Wenger affords a smile as he remembers Battle of the Buffet

LONDON (Reuters) - Arsene Wenger often says he has no time to look back because he is so focused on the future but he spent a minute reminiscing on Friday on the 10th anniversary of the defeat to Manchester United that ended Arsenal's famous 49-match unbeaten run.

The match is not only memorable for United's 2-0 win but also for what happened in the tunnel afterwards when an Arsenal player, believed to have been Cesc Fabregas but never confirmed, threw a pizza that hit the then-United manager Alex Ferguson in the face and slid down the front of his smart black suit.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Wenger was asked whether he was now, in the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act, finally prepared to name the guilty man.

He was not.

"What happened in the tunnel would make a good film," a smiling Wenger told reporters on Friday.

"I think honestly, in a film, I think I know who I would give the role to -- and you know as well."

The bust-up in the tunnel -- or the Battle of the Buffet as it became known because it also involved flying cups of tea, soup and sandwiches -- came at the height of the intense rivalry between the clubs.

Between them they had won the previous nine Premier League titles, but Arsenal's success in the 2003-04 season when they won 26 of their 38 matches and drew the other 12 was the standout achievement.


They became only the second team after Preston North End in 1888-89 to go through an entire English league season unbeaten and by the time they played United at Old Trafford on Oct.24 2004 their unbeaten run stretched to 49 games.

One of the key moments in the run came at Old Trafford 13 months previously when the teams drew 0-0 in a match that featured a 25-man brawl, substitutes included, and Arsenal had Patrick Vieira sent off.

Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a late penalty that would have ended Arsenal's run before it had really gathered momentum -- famously being harangued by Martin Keown and other Arsenal players after his spot kick failure.

But revenge eventually came United's way the following October when they won 2-0 with van Nistelrooy scoring from the spot after Sol Campbell was ruled to have fouled Wayne Rooney after 73 minutes.

Rooney wrapped up the win with United's second in the last minute.

Wenger though, said on Friday he thought the run should not have ended that October day.

"I think it was an incredible run. I think it was only ended by bad refereering on the day and I will never forget that," he said.

In the event, neither United or Arsenal won the title that season because Chelsea finished top for their first title success since 1955.

Arsenal did win the FA Cup in May 2005 -- beating United on penalties in the final in Cardiff -- but 10 years on, the title has still not returned to the Emirates stadium.

(Editing by Martyn Herman)

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