Games against Manchester United used to make me feel sick.
Perhaps that shows my age because it’s been a long time since Arsenal faced Manchester United with much at stake beyond pride, and Arsenal long ago stopped caring about that inconvenient emotion.
It will be strange to go to Old Trafford on Sunday, weirder still given Arsenal’s latest clown show in Europe. Changes will be made to the starting lineup in order to attempt the impossible in Madrid but the end result will not really matter to Arsenal fans because it genuinely feels like there are no more humiliations to be experienced afresh.
How far we’ve come from those late 90s and early 2000s games when the whole world stopped to watch Arsene Wenger face down Sir Alex Ferguson.
Those who aren’t of a certain vintage will probably not truly appreciate the battles that took place between these two sides in the first decade of the Premier League.
They are, undoubtedly, the reason the Premier League flowed around the world as a product sure to shake you to your core.
When Arsenal and Manchester United met in those early days, no quarter was given, no leg went unhacked and no pre-match mental game unplayed.
Growing up in Northern Ireland, I always had a special hatred for United. In the 70s and 80s you only had two real choices if you wanted to support an English team – Liverpool or United.
I may not have known much as a child but I knew I didn’t like either of those options so I held out. On a school trip to Highbury when I was 10, I fell in love and knew I’d found my home.
That meant was I was now an Arsenal fan surrounded by wannabe Scousers and Mancs. It was torture.
But when Arsene Wenger arrived, Arsenal were able to blow Liverpool out of the water and match United punch for punch.
And there were punches. And pizza.
There was everything you could want from a football match from two teams at the very top of their game.
All that changed after the 2005 FA Cup Final.
Arsenal were battered that day but pragmatism won out as Vieira sealed Arsenal’s win from the penalty spot with his last kick for the club.
It was the end of so many eras all at once.
The move to the Emirates tempered Arsenal’s ambitions and the rivalry stopped mattering when Arsenal stopped challenging for the league title.
It was seven years ago when United put eight past us, nine years since they knocked us out of the Champions League semi-final minutes into a game that Arsenal fans believed they could win.
In the time that’s past, things at United have changed considerably while at Arsenal they remained the same, stuck in time, dreaming of the days they went to Old Trafford to win leagues.
This weekend Arsenal will head to Old Trafford for the final time with Arsene Wenger at the helm. They may not be managed by Ferguson any more but with Mourinho in charge, that should be enough to spice the fixture up.
But anyone expecting Arsene Wenger’s men to go out with a bang will be disappointed.
A much-changed side from that which blew their lines against Atletico Madrid will travel north. A defence that is already super fragile will be weakened further as we rest starters and play the fringe boys.
Mourinho won’t want Wenger to have the satisfaction of winning this game. He was, after all, the man whose side thrashed Arsenal 6-0 on the occasion of Wenger’s 1000th game in charge.
Ferguson stopped United at eight, Mourinho would insist on more more more.
He is a manager who lives to humiliate his rivals, none more so than the man he sees as the recipient of respect he has never been afforded.
Will it matter if we lose on Sunday? Not at all.
That in itself tells you all you need to know about where we are as a club…