Oh, how times have changed.
In Friday morning’s press conference, Arsène Wenger was asked about the current situation at Manchester United as well as the speculation and pressure surrounding Louis van Gaal. His answer, probably inadvertently, was delightful.
“I don’t want to speak too much about Man United today because I’m more focused on us and preparing that important game but of course he has my respect and my sympathy,” said the Arsenal manager.
“What can you do? Not a lot. Do your job and use your potential resistance to stress and focus on your job.”
It seems sincere and, honestly, I believe it was. But I grew up at a time when the rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal was at its peak. Fiery on the pitch, fiery off the pitch. Then we moved to the Emirates Stadium.
The battles between the two clubs were no longer as important (nor were they as even) and the moment it dawned on me that we weren’t seen as a threat was when Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t hate us anymore.
The Scot would take the (rare) defeat much more gracefully. Even worse than that, he would offer a patronising pat on the head when we lost, saying Arsenal played well and are a great club. I missed the rivalry, the days of him rubbing our collective face in the dirt and seething when he even thought about Patrick Vieira and Arsène Wenger.
Finally, after a long wait, the tables have turned. Arsenal are in the title race, Manchester United are languishing behind and their manager is under huge pressure, huge scrutiny. Now it’s Arsène’s turn to offer support to a man and a club who, for this season at least, isn’t close to being a direct rival.
It’s petty and it could come back to bite me on Sunday, but isn’t that what being a football fan is all about?