Arsenal, managed by Mikel Arteta in 11th place, travel to 15th-placed Manchester United under former super-sub, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 20 years ago, such a statement would have seemed unbelievable.
Twenty seasons ago, 00/01 saw Arsenal win the double the season after United won the treble.
Manchester United and Arsenal were by far the best in English football and their rivalry as fierce as anything seen between two teams in the English top flight.
Manchester City weren’t even in the top division, Roman Abramovich hadn’t even purchased Chelsea and Spurs were some 27 points behind their north London rivals. Liverpool were still 20 years from winning the Premier League.
With Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm, they dominated everything, from the pitch to the papers.
Change really is the only constant.
As Arsenal get ready to travel to Old Trafford this weekend, Arteta gave his impression of Solskjaer’s United.
“They create really good relationships and they are all very different,” he said. “They glide together, they have some really good understanding and chemistry on the pitch. You can see that.
“I think that since the lockdown, Ole has managed to improve that a lot and you can see that at the end of the season, the amount of goals and types of goals they were scoring. They are a threat.
“They can play two or three different formations. We know that they’ve been changing some things because of the opponents sometimes, because of the quality of the players they have, and sometimes to change the game in certain moments.
“We have to be prepared for that because they have that adaptability, they have a big squad and up front they have a lot of options as well to do different things.”
Speaking to the United website, Solskjaer had this to say about Arteta and Arsenal; “Well, I think any manager would need time to put his principles in place. Of course, he’s already won a trophy with them with what he is doing.
“You can see that he has his own own ideas and that he’s also worked under a top manager before. At the start of your career as a manager, if you can start winning already, that’s a foundation to build from. I think they’ve found a manager who wants the best for the club.
“When I played it was between us and Arsenal to win the league. That was a very fierce rivalry. There were all sorts of stories about what has been happening and I don’t have to rip up any of them. The passion, the excitement and the importance of those games… of course, we knew if we beat Arsenal and got six points from them that would be us winning the league more or less, and vice versa.
“So there have been some unbelievable games; some fond memories, some bad memories. Of course, now there is still the rivalry and still the history, but for now we don’t think about them as our rivals, or as anyone as our rivals. We just need to put points on the board and it’s so early anyway.”
20 years on from both sides battering it out for the Premier League year-after-year, Arsenal and Manchester United go into this game desperate not to lose to the other because of the embarrassment that would cause, not because of their rivalry, but because of how bad both sides are now.