HARRISON, N.J. – As one of the lightning rods in a fierce rivalry between Arsenal and Manchester United in the last decade, the expectation was that New York Red Bulls forward and ex-Gunner Thierry Henry would have some pointed words about the MLS All-Stars facing the Red Devils on July 27 at Red Bull Arena.
Instead, Henry's verbal jabs showed his contempt for another English club.
“For an Arsenal guy, it’s always a special one, playing Man. United,” Henry said at a press gathering at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday. “But it’s not the same type of rivalry like between Tottenham and Arsenal. With Tottenham it was pure hate.
“Arsenal and United, we were fighting for the league but there is a respect. They were respecting us and we respected them. The respect will always be there for Man United.”
During Henry's time at Arsenal between 1999 and 2007, Arsenal claimed two English Premier League titles to Manchester United's four, with the Gunners finishing runners-up to Sir Alex Ferguson's squad on three of those occasions.
The two clubs are once again in the running for the EPL title this year, as Arsenal sit five points back with a game in hand.
Henry, who will be expected to be part of the MLS All-Star squad in his home stadium, said the matchup against the Red Devils could be an even bigger game for fellow Designated Player David Beckham, who plays for the LA Galaxy and was a former Manchester United star.
Although he admitted there were a fair share of arguments in the tunnel and on the field when Arsenal and Manchester United clashed, Henry tipped his cap to Ferguson’s ability to keep his team at the top over a number of years.
[inline_node:332365]“At the end of the day, you have to say they won the title more than us, but we had some great battles,” Henry said. “We had our good moments and they had their good moments.”
Whatever his fortunes were against Manchester United back in England, Henry was upbeat about the All-Stars’ chances against the current EPL leaders come July. He cited last year's performance by FC Dallas against Inter Milan and Kansas City’s victory over Manchester United in addition to the Red Bulls’ success against Tottenham and Manchester City in a tournament held at Red Bull Arena.
“[The All-Star Game] will be a great way to show what the MLS is all about, even though it can always be tricky because the players don’t know each other,” Henry said. “The quality is here. When you see some of the guys like [Javier] Morales in Salt Lake, [Fredy] Montero playing for Seattle –
these are quality players, you cannot deny that.”
The Red Bulls DP was part of the welcoming committee for Ferguson, who toured Red Bull Arena for the first time and participated with Henry in a photo-op on the stadium field. The Frenchman said the Red Devils manager was “more than amazed with the stadium.”
As far as more immediate matters are concerned, Henry confirmed what his manager Hans Backe said on Monday: After a weekend off, the Frenchman is fully recovered from a hamstring injury and will be available for selection ahead of the home game on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo.
“I was pretty stupid to carry on playing against Seattle [on March 19],” said Henry, who admitted he injured a hamstring in the opening minutes against the Sounders. “I should have come out. When you’re warm and you’re on the field, you don’t want to leave. And we took the decision the other day to not risk it against Columbus [on March 26].
“Hopefully [the hamstring injury] is in the past and we can move on.”