When Arsenal quite literally slugged it out with Manchester United at the “Battle of Old Trafford” in October 1990, the penal consequences looked like they might upset the Gunners’ title drive.
Only two players were booked in the wake of the 21-man brawl. However, after an FA tribunal held the following month, United were docked one point and Arsenal, who were in Liverpool’s slipstream at the top of the Division One table, were docked two.
This saw them fall eight points behind leaders Liverpool (and just one point above Tottenham in third), leading to Arsenal defender David O’Leary to posit that the FA’s unprecedented ruling would ensure the “champagne would be out” at Anfield.
To this day, it remains the only instance in the history of the English Football League that a club have been docked points for player misconduct.
Anyway, with a demoralised squad to drag out of the doledrums, Arsenal manager George Graham gathered his players at the training ground for a timely cage-rattle.
Adopting a slightly unfamiliar positive tone, the famously stony Scot proceeded to lay it on the line in no uncertain terms…
Yes, we know what you’re thinking. Steve Bould with a full head of hair is just wrong on an elemental level.
As for Graham’s stirring pep talk, it most certainly did the trick, as the Gunners came racing back to claim the title, ultimately going on to finish seven points ahead of Liverpool – thanks in part to a dominant 3-1 win over United in the reverse fixture at Highbury in early May.
‘The Battle’ went onto set the scene for many grizzly Arsenal-United skirmishes that followed over the prevailing years, right up until hostilities between the two clubs began to thaw in the 2010s.