Battle of the Buffet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Battle of the Buffet
Event 2004–05 FA Premier League
Date 24 October 2004
Venue Old Trafford, Greater Manchester
Man of the Match Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)[1]
Referee Mike Riley (West Yorkshire)
Attendance 67,862
Weather Light rain showers, Scattered clouds
14 °C (57 °F)[2]

The "Battle of the Buffet" is a name used by the British press to refer to a memorable Premier League match played on Sunday, 24 October 2004 between Manchester United and Arsenal. Originally this fixture was known as "The Battle of Old Trafford II", in reference to a previous fixture which gained the name,[3] but this quickly fell out of common use before it became better known at the time of the match as the "Battle of the Buffet".[4][5]


Arsène Wenger managed Arsenal to an unbeaten league season in 2003–04.

The appointment of Arsène Wenger as manager of Arsenal in 1996 brought about a period of great success for the club. In Wenger's first full season, Arsenal won the Premier League and FA Cup to complete a domestic double.[6] Though the club failed to win another trophy in the next three seasons, they vied for domestic honours with Manchester United who was managed by Sir Alex Ferguson. Arsenal won their second double in 2001–02, before Manchester United regained the league the following season.[7] In 2003–04, Arsenal won the league without a single defeat – a record of 26 wins and 12 draws.

Meetings between Arsenal and Manchester United were considered the pinnacle of English football during the 2000s; journalist Paul Wilson wrote in his preview of the October 2004 match: "Their rivalry is not simply about winning trophies, it is an adornment to the wider game."[8] The matches were also popular amongst British viewers – a league game between the two in April 2003 was watched by 3.4 million viewers in Britain, making it the top-rated programme on multichannel television for that week.[9] Football summariser Andy Gray, formerly of Sky Sports said of the encounters: "In some ways it's maybe not surprising that our major clashes have been with United and Arsenal. They've been the Premiership's two dominant clubs and so the pressure is greatest on them."[10]

The equivalent fixture a year ago was a goalless draw, notable for Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy missing a last-minute penalty. A confrontation involving the striker and several Arsenal players, in particular Martin Keown, immediately occurred. The ill feeling was originally sparked by an incident between Van Nistelrooy and Patrick Vieira. Having been fouled by Van Nistelrooy, Vieira aimed a kick in retaliation; although the kick did not make contact, he was still sent off for a second bookable offence. Van Nistelrooy was accused by both Vieira and Wenger of feigning contact to get Vieira sent off, while Ferguson defended his player and denied he had dived.[11] In the wake of the match, four Arsenal players received bans after the incident and were given fines totalling £275,000 by The Football Association (FA). Two Manchester United players were also fined for improper conduct, with a third warned about his future behaviour. The 2003 match was originally labelled "The Battle of Old Trafford" by the British press.[12]


Arsenal entered the match as league leaders, two points in front of second place Chelsea. Their previous league outing was a 3–1 win against Aston Villa on 16 October 2004.[13] The victory extended Arsenal's unbeaten league run to 49 matches, which set a new English football record. On the same day Manchester United played out a 0–0 draw against Birmingham City.[14] United sat in sixth position, 11 points behind their opponents.

The significance of the fixture for the two clubs was increased by the fact that, had Arsenal avoided defeat, they could have extended their unbeaten league run to 50 matches, while Manchester United – who were 11 points behind the league leaders at the time – wanted to prove they were title contenders and end Arsenal's run. In August, Arsenal beat Manchester United to win the 2004 FA Community Shield.[15]



Manchester United won the match 2–0, ending Arsenal's 49-match unbeaten run in the Premier League that had included the whole of the previous season (a first in Premier League history). It was played in front of a crowd of 67,862.

The match was notable for a series of controversial incidents; not for the first time a meeting between the two sides was followed by claim and counter-claim of gamesmanship, bad refereeing decisions and diving.

The match was goalless until the 72nd minute, when Wayne Rooney won a penalty under a challenge by Sol Campbell, despite the defender seeming to withdraw from the tackle.[16] Ruud van Nistelrooy converted the penalty, and Rooney went on to score a second goal in the 90th minute.


24 October 2004
16:00 BST
Manchester United 2–0 Arsenal
Van Nistelrooy Goal 73' (pen.)
Rooney Goal 90'
Old Trafford, Manchester
Attendance: 67,862
Referee: Mike Riley (West Yorkshire)
Manchester United
GK 13 Northern Ireland Roy Carroll
RB 2 England Gary Neville Booked
CB 5 England Rio Ferdinand (c)
CB 27 France Mikaël Silvestre
LB 4 Argentina Gabriel Heinze
RM 7 Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo Substituted off 85'
CM 3 England Phil Neville Booked
CM 18 England Paul Scholes
LM 11 Wales Ryan Giggs
CF 8 England Wayne Rooney
CF 10 Netherlands Ruud van Nistelrooy Substituted off 90'
GK 1 United States Tim Howard
DF 6 England Wes Brown
MF 17 Republic of Ireland Liam Miller
FW 9 France Louis Saha Substituted in 90'
FW 14 England Alan Smith Substituted in 85'
Scotland Sir Alex Ferguson
Man Utd vs Arsenal 2004-10-24.svg
GK 1 Germany Jens Lehmann
RB 12 Cameroon Lauren
CB 23 England Sol Campbell
CB 28 Ivory Coast Kolo Touré
LB 3 England Ashley Cole Booked
RM 8 Sweden Fredrik Ljungberg
CM 4 France Patrick Vieira (c) Booked
CM 17 Brazil Edu Booked
LM 9 Spain José Antonio Reyes Substituted off 70'
CF 10 Netherlands Dennis Bergkamp
CF 14 France Thierry Henry
GK 13 England Stuart Taylor
DF 18 France Pascal Cygan
MF 7 France Robert Pirès Substituted in 70'
MF 15 Spain Cesc Fàbregas
FW 11 Netherlands Robin van Persie
France Arsène Wenger


Statistic[17] Manchester United Arsenal
Goals scored 2 0
Possession 48.3% 51.7%
Passing success 75.6% 77.2%
Territorial advantage 41.1 58.9
Shots on target 5 1
Shots off target 5 7
Blocked shots 2 4
Fouls 20 24
Tackles 58 61
Tackling success 46.6% 49.2%
Corner kicks 3 3
Offsides 2 1
Yellow cards 2 3
Red cards 0 0


Sol Campbell was seen to refuse to shake Wayne Rooney's hand at the final whistle and tempers were reported to have boiled over in the players' tunnel. There were accusations that certain foodstuffs – usually reported as pizza, but occasionally reported as coffee, tomato soup or pea soup – had been thrown at Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson by a then-unknown Arsenal player.[18] Speculation that the player was Cesc Fàbregas[19][20][21] was confirmed in November 2011 by former Arsenal player Martin Keown on a phone-in show on BBC Radio 5 Live.[22][23] In his autobiography, Ferguson said: "They say it was Cesc Fabregas who threw the pizza at me but, to this day, I have no idea who the culprit is."[24]

Wenger later claimed that Rooney had dived to win the penalty. Mike Riley, who had attracted criticism as England's representative referee at Euro 2004 – specifically, for failing to award Latvia a penalty against Germany – was said to have made many mistakes during the match.[25]

Ruud van Nistelrooy was charged with serious foul play after a challenge on Arsenal left-back Ashley Cole that had gone unnoticed by the referee. He pled guilty to the offence and received a three-match ban for his conduct during the match.[26]

Former referee Jeff Winter said of Riley's performance, "It's more about winning than fair play now and if you get the decision then it's all part and parcel of the game but if you don't, the attitude is 'let's complain' and usually the referee is the easy target. But that game, with the baggage that goes with it, is almost becoming an impossible match to referee – and I speak from personal experience."[18]

Premier League refereeing chief Keith Hackett said "We know this is one of the tough encounters of the season. Mike clearly had a game plan to try not to suppress the match. He wanted it to breathe and perhaps went in with the intention of getting through the game without having to dismiss any players. In the back of his mind was trying to get through a game without having a blow-up and I think Mike did extremely well to keep a lid on things."[18]

Arsène Wenger was less generous: "Riley decided the game, like we know he can do at Old Trafford. There was no contact at all for the penalty, even Rooney said so. It's very difficult to take to see how lightly the referee gives the penalty. We can only master our own performance, not the referee's performance. We got the usual penalty awarded against us when we come to Manchester United and they are in difficulty. It happened last season and it's happened again." He also said of other incidents, "At some stages there were incidents, especially on [José Antonio] Reyes, where there was some deliberate kicking. The rules are there to be respected and only the referee can make the players respect them.[25]

Arsenal's captain Patrick Vieira, whose rivalry with Manchester United's captain Roy Keane had become a key element of meetings between the two sides, said "You get used to it when you play at Old Trafford, we are used to it."[25] Keane was seen to confront Vieira in the players tunnel before the return fixture later in the season, which Manchester United won 4–2 at Highbury.[27] This came about by an incident during the pre-game warm up when Vieira had allegedly pushed Gary Neville after confronting the player about the challenges Robert Pirès suffered at Old Trafford earlier in the season. Once Keane found out back in the United locker room, he unleashed a verbal tirade on Vieira including telling the Arsenal skipper "I'll see you out there". The match that followed was another ill spirited affair with both sides guilty of poor challenges, which also saw Mikaël Silvestre sent off after a clash with Freddie Ljungberg. United however would go on to win the game, coming from behind twice before running away with it, despite being reduced to 10 men for the last third of the match.

In the League Cup, the clubs met in the quarter-finals at Old Trafford in December and even though both sides fielded weakened teams, the match nothing short of drama. David Bellion gave United the lead in just 19 seconds but it wasn't until the start of the second half, when tempers began to flare. A fracas between Robin van Persie and Kieran Richardson, following a late tackle by the Dutchman resulted in clashes from both sets of players, which concluded with both protagonists getting booked by match official Mark Halsey. The game finished 1–0. [28]

The teams then faced each other once more in the FA Cup Final at the end of the season. The match ended 0–0 after normal and extra time thus taking it to a shootout, the first in FA Cup Final history. Paul Scholes missed his penalty for Manchester United, and Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira converted the decisive kick to win the cup for Arsenal. Arsenal forward José Antonio Reyes became the second player to be sent off in cup final history, after his second yellow card in the 120th minute.


  1. ^ Fifield, Dominic; Brodkin, Jon; Kelso, Paul (26 October 2004). "Police could land Arsenal in the soup". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  2. ^ "History for Manchester, United Kingdom". Weather Underground. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "FA set to dismiss Fergie's dossier". Daily Mail (London: Associated Newspapers). 1 November 2004. 
  4. ^ Kempson, Russell (23 November 2004). "Wenger may take 'buffet battle' off the menu". Times Online (London: Times Newspapers). Retrieved 3 June 2009. 
  5. ^ Kay, Oliver (11 November 2004). "After "Battle of the Buffet, rivals ready for second helpings". Times Online (London: Times Newspapers). Retrieved 3 June 2009. 
  6. ^ "Arsenal at the double". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 16 May 1998. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "History". Premier League. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Kay, Oliver (24 October 2004). "Match of the season". The Observer (London). Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  9. ^ Wells, Matt (25 April 2003). "Niche TV overtakes big five in ratings battle". The Guardian (London). p. 7. 
  10. ^ Gray, Andy (2005). Gray Matters. Pan Macmillan. p. 254. ISBN 0-3304-3199-4. 
  11. ^ "Van Nistelrooy accused". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 22 September 2003. Retrieved 18 January 2009. 
  12. ^ Williams, Richard (24 September 2003). "Battle of Old Trafford a convenient step to vault on to a high horse". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  13. ^ Thomas, Russell (18 October 2004). "Wenger draws on fountain of Arsenal youth". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  14. ^ Ridley, Ian (17 October 2004). "Ferguson draws little comfort as United misfire". The Observer (London). Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Winter, Henry (9 August 2004). "Arsenal show there is life beyond Vieira". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "Wayne Rooney: Yeah, I dive - but only on holiday". Daily Mail (London: Associated Newspapers). 4 September 2009. 
  17. ^ Kempson, Russell (25 October 2004). "The defence". The Times (London). p. S2. 
  18. ^ a b c "FA acts after Old Trafford battle". BBC Sport. 25 October 2004. Retrieved 17 November 2007. 
  19. ^ "Who hit Sir Alex with pizza?". 27 October 2004. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  20. ^ "Selfish, lazy youngsters cost Arsenal the season - Cole". 13 September 2006. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  21. ^ "Tough tackling Fabregas proves Arsenal are gunning for bullies, says Clichy". Daily Mail. 16 August 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  22. ^ "Fabregas revealed as Gunner who fired pizza at Fergie". The People. 13 November 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  23. ^ "Fabregas confirmed as 'Battle of the Buffet' culprit who threw pizza at Sir Alex Ferguson". Mancunian Matters. 15 November 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  24. ^ "Ferguson: Wenger's fists were clenched". ESPN. 23 October 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  25. ^ a b c "Wenger blasts Riley's performance". BBC Sport. 25 October 2004. Retrieved 17 November 2007. 
  26. ^ "Van Nistelrooy accepts FA charge". BBC Sport. 26 October 2004. Retrieved 17 November 2007. 
  27. ^ "Highbury tunnel players in clear". BBC Sport. 2 February 2005. Retrieved 17 November 2007. 
  28. ^ "Man Utd 1-0 Arsenal". BBC Sport. 1 December 2004. Retrieved 19 May 2012.