Revisiting the Battle of Old Trafford: Selfish Ronaldo, invisible Henry and a classic turned ugly

Arsenal's Martin Keown lets Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy know how he feels after the Dutchman's missed penalty. Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Welcome to the second edition of our weekend sport review - during the times of no live sport -- where we remove our journalist caps and let the fan inside take over. After last week's diary entry from a sport-starved fan, this time around, we assembled ESPN India's (not so) smartest and most restless minds to revisit some classic games, and sprinkle some of their expert analysis, insights, and mildly disturbing segues.

This week we decided to dust off the office time machine and travel back to the infamous Battle of Old Trafford in 2003. With the likes of Bergkamp, Giggs, Ronaldo and Henry all on the pitch, we sit back for a nice, calm, non-controversial, relaxing game of football...

The first flare-up occurs even before kick-off, as resident Gooner Saket Parekar wheels off the complaints early.

Saket: Ninety minutes of this game with MUTV commentary? Can someone please find another link?

Sadly, his request goes unheard by United fans Anirudh Menon and Anuj Vignesh. Karthik Iyer, a Fulham fan (no, really), chuckles away in a corner.

The line-ups are announced, and there is amusement from all quarters.

Anuj: No Scholes? A midfield of Quinton Fortune and Phil Neville isn't exactly inspiring confidence.

Saket: No Pires and Campbell for us, so pretty balanced. Then again, United have Silvestre in defence, so...

Anirudh: Bro, don't forget Silvestre is going to be a bargain for some London club, one day.

The referee blows the whistle, and we're underway. Tensions fly high between formerly good-natured colleagues as Bergkamp flies in with a challenge less than 60 seconds in.

Anuj: Dirty, dirty Bergkamp. But he's a technical genius, so watch the world conveniently forget that tackle.

Anirudh: And that too on John O'Shea. The world's greatest LB/RB/CB/CM/GK/ST.

Saket: Meanwhile, Van Nistelrooy can't get one half-decent touch.

Anirudh: But Phil Neville is going to dominate Vieira and Gilberto, isn't he?

Saket: He probably couldn't dominate a backyard game with his sons.

The game is a scrappy affair, and an 18-year-old Portuguese winger provides the first real glimpse of magic by leaving Ashley Cole for dead down the right flank.

Anuj: Oof! Complete destruction there. Taxi for Ashley, please.

Saket: Nobody destroyed anyone. Ronaldo hasn't made one meaningful dribble so far. Basically a more expensive Daniel James.

Anuj: True that. Don't see Ronaldo displacing David Bellion and Eric Djemba-Djemba from the XI anytime soon.

Karthik: He's too selfish. Never going to achieve anything in football unless he starts passing more.

Chances remain scarce, and with both teams struggling to string three passes together, Saket has no choice but to divert the focus back to the commentary.

Anuj: Boring, boring, long ball Arsenal.

Saket: Look at the great Gary Neville. His first touch is a tackle on Henry. Look at Silvestre, thinking he's Maldini. Look at Ronaldo, hilariously nutmegging himself. And look at Giggs shamelessly asking for a foul. Get up, old man.

Anirudh: To be fair, this Arsenal team is getting away with murder.

Saket: Kuch bhi! United fans so desperate to see the bright side from this dour game, they had to get an MUTV link. Pathetic commentary. "Oshea" and "Great balance" used in the same sentence. I give up.

Anirudh: Most natural sequence of words, ever.

Before Messi v Ronaldo, there was Henry v Van Nistelrooy. One of European football's most heated debates during the 2000s resurfaces as the Dutch striker loops a header just over the bar.

Saket: Haha, Ruud. Can't even put it into an empty net. But I don't blame him. Tough chance for amateurs.

Anuj: Speaking of amateurs, why did Wenger rest Henry for this game? They could certainly use him right about now *wink, wink*

Anirudh: Henry has walked around for half an hour doing nothing, pretending like he's coaching Monaco or something.

Half-time: 0-0. Chances few, talking points aplenty.

Anuj: A friendly reminder that this famed Arsenal attack couldn't find a way past Mikel Silvestre and John O'Shea.

Anirudh: Ah, playing for a draw, the 'Invincibles' way.

Karthik: Spoiler alert, Anirudh.

Saket: Must admit though that Roy Keane has been wonderful for Arsenal tonight. Effectively broken up all of United's plays.

Anuj: Ronaldo can be seriously frustrating at times. Really missing Becks down that right. One good cross is all that was required with the amount of space he is getting.

Anirudh: He's just not going to be a goal-scoring winger. Need to make peace with it.

Anuj: Wonder if Fergie will cut his losses and sell him next season. We could do with a more reliable talent. How's that Freddy Adu doing?

Saket: Take Scholes away, and United's midfield looks like Danny Drinkwater and Joey Barton pulling the strings.

Some existential questions are also raised, as we briefly break the kayfabe.

Anuj: Devil's Advocate. Say United go on to win this game (as they deservedly should), what does the future look like for both clubs?

Saket: Interesting one, that. Arsenal might have been a little less complacent in the years to come. Had Wenger lost the title, wouldn't have been completely surprised to see him accept an offer from abroad.

Karthik: Here's where I'm at. If United win this game, they win the league. The Arsenal board is forced to act and Wenger eventually steps down. He is replaced by a certain Portuguese coach who will win the Champions League with Porto at the end of this season. Jose leads Arsenal to a Premier League title and possibly a Champions League, before being sacked in 2007. Chelsea remain a mid-table club throughout.

Anuj: Get me tickets to that timeline, please.

The second half kicks off with more ugly tackles and interruptions. The reality dawns on us.

Anuj: Yeah, this game really isn't as good or competitive as I remembered it to be. Definitely wouldn't use the word "classic" again...

Saket: Amazing how bad this is. Can we just skip to the end already?

Anirudh: Calm down there, lad. Don't be like Wenger, always having one eye on the future.

More Dutch banter, as the game becomes tense

Anirudh: I know Bergkamp is afraid of flying, but is he also scared of touching the ball at Old Trafford?

Saket: Meanwhile, look at Ruud messing his first touch again. Absolute joke of a striker.

Anuj: Tell me about it. Incidentally, don't you have a Dutch striker in your ranks as well? Persie something?

Saket: Think you might have glimpsed into the future there. We don't get him for another year.

Anuj: Lucky buggers. He's touted to be a world-beater. Really wish United and Fergie could snap him up...

Saket: Yeah, I don't like talking about snakes. And let's be real here. Even these jokes aren't making this game bearable...

Flashpoint #1, as Viera sees red, lashing out at Van Nistelrooy

Anirudh: Absolute thug behaviour from Patrick, that.

Anuj: Such a dirty player.

Karthik: Ruud was so shocked he went and hid behind the ref.

Saket: Harry Maguire does the same thing, he is hailed a hero and wins a medal. The absolute hypocrisy of English fans...

Fergie-time approaches, and we all know what's coming

Anuj: Ok, brace yourselves, lads. It's almost here...

Anirudh: This tactical chess match of a game has already been wiped out from memory.

Saket: I'm reminded of that Friends episode when Rachel and Ross show that video to everyone, and Rachel says, "in 10 seconds you're about to see something", and Ross replies, "in about 5 seconds, you're gonna see why."

PENALTY TO MANCHESTER UNITED. Diego Forlan is adjudged to have been fouled inside the box, much to the dismay of all the Arsenal players. Van Nistelrooy steps up to take the spot kick and...

MUTV being MUTV, they have edited out the most important incident of this match. So we skip ahead.

Saket: Are you kidding me? They actually edited out the penalty...

Anuj: Hahaha

Anirudh: Hahaha

Karthik: Hahaha

Saket: I sat through 90 minutes of horrible football, with MUTV commentary, and they don't show the one happy moment for Arsenal fans. Embarrassing club. Embarrassing fans. Embarrassing players.

The video skips ahead to the post-match fracas, with all the players and support staff getting involved.

Karthik: Wow, who knew Fortune was such a fighter?

Anirudh: Lauren, Keown, Viera, Edu, all of them behaved like goons.

Anuj: Shocked that more players weren't hit with suspensions after this.

Saket: At least that look of disappointment on Ruud's face is all worth it.

So, final takeaways?

Anirudh: Boring Arsenal. Jose would have been proud of that double-parked bus.

Saket: Haha, look at Fergie moaning about the refereeing. Now you know how it feels...

Anuj: Premier League classic? NOT

Karthik: Any time any game is considered boring, it's always compared to a sparring match. Just how boring must boxing be?