back with fond memories however.
He told OTB : “It was the fight on the field. I think Man United and Arsenal at this time were the best teams in England, but also in Europe.”
“The teams were very similar. Ferguson and Wenger, their objective was to build a very good team. It was amazing, when I used to play against Man United in Old Trafford or in Highbury it was an amazing game.”
“It was very electric, very sensational. We felt something between Man United and Arsenal – it was very, very good.”