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Rio Ferdinand explains how Sir Alex Ferguson used to get Man United players fired up to play Arsenal

‘They can’t handle it’: Rio Ferdinand explains how Sir Alex Ferguson used to make Manchester United players play ‘baby’ Arsenal at the height of his feud with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger

  • Rio Ferdinand has detailed Sir Alex Ferguson’s team talks before Arsenal games
  • Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger famously had a fierce rivalry while on the sidelines
  • Ferdinand has revealed Ferguson referred to Wenger’s Arsenal as ‘babies’
  • Both teams played fiery matches including The Battle of Old Trafford
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Rio Ferdinand has revealed the instructions Sir Alex Ferguson used to give his Manchester United teams before they faced rivals Arsenal.

The two sides fought out arguably the Premier League’s fiercest rivalry ever since Arsene Wenger entered the world of English football in 1996, and continued until Arsenal won the FA Cup final in 2005.

Matches between the sides have gone down in football folklore thanks to the fiery tempers with which each team played, and Ferdinand has given an insight into Fergie’s pre-match team talks.

Rio Ferdinand (L - pictured arguing with Francis Jeffers in 2003) has revealed what Sir Alex Ferguson used to say to his United team before games against Arsenal
Rio Ferdinand (L - pictured arguing with Francis Jeffers in 2003) has revealed what Sir Alex Ferguson used to say to his United team before games against Arsenal

Rio Ferdinand (L – pictured arguing with Francis Jeffers in 2003) has revealed what Sir Alex Ferguson used to say to his United team before games against Arsenal

Arsene Wenger (L) and Ferguson (R) often had heated arguments on the sidelines
Arsene Wenger (L) and Ferguson (R) often had heated arguments on the sidelines

Arsene Wenger (L) and Ferguson (R) often had heated arguments on the sidelines

Talking further William Hill’s Stripped Podcastsaid the United legend: ‘Sir Alex Ferguson used to say, “get in their faces. They don’t like it, they can’t handle it. They’re babies”.’

It seems that the United team dutifully listened to these instructions as both teams used to try to intimidate their opposite numbers on the pitch, often leading to brawls and cards galore as the matches played out.

Ferdinand also received personal instructions before matches from his manager.

Ferguson used to say: ‘Rio, you want to outrun them, you want to overpower them.’

The Manchester United manager would then leave his team before they took the field, saying: ‘Go straight up against them and you will win this game.’

Ferdinand (L) listens carefully to Sir Alex's instructions and latches onto Lauren
Ferdinand (L) listens carefully to Sir Alex's instructions and latches onto Lauren

Ferdinand (L) listens carefully to Sir Alex’s instructions and latches onto Lauren

Manchester United didn’t always win the game when they came ‘right up against’ Arsenal, but the battles on the pitch produced some incredible spectacle.

The most famous match between the two sides was the battle at Old Trafford in September 2003.

In the aftermath, six Arsenal players, two United players and Arsenal were penalized after a late brawl.

But something Ferguson could never have imagined before a match between the two sides was being hit in the face by a pizza, as seen in 2004’s Battle of the Buffet.

Arguments arise during the famous Battle of Old Trafford in 2003, where Arsenal were fined
Arguments arise during the famous Battle of Old Trafford in 2003, where Arsenal were fined

Arguments arise during the famous Battle of Old Trafford in 2003, where Arsenal were fined

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