It seems fair to say that Manchester United and Arsenal, two of English football’s biggest clubs, are not exactly the best of friends. The pair have contested a fierce rivalry over the years, with on-pitch tensions reaching a boiling point during the glory days of Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.
As a result of their mutual dislike, the two clubs do not regularly conduct business with each other in the transfer market.
However, a deal could soon be on the horizon if United decide to act on their reported interest in Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The Arsenal utility man is being tracked by those at Old Trafford, according to the Daily Mail, with the Red Devils looking to provide Aaron Wan-Bissaka with some additional competition for the right-back spot.
They are likely to face a battle for his signature, with Everton, Leeds United and Southampton also said to be keeping a close eye on the 23-year-old’s situation in north London.
Although moves between United and Arsenal are uncommon, they are not unheard of with a number of players previously going both ways and experiencing varying degrees of success.
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The most recent switch between the two heavyweights saw Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap places in 2018.
The former was Arsenal’s best player at the time, but was widely expected to pursue a move away and the Chilean forward did just that when United came calling.
Despite arriving at Old Trafford with plenty of promise, he failed to make any sort of lasting impact and was sold to Inter Milan after just two seasons.
Meanwhile, Mkhitaryan had a slightly better time of things in north London but eventually joined Roma after struggling to establish himself as a standout player.
Danny Welbeck had made the switch between the Red Devils and Arsenal four years earlier, with his decision doing very little to please United supporters.
The 30-year-old progressed through the club’s academy but opted to join their London rivals in 2014, with the Gunners shelling out a fee of £18million to secure his services.
Welbeck went on to make 126 appearances for Arsenal, chipping in with 32 goals, before signing for Watford in 2019 on a free transfer.
Perhaps the most controversial move between Arsenal and United came in 2012 when Robin van Persie dumped the Gunners in order to try his luck in Manchester.
The Dutch forward had finally established himself as a focal point in Wenger’s side after struggling with injuries for a number of years, and supporters were outraged when he chose to jump ship.
United paid £27m for their man, who turned out to be worth every penny within the first year of his contract.
He scored 26 league goals in a formidable first season at the club to help secure the Premier League title in 2013.
Another fairly recent bit of business saw French defender Mikael Silvestre join Arsenal from United 13 years ago for less than £1m.
He spent nine years at Old Trafford and claimed eight major honours, including the Champions League title in 1999, before deciding to sign for the Gunners.
Silvestre nearly accepted an offer from Manchester City but placed his faith in Wenger and Arsenal, making 43 appearances for the club before leaving on a free transfer two years later.
It remains to be seen whether Maitland-Niles will become the next player to move between the Gunners and United, but history suggests that the success or failure of a potential transfer would be almost impossible to predict.
If the Red Devils manage to seal the West Bromwich Albion loanee’s signature this summer, he will undoubtedly be aiming to replicate the fortunes of Van Persie rather than the shortcomings and struggles of Sanchez.