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Manchester United v Arsenal: Wengerboys lose their bottle

August 30, 2009


This article was going to be very very different at half time…..

I wrote small sections of it in my head. About the failure of United’s 4-3-3 system as it had in the Champions League final. About the legs of Ryan Giggs no longer being able to get up the pitch in the role of attacking midfielder. About the shakiness of Michael Carrick. About Nani taking 6 minutes to cross the ball every time he was wide. About Wayne Rooney playing the role I hate him playing most…the isolated central striker. At half time, it felt like hopeless doom. And when they trotted out for the second half, and I saw no changes in formation. No substitutions. I thought it was all over. I prayed I wouldn’t have to write an article with the emphasis on “..if we had Ronaldo”

Thankfully that article is now in the mental waste bin

In what proved to be a manic game of football, full of Premiership grit and steel, United battled and out fought the Wengerboys to wrestle away the three points from the clasped hands of the North Londoners. It was not pretty. But it was effective. In fact, it was the United of old. ‘ If you can’t pick the lock of your opponents door, then you simply kick it down’.

I was worried when I heard the team announced as I arrived at Old Trafford. I could sense that Rooney would be isolated…both Nani and Valencia are far too conventional to play this system. They are made for 4-4-2. If the boss had played Berba up top with Rooney left and Park right, I would have got the idea…maybe even had been enthused by it. But I just felt deflated. I was happy with the rest of the team but could not see where the goals were gonna come from.

The first half was fairly even with good possession at times, but with no real attacking thrust. Rooney was frantically waving his hands as Giggs struggled to get the ball to him. At one stage there was no United player within 30 yards of Roo, so every time we attacked, Arsenal merely had to mark the space between midfield and attack…all way too easy for them. Arsenal started to look menacing as the half progressed. Arshavin was being allowed more and more space, and eventually it was this that led to the first goal. It was quite a beautiful strike, and the little Russian turned away to the crowd with his “finger to lips – shut your face” celebration…most original. The half time whistle could not come quick enough for us in the stands. To coin a Mancunian catchphrase, it was all going pear-shaped.

During half time I stood there mentally writing bits of my article. Actor heart-throb (and United mad) Max Beesley was wheeled out onto the pitch to make the draw in the match-day raffle. He enthusiastically shouted out on the mic that United would win 2-1. I thought he was an idiot but now realised he must be the owner of the Delorian from Back to the Future. What a clever man.

The Second half was very different. United meant business and we all reacted in the stands. Rooney upped his work rate. Giggs played a more disciplined role in the game, relying on his skill rather than his physical frame. And Darren Fletcher turned into Bryan Robson. The man is immense. Nobody (except maybe the manager) could have predicted what the Scotsman would turn in to. He is the sole reason why United have not added to the central midfield this year. For me now, he is United’s first choice central midfielder…(oh if we had had him in Rome) I would have sold Fletcher 3 years ago..when he could not string a pass together and ran around like a chicken missing it’s head. But his development has been poetic…’Young man from a nation in footballing decline..has limited ability but works like a dog and it all comes good for him!’ Just brilliant. We really need to get him a song for the OT crowd…he deserves it. Even Owen Hargreaves has his “curly hair” song and he has only played about 10 minutes for the club.

I’m not really going to go into depth about United’s two goals (for this is not really a match report but a reflection of the day) Rooney’s penalty was a definite foul. Abu Diaby’s header was the best own goal I have seen in years. And Arsenal’s 95th minute equalizer was a country mile offside in the first phase of play (the second phase of play – Van Persie’s shot at goal, was directly influenced by the first phase, so the offside stands) I wrote an article on my blog some weeks ago about the Madness of King Wenger. His reaction on the sidelines convinced me that Arsenal’s stoppage time effort must have been onside, but this was corrected when I saw the replay. The man is barmy! Yes, get upset when you definitely know something is wrong. But he would have seen the replay on the touchline. Him standing on the roof of the old tunnel will live in the memory of many United fan who witnessed it for years to come. One of football’s classy statesmen, once again allowing old age to effect his decision making, and hence treading on his own reputation as Brian Clough did in his later years (Punching fans, wearing green jumpers, being pissed, etc, etc) Arsene may yet have the last laugh, for his team played some good stuff and have started the season well…but the same problems that were there the day before the season started are all still there and cannot be clouded by some pretty, mathematically formulated football.

But just for now….we have the bragging rights.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2009 5:38 pm

    i have had the same problem with giggs since ’08 – “he’s too old, he shouldn’t start etc”. in fact, i’ve always bet on him to misplace 20 passes in the first half when he starts a game and more often than not, i win. but as always, i lose the winnings in the second half when he turns the game around with one brilliant pass.

    • August 30, 2009 7:53 pm

      :-( It’s like watching your dog start to deteriorate. I can’t handle it.

      • August 31, 2009 11:12 am

        i still think giggsy has a season or so left in him…but not in the role that fergie played him against arsenal. As a conventional central midfielder yes…his fitnees is still good, but he doesnt have the pace to play behind the striker or wide. I would have thought that Anderson was taylor made to play that role on sunday as he has the energy and creativity. Your dog isnt ready for the yard in the sky yet K

      • September 1, 2009 12:16 am

        The irony. My dog is called Ryan Giggs and she probably only has a few good years left in her :-(

  2. Anon permalink
    August 30, 2009 5:50 pm

    I thought Mr Wenger looked heroic, standing entirely unaffected by the torrents of ‘Manc’ abuse rained down upon him. In other exciting news, Rooney dived, Fletcher should have conceded two penalties at the same time (hacking down Arshavin and handball) and Valencia is going to pick up a few reds this season if he doesn’t learn not to lead with his elbow into opponents faces.

    • August 31, 2009 11:09 am

      shame Valencia didnt lead with an elbow into Song before the nasty git sliced him in half with that tackle…

  3. thespecial1 permalink
    August 31, 2009 6:18 am

    its great how overly optimistic fans can become…I guess thats what being a supporter is about..You just keep supporting the team no matter how god awful they played, how lucky they won or how worried they should be given that this performance was with their ‘best’ players on the field ( minus Rio)..Its all fine and good to have the hunger and desire to win but id be seriosly worried as a man U Fan given the difference in performance between the teams…No doubt about it this win came courtesy of Arsenal’s mistakes and not Utd coming out and meaning ‘business’…i know what the standard reply would be typical arsenal,bottling it , not hard enough etc etc..Only time will tell..but the way i see it from a slightly more neutral view than mr blanchette is that Arsenal played superior football, looked better in every department and despite the loss, can look foward to more positive results..Yes they bottled the game and chelsea look far more consistent to be favorites for the title..but you have the feeling that this arsenal side is ready to come of age…As for united..Toothless,Bolton like,uninspired for most of the match…They are times when hard work and desire will win you games..this was not one of those games…United fluked it but they will not fluke the title…Arsenal may have lost the game but its united who should be worried

    • August 31, 2009 11:23 am

      well mr special1 you are entitled to your opinion. If you know anything about my club you will know we do not start campaigns well…ever! The formation we played is a counter attacking formation, and does not make good for our typical football. But here is some facts you might enjoy…Most shots on target = United; Most shots on goal in total = United; Most goals in the game = United. I will admit we rode our luck…Arsenal played some nice stuff…but until Arsenal start bagging silverware they can keep their pretty gobs shut. We outfought them on Sunday. Arsenal may be able to skip past a poor Everton side, but as soon as you stick it up them they capitulate every time (worth pointing out that they had 6 yellow cards in the game and had their manager sent off..this seems to happen everytime with them..indisciplined) We will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. We still have too much for the teams outside of the big 4 (and its those games that really win you the Premier League, not these Big 4 games)

      Arsenal can carry on playing their beach soccer style football and convince the planet that they really do play “the most beautiful football in the universe ever ever ever!”…just as long as we keep winning the trophies

  4. chrisutd07 permalink
    August 31, 2009 7:08 pm

    ive honestly been on giggsy’s case for two years. im sorry but he’s done. it’s odd because fergie doesn’t usually let sentiment get in the way of reality.

    mr wenger is barmy. for having a reputation of being calm and collected he loses it way way too much. now he’s on about how united are ‘anti-football’ and what fletcher did (or got away with not being punished) is ‘worse’ than diving. it’s a joke.

    wenger should stop making excuses – arsenal fans should be sick of them by now i think. they keep on getting more and more ridiculous.

    bottom line is: you must learn to win ugly if you want to win the title. united know that because they’ve won it three times in a row. arsenal and their fans obviously haven’t learned that yet…

    • September 1, 2009 9:23 am

      Chris youre totally right about the winning ugly theory. But ive heard so many Gooners say that they would rather see their team play their brand of football and lose! Fools they are…i think its just a losers rhetoric
      About Giggs, of course he is going off the boil but he is nearly 50! I would keep him as a squad player as fergie has..think about it…winning penalty in Moscow, winner against Wigan to wrap up the title…two assists against Arsenal on sunday….hes not completely done yet. Im more concerned about Scholes who looks past his best

  5. Colm permalink
    August 31, 2009 10:06 pm

    This is my first time on this site, and this is a nice article. I reckon I’ll come back!
    Just so you know, touchline replays have been removed from the dugouts this year, so Mr Wenger probably did think the goal should have stood. (It’s mentioned in this link, under the Ben Foster pic)

    • September 1, 2009 12:15 am

      Thanks for the link and for reading and please do come back. We update several times a day :-)

    • September 1, 2009 9:19 am

      Thanks Colm! Welcome to


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