Cristiano Ronaldo is grabbing the headlines in Saudi Arabia, Emmanuel Adebayor is back in Togo, and Wayne Rooney is finding success in MLS… but what happened to the other Man United and Arsenal stars who faced off in their last title battle 15 years ago?
- Manchester United came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 on April 13, 2008
- The Red Devils went on to lift the Premier League trophy at the end of the season
- Cristiano Ronaldo – who plays for Al-Nassr now – scored for United from the spot
- Both sides will resume rivalry at the top when they face each other on Sunday
- READ: Arsenal’s clash with United is their biggest in the league for 15 years
Manchester United’s trip to Arsenal on Sunday has become a fixture that few would have predicted to be a potentially decisive clash in the title race ahead of the start of the season.
Flashback 15 years and Old Trafford played host to a similarly important tie, with the Red Devils coming from behind to beat the Gunners 2-1 and move six points clear in their ultimately successful pursuit of a 10th Premier League title.
It was a game studded with some of the best talent English football had to offer, but where are the players from that match now?
Cristiano Ronaldo was on the scoresheet as Manchester United came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 on April 13, 2008
One of the best goalkeepers in the club’s modern history, Edwin van der Sar arrived at Old Trafford in 2005, and spent six trophy-laden years there before retiring in 2011 as a European, English and world champion.
Since hanging up his gloves, Van der Sar was appointed former club Ajax’s marketing director in 2012, before being promoted to CEO in 2016 – a role that he still performs in at the Dutch giants to this day.
Edwin van der Sar (right) lifted the Champions League trophy at the end of the 2007-08 season
Defenders – Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Gerard Pique, Patrice Evra
Wes Brown broke into the senior side as a United academy product, and quickly became a key member of one of the club’s most successful defensive units in their history, playing as both a right-back and a centre-back.
Brown also left in 2011, but went on to play for Sunderland, Blackburn and even Indian outfit Kerala blasters before calling time on his career. Although he holds a UEFA A license, the ex-England star is not in a coaching role and has not returned to the game.
Regarded as one of the greatest English centre-backs of all-time, Rio Ferdinand played for the Red Devils for 12 years, leaving age 35 to spend one season with QPR before retiring.
He has since found similar acclaim as a well-respected pundit for BT, as well as the BBC, and remains closely associated with United while also speaking out in defence of former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo during his punditry career.
Rio Ferdinand was one of the best centre-backs of his generation for both club and country
Gerard Pique’s stay at Manchester United was fleeting, before returning to Barcelona where he quickly become one of the best in the world, but he was a key part of the side that won the league in 2007-08.
One of football’s most restless minds even before his 2021 retirement, Pique has since formed a sports and media investment group, Kosmos Holding, that has purchased a football club, revamped tennis’ Davis Cup competition, created a new sport in the Ballon World Cup, formed an eSports team and created the Kings League – a seven-aside tournament played in Barcelona.
Another United star to move into punditry after retirement, Patrice Evra wore United red for eight years up until 2014 and while at the club asserted himself as one of the world’s leading left-backs.
The Frenchman is now a regular on Sky Sports, but can also be seen on the smaller screen making numerous television appearances on shows like A League of Their Own and Freeze the Fear with Wim Hoff.
Patrice Evra helped guide Manchester United to a 10th Premier League trophy in 2007-08
Midfielders – Owen Hargreaves, Cristiano Ronaldo, Park Ji-sung, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes
Owen Hargreaves actually gave United the winner against Arsenal all those years ago with a sublime free-kick that was a well-known tool in his arsenal as a prominent midfielder – perhaps one of the most underrated of his generation.
Like Ferdinand, Hargreaves is now most commonly seen by BT Sport viewers, as well as working as an analyst on CNN. Hargreaves is also one of very few players to have played for both the red and blue sides of Manchester in his career.
Ronaldo now turns out for Saudi Pro-League side Al-Nassr
A player that needs no introduction. What is there to say about his dizzying career that has not already been said? Five Ballon d’Or awards, five Champions Leagues, league titles in three different countries so far – the list goes on.
The Portuguese icon scored the first United goal in their comeback win over Arsenal and was still only beginning to realise the mercurial talent he possessed before moving to Real Madrid a year later. The only player on his side still active, turning out for Saudi Pro-League side Al-Nassr.
Park Ji-sung was the terrier in midfield that did the dirty work for Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering United sides, turning man-marking into an art – just ask Andrea Pirlo! Spent seven successful years at United before following Ferdinand to QPR.
After hanging up his well-worn boots in 2014, Park returned to QPR where he spent time as a youth-team coach under the tutelage of technical director Chris Ramsey with the west London club’s Under 16s.
One of the best-remembered midfielders in the club’s recent history, Michael Carrick racked up 464 appearances in the famous red shirt, and went on to win five Premier League titles and a Champions League before retiring at Old Trafford in 2018.
Carrick has recently found success as manager of Championship side Middlesbrough, succeeding Chris Wilder in 2022 and leading the side to fourth place in the second-tier – he seems destined for a return to the Premier League in the not too distant future.
Michael Carrick has found success as Middlesbrough manager and has taken the side up to fourth in the Championship
Carrick came up against Arsenal’s Alexandr Hleb in the match at Old Trafford 15 years ago
Paul Scholes was a selfless and masterful midfielder – a natural in the middle of the parkl but could also play out of position under Ferguson and Sven-Goran Eriksson for England, especially on the left. Scholes is the club’s third-highest appearance maker, tenth-highest goal scorer and undoubtedly one of the best passers of a ball in United’s history.
After winning an astounding eighth Premier League title in 2008, Scholes retired in 2011 before coming back to win two more titles before finally calling it a day for good in 2013. Became a coach, and was notably appointed as Oldham manager for a brief spell of 23 days. A scorer of great goals, Scholes now describes them for BT Sport viewers – a well-trodden path for the United team of 2007-08!
Striker – Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney had the playing career many dream of – captain and top scorer for both England and Manchester United. In the 2007-08 season he was in his prime, and scored 12 and assisted another 13 in 27 games as United swept to the title.
Having retired while at Derby County in 2021, Rooney briefly served as the club’s manager in their darkest spell in history as the club struggled to avoid the sanctions imposed by financial mismanagement. After acquitting himself well despite relegation to League One, England’s greatest ever striker found a more stable position with DC United where he is still manager.
Ex-England striker Wayne Rooney is the leading goal scorer in Manchester United’s history
Goalkeeper – Jens Lehmann
Jens Lehmann was the goalkeeper at the heart of the Invincibles, but by April 2008 was somewhat past his best and in fact left the club at the end of the season.
After a brief return to north London as a coach under Arsene Wenger in 2017-18, Lehmann has held various roles in Germany, including assistant manager to Augsburg boss Manuel Baum in 2019.
Jens Lehmann left the Gunners at the end of the 2007-08 season after being part of the Invincible side of 2003-04
Defenders – Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Gael Clichy
Another key part of Wenger’s Invincibles, Kolo Toure remained at the club until 2009, when he left for Manchester City and latterly Liverpool and Celtic, where he would retire in 2017.
Arguably one of the rambunctious defender’s biggest achievements came in November 2022, when he was named as the first ever African international to take charge of a senior English side when he was appointed Wigan boss. He is still in the job at the Latics, but the club are in trouble at the bottom of the Championship on just 25 points.
One of London’s most controversial journeyman defenders, Gallas was culpable for the handball that gave Ronaldo the chance to level the game from the spot on that fateful day in April 2008.
Having featured for Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea – and made it out of the capital unscathed – Gallas retired at Perth Glory in Australia in 2014 and has since quietly enjoyed the end of his career away from the limelight, although he has served as a pundit on occasion for Premier League action in France.
William Gallas gave away the penalty that allowed Ronaldo to get United back into the game
Gael Clichy joined Arsenal in 2003, and played a liminal role in the Invincibles season of 2003-04, before racking up 264 games in north London, leaving in 2011 for Manchester City where he would enjoy the most successful spell of his career.
Remarkably Clichy is still an active player, although he would have been only 22 in April 2008. The Frenchman is currently with Servette in the Swiss Super League, having spent time with West Brom and Basaksehir after leaving City.
Midfielders – Emmanuel Eboue, Gilberto Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Alexander Hleb, Alexandre Song
It is easy to forget just how long Emmanuel Eboue spent at the Gunners, but in seven years he would make 214 appearances in the red shirt of Arsenal, with arguably his most famous moment coming when he scored against Blackburn in 2009 and produced a dance in the corner that the Brazilian national team would be proud of.
After seven years the Ivorian defender left for Galatasaray, before returning fleetingly to Sunderland in 2016, although he failed to take to the pitch in the Premier League.
The Invincible that is often forgotten, Arsenal’s 2002 World Cup winner Gilberto Silva was a midfield maestro that could possibly even now make it into the team, so brilliant was he with the ball at his feet. Gilberto spent six years at the club before moves to Greece and Brazil saw out the twilight years of his surprisingly glittering career.
Gilberto Silva left Arsenal after six years at the climax of the 2007-08 Premier League season
Whilst not actively involved with football eight years after his retirement, those desperate for a glimpse of the name Gilberto Silva can travel to London Zoo, where a giant anteater was named after him – with the former player describing it as his ‘slightly more hairy brother’!
Cesc Fabregas is a divisive figure in north London – although we will be getting to an even more audience-splitting figure later – but was easily one of the most talented players to come through the ranks in the 21st century, inheriting Gallas’ captaincy later in 2008.
Cesc Fabregas inherited the captaincy in 2008 before leaving for Barcelona
Fabregas is still in action, turning out for Serie B side Como – where Dennis Wise is president – having returned to Barcelona from London before moves to Chelsea and Monaco. Fabregas famously set up Andres Iniesta’s World Cup winning goal in 2010 for one of the most iconic moments in football history, and has regularly served as a pundit on the BBC.
Belarus legend Alexander Hleb made 19 distinct transfer moves in his long career, but spent three of his best years at Arsenal, but left just a few weeks after the loss to United having plead guilty to violent conduct against Reading’s Graeme Murty and picking up a three-game ban.
Hleb still resides in the Belarussian capital Minsk, as of May 2022, and operated as a pundit for the Russian sports channel ‘Match TV’ as a pundit.
Cameroon star Alexandre Song’s most famous moment at Arsenal arguably came when he provided the assist for Thierry Henry’s comeback goal against Leeds in 2012, but he was a diligent servant at the Emirates. Known for his wild hairstyles, Song was an adept passer of the ball.
The third of this midfield five to go on to play for Barca, Song also spent time with West Ham, Rubin Kazan and FC Sion before joining Djiboutian outfit AS Arta/Solar7, where he still resides if any die-hard supporters should want to remind themselves of his capabilities.
Strikers – Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor
Robin van Persie
A name that draws a steely glare from any Arsenal fan nowadays, Robin van Persie was of course one of the club’s greatest strikers in their history, and provided the assist for Emmanuel Adebayor’s opener in this game.
Robin van Persie was one of Arsenal’s greatest ever strikers before his acrimonious exit
Van Persie infamously left the Gunners for United four years after this game, and would go on to lift the Premier League trophy with the Red Devils before moves to Turkey and his native Holland. There were very few players that could hit a ball on the volley like Van Persie – or even a diving header – and he can now be found as a coach at Feyenoord.
Emmanuel Adebayor ‘scored’ the goal for Arsenal in this game, but the only thing many Gunners fans remember about his performance is the fact that the ball clearly came off his hand and he missed numerous gilt-edged chances before scoring.
Adebayor is also still active – the 38-year-old rangy striker turns out for AC Semassi in his native Togo, after infamous spells with Man City, Real Madrid, Tottenham, Crystal Palace, Basaksehir, Kayserispor, and Olimpia in Paraguay followed his Arsenal career.
Emmanuel Adebayor scored the opening goal for Arsenal and has gone on to feature for a number of different clubs since
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