English football had one of the fiercest rivalries around the beginning of the 21st century. Two clubs had carved out a niche in the elite category courtesy of their managers and style of play. They amassed trophies at will and set unique records only held by the two specific clubs. While one won the impressive Treble, the other won a trophy currently considered impossible to lift, the Golden EPL trophy (the invincibles). Indeed Manchester United and Arsenal gifted the EPL fans an unforgettable era of entertaining English football. Despite both groups winning their accolades impressively, some fans still decide whose feat was more memorable. Before deciding who did it best, let us examine both teams and how they ran their games.
The outlook and quality of both the Treble winners and the Invincibles
Both teams comprised two elite managers, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, famously referred to as the Professor. Before taking over their respective clubs, both managers had shown promise in their respective clubs before being given the jobs. They took over the clubs with the zeal to improve the legacies already made by Manchester United and Arsenal. Despite having their unique tactics, both managers wanted their teams to be possession based and dominant over their opponents.
The quality of the midfield
They, therefore, ensured that their midfielders were full of quality to run their games perfectly. The treble winners had the no-joke Roy Keane as their central defensive midfielder. He was backed up by the sharp-shooting Paul Scholes and the free-kick specialist David Beckham. Academy coach Nicky Butt completed this midfield four that collected the three trophies in the 1998/99 season.
The Invincibles had Patrick Vieira as their captain and defensive midfielder. The Frenchman was known for his bullish style of play that made opponents shudder with fear whenever playing against him. He played with Robert Pires and former manager Fredrick Ljungberg. Current sporting director Edu also played a crucial role in shaping this midfield that went 38 games unbeaten in EPL. Their midfield was physical and creative, taking points from other clubs at will.
The intimidating shot-stoppers
The treble winners had the gigantic Peter Schmeichel as their showstopper. The Dane intimidated strikers with his big body size and made several crucial saves that won United games. On the other hand, Jens Lehmann was at his best during their golden EPL campaign. He kept 15 clean sheets and was one of the goalkeepers who won the golden gloves that season. The goalkeeping docket, therefore, played a crucial role in ensuring both clubs achieved their feats.
The walls that secured trophies
A famous football quote by Sir Alex Ferguson goes, attack wins you games, and defense wins you titles. This could be one reason he ensured he formed a wall in his defense that proved a hard nut to crack. Denis Irwin and Jaap Stam combined with the Neville brothers forming a wall that proved a menace to opponents. The three trophies testify to how good that defense must have been.
The Gunners utilized the services of Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy, Sol Campbell, and Kolo Toure. The likes of Keown, Cygan, and Lauren also played a crucial role in delivering the unique piece of silverware home. This respected defense ensured that Arsenal went unbeaten for 38 Premier League games.
Attacks full of talent
The attacks of these two clubs during their respective seasons were firing from all fronts. Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole accounted for at least 35 of Manchester United’s premier league goals. Despite being a substitute in most games, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also played a crucial role in both the EPL and champions league.
The London greats had the talented Denis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, who entertained the 2003/04 season and left the fans with great memories. Reyes, Wiltord, and Kanu also made an indelible mark in the hearts of the fans with some crucial goals. This attack will consistently rank as one of the best the Arsenal fans experienced at Highbury.
Both attacks were highly rated and definitely deserved to achieve their individual successes. Regarding squad quality, both clubs were well-equipped with enough firepower to win trophies. None of them had a deficient squad.
Individual Honours in the respective seasons
After Manchester United won the Treble, David Beckham was ranked second in the Balon D’Or rankings. Six other Manchester United had been nominated for the awards. These included Schmeichel, Giggs, Yorke, and Cole, among others.
After Arsenal’s Invincible season, only three of their players made it to the Balon d’Or’s final nomination list: Henry, Vieira, and Reyes. Henry finished in 4th spot in the final rankings. These nominations might indicate how challenging it was to lift the Treble than the golden EPL.
- Sam Allardyce (Big Sam): The sweet and sour chronicles of sit-back-and-defend coaches.
- Manchester United are seeking to sign a new keeper
- Manchester United is set to raid the European market to strengthen its squad
- How good was Arsene Wenger?
The trophies won
Manchester United was rewarded with three trophies for their impressive campaign in the 1998/99 season. These were the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League trophies.
The Gunners won the Premier League trophy during their invincibles campaign in 2003/2004 season and were given a special golden trophy. Taking part in three competitions and winning them is a more significant challenge than winning a single trophy. In terms of trophies won, the Red Devils have the upper hand.
The difficulty of achieving each feat
Alex Ferguson’s side is respected for being the first and only English club to win the Treble. They did this after English clubs had been given a 5-year Champions League ban breaking the jinx of no English club making it to the finals in 8 years, and winning the trophy. Determined and unstoppable, United went on to add the Premier League and FA Cups to their accolades.
However, other European clubs have also replicated this feat, winning trebles on various occasions. In 2013, Bayern Munich won the Treble in Germany. Inter Milan also won the Treble in 2010 under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho. In 2009 and 2015, FC Barcelona also won the Treble. This could indicate that more clubs might achieve this feat in the coming years.
Juventus has only replicated the Invincible season in the top flight of European football. They did this in the 2011/12 season before winning the Scudetto. This proves that winning the league unbeaten might be more challenging than winning the Treble. It might take several other years before another unbeaten record is made in Europe.
Beyond the Thrills: Reliving the Unforgettable Seasons of the ‘Invincibles’ and ‘Treble’ Winners
The Gunners managed to win 26 games and drew 12 in the invincibles season (2003/04). Despite having that impressive season, they faced some challenging games. At the beginning of the season, they drew 1-1 with Portsmouth FC. Thierry Henry later said that they drew the game given luck after being gifted a penalty late to draw the game. During that season, Arsenal scored 73 goals in the league in 2004. They scored 113 goals in all competitions.
Manchester United scored 80 league goals in their treble-winning season and had 128 goals scored in all competitions. They lost 3 league games all season. In terms of the number of goals scored in the league, Manchester United outshined Arsenal. Manchester United offered a more entertaining season than Arsenal.
How the Unbeatable Were Beaten: The Shocking Story of the Invincibles’ and Treble Winners’ Campaign Downfall
During their treble-winning campaign, the Old Trafford outfit lost five games. They lost to Sheffield Wednesday, Arsenal, and Middlesbrough in the league. Middlesbrough was the only club that beat Manchester United at home. They were also beaten by Arsenal during the Community Shield match at the beginning of the season. The last loss came at Tottenham in the league cup 3rd round. These were the only dents Manchester United experienced before achieving their greatest success.
In the 2004 season, the Gunners also experienced a fair share of disappointments from opponents. They were beaten by Middlesbrough FC in the League Cup semi-final stage. They also lost to bitter rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals. Chelsea also eliminated them late in the Champions League, leaving them with only a single title.
Both clubs won their accolades impressively. However, they also experienced some humiliating losses during the season. This did not deter their seasons from being recorded as successes.
The Legacy of the Invincibles and Treble Winners Lives On
Every football fan can agree that the treble-winning and invincible seasons were impressive. The two clubs offered top-notch entertainment that will forever stay in the outstanding football records. The two managers also offered their highly entertaining, unique, and entertaining football styles.
Furthermore, both squads contained stars who were capable of lifting the trophies. They also had the quality and depth necessary to win accolades, and they eventually did so. Winning the league unbeaten was a challenging feat, especially with the league having the likes of Chelsea rebuilding under Abrahamovic. The Red Devils and the Reds were also impressive clubs at the time, and so Arsenal did a great job.
However, I would go with a treble owing to the quality of the trophies achieved and the number of games played by Man United. The United side had to play several games to win all the trophies. The three are prestigious cups highly rated in Europe, showing how lethal this united side must have been.