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Man Utd 2-0 Arsenal

Walking away from Upton Park a few weeks ago after United slipped up, the word on the street for United was mediocre. Poor away results, a lack of passion, a loss to Man City and an inability to score paved way for widepsread criticism.

Barthez was written off, players such as Phil Neville and Forlan described as useless, and even Fergie was told by a ‘fan’ that he should step down. The 909 callers were in their element slagging us off, those claiming to be United fans at the forefront of the abuse for our heroes.

I wonder how the more fickle and critical fans are feeling today? 9 points against 3 top teams, a clean sheet against the team who always score, favourites to win the league and a strong position in Europe make me wonder why people were so worried.

Today’s game against Arsenal was the final piece in the jigsaw in convincing Reds that our domination was NOT over, that Fergie should NOT have retired, and that bad form in November does NOT mean we are out of the title race.

Arriving at Old Trafford early this morning, I mingled with a lot of Arsenal fans who were all confident. Many had travelled without tickets and were anxious to find a way into the away entrance, although now they will be glad they did not! “We won the league at Old Trafford” they chanted as they went thorugh the turnstiles, and there was little we could say in return, because quite simply they embaressed us last season and we knew it.

Before United fans were not so confident. Despite wins against Liverpool, Basle and Newcastle this was a vital game and the hardest of the season so far. It was almost an unwritten rule that Arsenal would score, but could we match them and out-play them? The noise was ferocious as the teams came out of the tunnel, there was a real sense that this match meant a lot to everyone involved.

From the first kick United edged the game. We were first to every loose ball, climbed higher in the air and looked as if the desire and passion of old had returned. Ruud had a shot pushed away and the pressure mounted. Arsenal could have scored twice themselves, but a great save by Fabien off Henry, and an inch wide lob by Pires denied them.

Then came the opener. Veron started the move and kept moving into the box. Ruud controlled the ball (possibly with his hand) and sent it out wide to Scholsey. Scholsey looked up, saw Seba, and the Argentinian tucked it away to send us absolutely mental. We deserved it, and we made the most of it. Seba was loving the goal himself, pulling his shirt off and uprouting the corner flag!

Half time was tense. Could we keep playing on the second half and deny Arsenal a point and possibly even a goal?

The answer is yes. We played superbly and after Ruud had a header pushed onto the post we had Arsenal rattled. It seemed only a matter of time until we sealed the win, and a great bit of persistent play from Ruud let Scholes in to double the lead. Game, set and match. Arsenal did not threaten again, they looked jaded and defeated.

The final whistle went much to our relief. It was a great performance and a well earned win. Although the whole team played well, special mention goes to one player who deserves to be written about. Phil Neville has his fair share of critics both at United and in the wider world of football. People are quick to write him off as a player carried by those around him, and always on hand to point out his past errors namely for England. Yet today showed the real Phil Neville, the one the real United fans know exists. He was our star; not carried by anyone else he marked Viera out the game and made numerous superb interventions. He covered every blade of grass and earnt the respect of every person in the country watching the game. Phil is a loyal player, United through and through, who has always given his all for the cause. Today he made his mark and earned the credit he has long been overdue.

Three points, a miraculous clean sheet, and a message to the rest of the league that United are back. I know that we never went away, but for the morons who were quick to dismiss us there is humble pie to swallow.

Look at Leeds, Liverpool and City collapsing around us as we grow stronger and stronger. With the Wizard at our helm and the likes of Rio, Becks, Butt and Keano to return I fancy our chances.

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