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United 2 Arsenal 1

The first big clash of the season was worrying many Reds pre-match. In fact I can rarely remember a game at home when so many people thought we would lose, and I can only assume that was based on a combination of our stumble at Burnley and Arsenal’s free-flowing and free-scoring football of late. However, United often need a game like this to kick start the season and announce their arrival in the title race, and hopefully this game was that. A goal down at half time, a strange atmosphere and questions being asked yet again about our ability to break through in the final third- but in typical stubborn United fashion we somehow took all three points. Fergie’s line up was as I expected- one up front with five in midfield. We oftem employ this tactic against Arsenal and it usually works too. Many Reds were furious at half time that we were not playing 442, but against Arsenal I can understand it. We just cannot do that week in, week out from now on. Both teams passed the ball around brightly, United putting more pressure on the opposition keeper but not forcing him to actually make a save. Arsharvin looked bright and Arsenal had a few decent chances, whilst Fletcher was United’s stand out player. Yet after a ten minute spell of pressure by United, Arsenal took advantage of United’s inability to clear the ball and Arsharvin’s goal was absolute class. Old Trafford fell silent and heads dropped, with the half time whistle sounding minutes later.

At half time I met a few fellow Reds in the concourse, and none of us could see a victory on the cards. Arsenal are lethal on the counter attack and we would bve vulnerable as we pressed them. And within minutes of the restart that was almost proved correct- somehow Foster saved brilliantly from Van Persie and it was very close to 2-0. It was not long before United start to up the pressure, yet did not actually test Almunia and force him to make saves. And then five minutes of madness followed. Almunia handed us a penalty on a plate by taking out Rooney when there was no need, and a few minutes later Abu Diaby headed into his own net without any pressure on him at all. 2-1 from two set pieces and the game was turned on its head.

From that moment United woke up and started to play great football. Berbatov came on and held the ball up well, linking brilliantly with Nani and Rooney at times and making a big difference. But Arsenal were never going to bow out without a fight and they put the ball in the net in stoppage time. The plyers and fans celebrated jubilantly initially unaware of the linesman’s correct flag for offside. One Arsenal fan in the Stretford End roared with delight before realising that he had revealed his identity to an entire section of hardcore Reds who ensured he left promptly. Wenger lost his temper and was sent to the stands in comical fashion, and it made a great finish to the match.

Arsenal play great football. They also dive and cheat constantly, Eboue’s being the worst yesterday which is incredible only a few days after the Eduardo incident. I personally found it a bit ridiculous how much Eduardo was booed when he came on, because he is hardly the only player to have taken a tumble and United players are not always the shining beacon of how to stay on their feet. However, that is no excuse for what Eduardo did midweek or what Eboue and others did yesterday, and they deserve all they get. The result may not have been a true reflection of the game but an honest and hard working side epitomised by Fletcher on the day took the points and left 72,000 people at Old Trafford absolutely delighted.

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