Manchester United and Arsenal matches have always been feisty affairs – particularly at Old Trafford.

But they climbed to new combative heights in the fiery clashes of the mid-1980s to the early 2000s.

Who can forget Martin Keown’s manic stare in 2003 as he confronted Ruud Van Nistelrooy in the bruising 0-0 draw dubbed the Battle of Old Trafford?

Or Roy Keane’s pulsating duels with Arsenal midfield general Patrick Vieira over more than a decade?

Roy Keane tangles with Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira in the Charity Shield, August 2003

Roy Keane tangles with Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira in the Charity Shield, August 2003

The scene for 20 years of rivalry was set in the 1979 FA Cup Final. It went down as one of the greatest finishes ever.

Arsenal were cruising at 2-0 right up until the 86th minute. Then Gordon McQueen scored after a set-piece and Sammy McIlroy beat two players to grab an 88th minute equalizer.

Everyone thought the game was heading for extra time until Alan Sunderland scored a last-minute winner. It ended 3-2 to the Gunners with United left gasping on the pitch.

United’s Martin Buchan, centre, thwarts Arsenal’s Frank Stapleton in the 1979 FA Cup Final

United’s Martin Buchan, centre, thwarts Arsenal’s Frank Stapleton in the 1979 FA Cup Final

Fast forward eight years to this week back in January 1987 and new manager Alex Ferguson’s first league match against Arsenal. Old Trafford is packed with 51,367 spectators.

United won 2-0 with goals from Gordon Strachan and Terry Gibson, but the flashpoint came when Norman Whiteside tackled David Rocastle.

The Arsenal midfielder retaliated and was sent off causing a melee to erupt. Our photo shows the moment just after the incident and the sheer anger in Whiteside’s eyes.

Gordon Strachan scores as United beat Arsenal 2-0 at Old Trafford, January 1987

Gordon Strachan scores as United beat Arsenal 2-0 at Old Trafford, January 1987

Norman Whiteside stares in anger after clashing with Arsenal’s David Rocastle, January 1987

Norman Whiteside stares in anger after clashing with Arsenal’s David Rocastle, January 1987

Arsenal’s David Rocastle is sent off at Old Trafford, January 1987

Arsenal’s David Rocastle is sent off at Old Trafford, January 1987

Players clashed again in October 1990 when United hosted the Gunners in a bad-tempered First Division encounter.

Arsenal won by the only goal of the match scored by Anders Limpar just before half time, but the second half was marred by a brawl involving 21 of the 22 players.

It started with Arsenal’s Nigel Winterburn tackling Denis Irwin and lasted just over 20 seconds. Referee Keith Hackett booked Limpar and Winterburn, but the real consequences came a month later.

Referee Keith Hackett tries to control United and Arsenal players at Old Trafford, October 1990

Referee Keith Hackett tries to control United and Arsenal players at Old Trafford, October 1990

The FA fined both clubs £50,000 for bringing the game into disrepute and United were docked a point. Arsenal were docked two points as they’d been involved in a similar brawl at Norwich.

Trouble flared again when the two sides met in the Premier League at Old Trafford in November 1996. The referee had to step in smartly as our photo clearly shows.

The referee stops a melee between United and Arsenal players at Old Trafford, December 1996

The referee stops a melee between United and Arsenal players at Old Trafford, December 1996

United won the game 1-0 thanks to an own goal by Nigel Winterburn and went on to do the double over Arsenal by beating them 2-1 at Highbury in February.

The goals that day came from Andrew Cole and a promising young striker just signed from Norwegian club Molde – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Problems started in the 2003-4 season when the teams squared up in the Charity Shield – the traditional, good-natured curtain-raiser at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

League Champions United beat FA Cup winners Arsenal 4-3 on penalties after the teams were locked at 1-1 at full time.

United’s Phil Neville was booked in the first minute and Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a straight red card.

The simmering enmity between the two clubs reached a crescendo at Old Trafford on September 21st 2003 – the so-called Battle of Old Trafford.

Arsenal came into the match in second place in the league on the back of an unbeaten record stretching back to the previous season. United were third.

Referee Steve Bennett showed four yellow cards to each team, most of which came from a fracas at the end of the game.

Vieira was sent off in the 80th minute for kicking out at Van Nistelrooy in retaliation – his second bookable offence.

At the final whistle, Keown, staring wildly, jumped up next to Van Nistelrooy and brought his arms down on his back.

The incident escalated as United players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, went to the defence of their team-mate.

The result was 0-0. Arsenal had preserved their unbeaten record – but only just.

Steve Bruce scores in a tense 1-1 draw between United and Arsenal at Old Trafford, December 1991

Steve Bruce scores in a tense 1-1 draw between United and Arsenal at Old Trafford, December 1991

A year later, the Battle of Old Trafford became the Battle of the Buffet as United took on Arsenal in the Premier League on October 24th 2004.

United won 2-0 with a penalty from Van Nistelrooy and a goal from Wayne Rooney, ending Arsenal’s 49-match unbeaten league run.

Anger spilled over in the tunnel at the end of the match and pizza was thrown at United manager Ferguson.

It was unclear who launched the offending slice, but Ferguson was forced to change from his customary suit into a tracksuit to carry out his post-match interviews.