The battle of the two evenly match Cup giants: Arsenal v Manchester United

by Bulldog Drummond

These two clubs – Arsenal and Manchester United – utterly dominate the FA Cup between them.  Indeed the total number of finals that they have played in (20 each) dwarf other clubs as the table below shows.


Club Wins Total final appearances
Arsenal 13 20
Manchester United 12 20
Liverpool 7 14
Chelsea 8 13
Newcastle United 6 13
Everton 5 13
Aston Villa 7 11
Manchester City 5 10
West Bromwich Albion 5 10

It would, obviously, take Liverpool, the nearest challengers, six seasons of consecutive finals to catching up either Arsenal or Manchester United – and no club has ever had six consecutive finals.   Three in fact is the maximum.

So in reality the two clubs playing on Friday are in effect something around a minimum of 12 years ahead of any other team – given the number of finals clubs manage to get to over time.  And it could be far more than 12, assuming more normal performances from other clubs and a sudden and absolute cup failure by both Arsenal and Manchester United.

Which again is unlikely to happen.

And as can be seen if we move away from finals and look at the number of times the Cup has been won, Arsenal are on top, as I am sure you will know, with Manchester United one behind.  And then we have Chelsea five cup wins behind – which would take at least 10 years to make up, but in reality and almost certainly, far more.

And in the meanwhile both of the clubs playing on Friday could indeed keep coming up with more!  In fact that seems the most likely scenario for the future.

Here is a bit more of the historical context.

Club Wins First final won Last final won Runners-up Last final lost
Arsenal 13 1930 2017 7 2001
Manchester United 12 1909 2016 8 2018
Chelsea 8 1970 2018 5 2017
Tottenham Hotspur 8 1901 1991 1 1987
Liverpool 7 1965 2006 7 2012

Interestingly Manchester United and Tottenham started winning the trophy in much earlier times, when of course it was much easier to win with far fewer big time clubs in the competition.

Tottenham still make much of winning in 1901 when they were in the Southern League, but it those days, the Football League was just two divisions and the Southern League was a much stronger league than now.  Indeed at that time the Southern League had the advantage of not using the Retain and Transfer System which meant players had more freedom, and so many top players chose to play for the Southern League clubs rather than have a much more restrictive Football League contract.

Here are the recent FA Cup games between ourselves and Manchester United

Date Game Res
12 May 1979 Arsenal v Manchester United W 3-2
16 Apr 1983 Arsenal v Manchester United L 1-2
20 Feb 1988 Arsenal v Manchester United W 2-1
11 Apr 1999 Manchester United v Arsenal D 0-0
14 Apr 1999 Arsenal v Manchester United L 1-2
15 Feb 2003 Manchester United v Arsenal W 0-2
03 Apr 2004 Arsenal v Manchester United L 0-1
21 May 2005 Arsenal v Manchester United W 0-0
16 Feb 2008 Manchester United v Arsenal L 4-0
12 Mar 2011 Manchester United v Arsenal L 2-0
09 Mar 2015 Manchester United v Arsenal W 1-2

As you can see, since the famous final of 1979 when we scored right at the very end, we’ve not really had the best of times in the cup against Manchester United.  But then nor have they had against us.

In the table above including the 1979 game the results show

  • Arsenal have won five
  • Manchester United have won five
  • One game has been a draw

Cup games do seem to be something unto themselves, and perhaps it is inevitable that the two sides have indeed been so closely aligned across these recent matches.  Only once, as the list shows, has a team scored more than two since the 1979 final, and that was when Manchester United beat Arsenal 4-0 at Old Trafford in 2008.

Likewise no team has had a running streak of wins – only once in the table above has a side won two FA Cup games in a row – Manchester United winning in 2008 and 2001.

Even home advantage doesn’t seem to count: we’ve lost three of our home FA Cup matches in the table above.  Manchester United have lost two and drawn one of their home games.   These two really are evenly matched when it comes to the FA Cup.

As ever, more anon….



5 Replies to “The battle of the two evenly match Cup giants: Arsenal v Manchester United”

  1. is there an error in the first table as the scum are not shown and yet, in the second table they are shown to have won the FA cup 8 times?

  2. While I think that the Spuds will not be winning any silverware this season ,as is the norm for them, I would be truly disappointed if there is no St.Totteringham’s Day this year !

  3. @ jjgsol

    The first table shows those with the most appearances in the final as the key factor. The Spuds have only appeared in nine so didn’t make that table.

  4. “Even home advantage doesn’t seem to count: we’ve lost three of our home FA Cup matches in the table above.”

    No, we didn’t. In fact, we haven’t lost any of the aforementioned games at home.

    The 1-2 defeat in the FA Cup semifinal 1983, the 1-2 defeat in the FA Cup semifinal replay 1999 and the 0-1 defeat in the FA Cup semifinal 2004 all took place at Villa Park as a neutral ground.

    We did lose twice at Old Trafford – 0-4 in 2008 and 0-2 in 2011 (a match famous by Ferguson’s mish-mash of a team with seven defenders beating us rather comfortably) – and for some reason, we have played just once on our home ground against Manchester United in the FA Cup (2-1 in 1988, with McClair missing a late penalty for the visitors). We have won twice at Old Trafford, once at Highbury and twice in the final on the neutral ground.

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