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10 of the Premier League’s Most Intense Rivalries

Over the years, there have been a number of truly intense rivalries in the Premier League; here we look at the most dramatic of them.

Over the years, there have been some extreme rivalries in the Premier League with great players facing off against each other. Here we explore some of the most dramatic of them and the memories they have left us with.

Roy Keane v Patrick Vieira

This is perhaps the most exciting rivalry in Premier League history and one that can be seen as embodying much of what English football is about. It took place during the period when Arsenal and Manchester United were the two best teams in the league with the two best managers and two of the greatest players.

They have a truly rich history that was full of thrilling moments. They had a famous encounter in August 1999, Keane used to taunt Vieira saying he was “excited” to face him rather than intimidated, and each time they met, it was sure to be an exciting occasion.

They even left the league at roughly the same time. Vieira moved to Juventus in August 2005 and Keane left in November of the same year. The two certainly played off each other and it is likely that neither would have been quite so good had they not had the other to inspire them.

Patrice Evra v Luis Suarez

This was perhaps one of the more bitter rivalries in the Premier League; however, Luis Suarez remains entirely unapologetic about it, declaring in his 2014 autobiography, “I don’t ever plan to speak to Evra again in my life”, saying that the Manchester United player was playing the “innocent victim” while he was left with his “character tarnished forever”.

In truth, it was a dispute that was not befitting of the players and it soon led to tensions between the fans. Both teams’ fans suddenly became expert lip-readers, Spanish speakers, and lawyers, with their opinions closely aligned to the shirts that they wore.

Suarez has apologised for just one thing, the time he refused to shake Evra’s hand before a Premier League match in February 2012, four months after he had allegedly racially abused Evra and two months after he was handed an eight-match ban by the FA. The Liverpool response to the ban was Suarez, the manager, and all the other players wearing t-shirts supporting Suarez before a match with Wigan.

Due to the muddling of events and various comments made, it was impossible to know exactly what happened. However, there is no doubt that some lines were crossed. Evra retaliated, celebrating in front of Suarez after a win at Old Trafford and then mocking him by biting into a severed arm during celebrations when United won the league the next season. Overall, the entire episode left a bitter taste.

Peter Schmeichel v Ian Wright

Back in the 1990s, the rivalry between these two was intense and it was no exaggeration when John Motson said, “And a good save by Schmeichel, the man who always seems to foil Ian Wright”. In fact, Wright only managed to score against Schmeichel once, in a 1993 Charity Shield defeat. However, the hostilities between the two went much deeper.

Wright had a genuine hatred for Schmeichel. While the issue was cleared up a long time ago, Schmeichel was accused of racially abusing Write during a Premier League game in November 1996. It took until a month after their next meeting in the following February for criminal charges to be dropped. During that meeting, Schmeichel made a number of saves from Wright and Wright launched a two-footed tackle on Schmeichel that did not even receive a booking.

However, the pair reconciled after retiring from playing when they were both pundits at the 2002 World Cup. While Schmeichel’s claim that “there was never anything serious between us” was clearly not true, it was probably accurate when he later said that “he was the one guy I always wanted to stop” and that Wright “looked at me and thought the same thing”.

Graeme Le Saux v Robbie Fowler


When Liverpool faced Chelsea in February 1999, there had been rumours that Graeme Le Saux was homosexual for around eight years. All because he was known to have gone on a camping trip with Ken Monkou, earn a degree at university, enjoy art and read The Guardian.

While supporters had taunted him for a long time, it was Robbie Fowler who first brought it to the pitch. After fouling Le Saux at Stamford Bridge, he then pointed to his behind and shouted, “Come on, come on, give it to me up the arse.”

Le Saux then refused to take the free kick until Fowler had apologised, but he was then booked himself for wasting time. Le Saux then retaliated with an elbow towards the end of the match, and while that went unpunished, the FA gave both players fines and bans. Overtime their resentment for one another faded.

Roy Keane v Alf Inge Haaland

Not only had Haaland and Keane faced each other before Leeds hosted Manchester United in September 1997, but they almost played for the same team. Notting Forest tried to sign the Norwegian in October 1992 but he did not join until December 1993, by which point Keane was already at Manchester United.

While their first few matches passed by smoothly, Haaland decided to provoke things when Keane ruptured his cruciate ligament when trying to trip him. Haaland’s reaction was something that Keane mentioned in his autobiography years later when explaining his retribution, “Don’t ever stand over me again sneering about fake injuries.”

Keane said that he had “waited long enough” when he allowed residual tensions to boil over during a Manchester derby. He was then sent off, fined and given an even longer ban when he suggested the knee-high tackle was premediated. Haaland then threatened legal action upon his retirement due to injury. Neither play emerged from the incident looking particularly good.

Jamie Carragher v El Hadji Diouf


The tension between Jamie Carragher and El Hadji Diouf did not become public until 2008 when Carragher described Diouf as the “last pick” in five-a-side training games, and called him “the only No. 9 ever to go through a whole season without scoring”. In response, Diouf told The Sun that the defender was “like a make of ketchup or mustard to a normal person” and “was jealous of me”.

Since then both have refused to let the argument go. In 2015, Diouf called Carragher a “turkey” and the next year he called him a sh*t” and “a f**king loser”. Carragher has called Diouf his “worst” teammate a number of occasions. The two faced each other nine times after parting in 2004 and Diouf won and scored just once.

John Terry v Wayne Bridge


In February 2010, Wayne Bridge refused to shake John Terry’s hand. It came just a month after the news broke that the Chelsea centre-half had attempted to impose a super-injunction on allegations of a four-month long affair with the City left-back’s former girlfriend, and the wound was still fresh.

The incident led to Terry being removed as England captain and it wasn’t long until Bridge announced his permanent retirement from international duty. He played just once more against his former teammate and once again refused to shake hands before a 3-0 defeat for West Ham in April 2011.

Roy Keane v Alan Shearer

Roy Keane was known for his temper and the rivalry between these two began due to the cynical gamesmanship of Shearer towards the end of a 4 – 3 Premier League win for Newcastle that was preceded by Keane aiming a throw-in at the back of his head, and then accidentally making referee Steve Bennet drop his cards when throwing a punch in the fight that followed. The two very rarely met after that incident and Shearer once suggested that he would have punched Keane if possible.

Nemanja Vidic v Fernando Torres


Refreshingly, this rivalry was the result of good-natured conflict and competition. The two battled regularly but never made any outrageous claims in books, they did not dig at each other in public forums, and they seem to have maintained a mutual respect in retirement, even if they aren’t lavishing praise on one another.

However, there was clear tension between the two when they faced each other between 2007 and 2010. Many people believe that it originated when Vidic was left sprawled on the pitch as Torres flew past to equalise in Liverpool’s 4 – 1 win in March 2009. However, Vidic was just as capable of performances as impressive as Torres was.

Jamie Carragher v Lucas Neill

The rivalry between these players goes back to a Premier League game in 2003 when Neill shattered Carragher’s leg with a terrible challenge that left Carragher contemplating revenge. In his 2008 autobiography he wrote, “My mates were ready to hunt him down if I gave the go-ahead” and said that it was only the presence of Rovers midfielder David Thompson, who is a close friend of Carragher, that prevented an “assault” being carried out on Neill in a Manchester shopping centre.

OCA News Editor