How United paid the penalty and the Arsenal got some justice

Last updated : 23 May 2005 By Jason Hogan
When Michael Owen smashed home the third of England's five goals, Andy Gray came out with a comment which went something like this- "After years of being kicked in the teeth by the Germans, England are now getting their own back".

I haven't quoted that perfectly word for word but I am sure you get the gist and after Saturday's cup final, his words more than struck a chord in my mind. Because that's exactly how I have felt over the years where ManUre are concerned.

How many times have those bastards kicked us in the teeth? We missed out not only on a back-to-back title but a back-to-back Double because of them in 1999. We lost out once again on winning a back-to-back title in 2003 because of them. We missed out on being the first team to ever go 50 top-flight English league games unbeaten because of them. We were deprived of a historical four straight FA Cup finals because of them. Oh, and we as a club ended up copping a combined total of £275,000 in fines because of them.

Now, if we go back to 1999 for a minute, we took four points off them in the league that season but of course we lost the league by a point in the end. Did it matter a jot to anyone outside of Highbury that we had the better of things over the course of that season in the league against them? No, not a bit. Did anyone outside of Highbury have an ounce of sympathy or spare a thought for us when ManUre won two legs of their treble at out expense? No of course they didn't.

What about 2003, a season where once again we invariably played better football than anyone else in this country for three quarters of the season, when we entitled to feel as though we were the moral champions that season did anyone outside of Highbury give a damn about what how we felt or what we thought after ManUre nicked the title from us? No, nobody gave a monkeys.

It was amusing to read the papers on Sunday morning. Many reporters were saying that only last years final, when ManUre played Millwall, was more one sided. Uh-uh, sorry, wrong guess. WE (as even many Liverpool fans have agreed) were party to the most one-sided final there has been in modern times back in 2001.

Now, even though I have spoken about all the times we have been shafted by Manure over the years that day was the darkest day that I can remember as an Arsenal fan. It was even worse than when I was at Wembley to see us lose to the Tiny Totts in the FA Cup semis way back in 1991.

Take it from me, however people think ManUre played on Saturday it was nothing compared to the battering we gave Liverpool that afternoon back in 2001. We all know what happened but once again, when everything was done and dusted, how well Arsenal played and how anyone connected with Arsenal felt didn't matter one iota.

I read an article by Patrick Collins in the Mail on Sunday. Apparently, he saw Old Purple Nose applaud when Paddy lifted the trophy to our fans and he said and I quote "whatever you may think of Ferguson he does know how to lose".

Well, I nearly fell out of my chair with laughter I really did. I'm not calling Collins a liar as such but let's put it this way - I didn't see it so I'm damn well not going to believe it. In fact, I think when Ferguson was quoted in various papers as calling us "boring and negative" it's a little bit closer to the truth in terms of telling anyone how gracious the man really is by nature. And, when you consider the cynical tactics his team was roundly applauded for using against us both in last year's FA Cup semi final at Villa Park and again when we met them at Old Trafford in THAT league game last October, his comments were extremely rich to say nothing of amusing.

Let's get it right. Ferguson would rather gouge his own eyes out rather than acknowledge the fact that they have been beaten under any circumstances by Arsenal and if not, any team that happened to be under Arsene Wenger's stewardship.

But of course, the combination of Ferguson's sour grapes, the fact that Arsenal played with a formation that Arsene himself has opposed the usage of more than anyone else, the fact that it backfired in so far as it proved to considerably hinder us more than United (as we hoped) and the fact that they still couldn't beat us - well, it only made the victory all the sweeter.

And in the end, I got what the two things I wanted - victory and revenge. I really couldn't have written the script better. In the aftermath of what happened there are people already going round claiming that Arsenal have been found out, that people in Europe know how to pay against and it wont be long before the whole of the Premiership cotton on to how to pay us as well.

Well, people can talk about next season all they want. What I know right now is that we have been the most successful side in this country for the last four years. NOBODY has won more major trophies than us in the last four years. NOBODY else has won at least one major trophy in each of the last four years. And of course this is on top of the fact that we have finished above ManUre again for the third time in four seasons and, as I have said before, we are the ONLY team that has finished in the top two for EIGHT seasons running.

Not bad for a club that has spent just £35 million in the last four years and is widely considered in decline, don't you think? Because, with the best will in the world, if WE are in decline, then where the hell does that leave ManUre? If I were them, I would be saying my prayers and yelling "God Bless America, please don't turn Old Trafford in to the biggest Dunkin' Donuts outlet in Europe" every night before I went to bed from now on.