Martin Keown says Ruud van Nistelrooy was ‘petrified’ after the Arsenal defender apologised to the Manchester United striker

Martin Keown trolled Ruud van Nistelrooy after his penalty miss for Manchester United in 2003
Martin Keown trolled Ruud van Nistelrooy after his penalty miss for Manchester United in 2003 (Getty Images)

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown claims Ruud van Nistelrooy looked ‘petrified’ after he offered an apology to the Manchester United striker for his actions during ‘The Battle of Old Trafford’ in 2003.

Keown was at the heart of one of the moment infamous moments in Premier League history as he jumped on Van Nistelrooy moments after the Dutchman missed a last-minute penalty which would have given United the win over Arsenal.

The incident sparked a brawl between both sides as the match ended goalless, while Arsenal went on to finish the league season unbeaten and were crowned champions.

In a conversation about the incident between Keown and his former Arsenal teammate Ray Parlour, Van Nistelrooy was accused of sparking the feud after Patrick Vieira was sent off for kicking out at the Dutchman.

‘This was the turning point where I really thought we were going to struggle with our captain getting sent off in a big game,’ Parlour told BT Sport.

‘You can see Patrick, he’s put his foot out, he hasn’t touched him nowhere near Van Nistelrooy, he hasn’t touched him and that what started the whole feud.’

Speaking about the match and the incident, Keown said: ‘The game was simple it was going to be a draw then a penalty was given against me which I didn’t think was a penalty.

‘I knew I was going to get the blame and by the way there’s no unbeaten season if this goes in. This was massive this miss.

‘We know we’ve lost this game you’d put your house on Van Nistelrooy.

Martin Keown was banned for three games for his actions towards Ruud van Nistelrooy
Martin Keown was banned for three games for his actions towards Ruud van Nistelrooy (AFP via Getty Images)

‘We were out of order we shouldn’t have reacted like that but it was such a passionate game and you can see the players reacting.

‘I think they put us out of the FA Cup semi-final and that was the next time I shook Van Nistelrooy’s hand and he looked a bit petrified when I offered to shake hands with him. He seemed to accept my apology but we weren’t carrying any issues we had respect for them, these were really talented players.

‘I know we won the league but there’s things we should have achieved and didn’t.

‘In that semi-final I had the chance to speak with him and shake his hand and he seemed okay with it.

‘But we had a history. There’d been quite a few incidents between me and him and it was about trusting your opponent. I like to play against players I could trust.

‘Physically, he would collapse in the box like a pack of cards one minute the next minute he would be a tough individual.

‘It was a trust thing when it came to that game he got Patrick sent off and it just exploded.’

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