The way I see it – Arsenal v Sheffield United

Last updated : 22 September 2006 By Jason Hogan

Amongst other things, he talked about Spurs (and Chelsea to an extent) and the fact that he found it strange getting used to receiving stick particularly from gloating Spurs fans as they were still ahead of us in the table at the time.

He then made an interesting point which was along the lines of you could beat your biggest rivals 99 times in a row but, if THEY manage to beat YOU at the 100th time of asking, all of the hurt suffered in the previous 99 occasions tends to wash away only to be replaced by a smug sense of satisfaction.

Thankfully, the Arsenal have not suffered that exact fate at the hands of ManUre (or the Spuds for that matter). But nevertheless, since that oh so glorious night in May 2002, our recent trips to Old Trafford have invariably been tinged with mixture of disappointment, angst but above all for me personally, a sense that we have never really gone there and done ourselves justice. That was not the case on Sunday.

I didn't have time to do a preview to Sunday's game but at the back end of last week I can honestly tell you all that the one thing which ran through my mind in the run up to the game was that I didn't want to see our players come off the pitch at Old Trafford once again with regrets over what might have been.

I've often said on this website prior to any game we have played against ManUre that this is a match for us to relish and NEVER to fear and that this is a match where we should embrace the atmosphere it generates and not shy from it. And, virtually from start to finish on Sunday, we actually went and finally did just that.

I was so pleased in particular for our match-winner, Manu Adebayor. The boy has taken a lot of stick not least from Arsenal fans never mind people from outside the club or indeed the press and the media. Adebayor was terrific on the afternoon and the highest compliment I can pay him is that, in all the years Henry has played against ManUre, I honestly cannot remember him putting in a better all round performance against them.

Adebayor was far from being the only hero up at Old Trafford mind you. As a manager would say after a performance such as the one we put on, I couldn't really single anyone out over anybody else because to a man, the whole Arsenal side were bloody fantastic.

I did raise a wry smile immediately after the game when Sky presenter Richard Keys had the temerity to suggest to his studio guest, Jamie Redknapp, that ManUre were suffering from a Champions League hangover! To his credit, Redknapp did instantly retort that the Arsenal were also involved in the Champions League, and that we had to fly to Germany and back for our game before coming back here to prepare for the game at OT.

Still, I suppose the musings of Keys immediately after the game spoke volumes on behalf of widespread factions within the press and the media, who basically never envisaged anything other than another routine win for ManUre and a humbling experience for Arsenal. Because ManUre failed to come up with the goods expected of them, it evoked the usual kind nonplussed reaction, a reaction that they are ill-prepared for and, as a result therefore, whenever ManUre lose any old lame excuse is dragged up to try and justify it all.

Still, that's all by the by now. I'm just delighted to see us go to Old Trafford and not just win but win with conviction. I have waited a bloody long time to see us actually go there and do that and of course the added bonus was that our so-called "one man team" Thierry Henry didn't feature in any capacity whatsoever.

And it's purely for those reasons alone that I can safely say that Sunday's result is something I will treasure long after this season is over. Would beating the PRF for example be as sweet? Nah, not for me. Why? Because, regardless of what the status quo happens to be at any given time in the Premiership, there is quite literally no bigger stage to go and get a result than Old Trafford and in my view, the only two other places in the country that are perhaps even more special in terms of getting a result are Anfield and Shite Hart Lane. And that, my fellow Gooners, is something that will never, ever change in my eyes.

Now, it's time to look forward to our home game this Saturday against Sheffield United.

It's fair to say that the Blades have been left in no doubt as to what a cruel environment the Premiership can be. I have seen extended footage of all of their games so far and the phrase that has often sprung to mind having watched them is "nearly men".

Indeed before our win on Sunday, you could put a fair argument for saying that the Blades were very much in the same boat as us in the sense that the results they have got have not quite been a reflection of the performances they have put in.

As the old cliché goes, teams tend to play in the image of their manager (or something like that). And, given the persona of Neil Warnock it's safe to say that his team have a highly combative streak to them more often than not.

However, I have seen this lot play some cracking stuff down the years it must be said. For example, when they were still in the Championship not so long ago, I vividly remember watching them pummel Aston Villa in the cup. In fact, they went on to play us in the cup later that year and pushed us quite literally all the way only to succumb to us in a penalty shoot out at Bramall Lane.

The Blades have plenty of players in their ranks that I admire quite a bit. Phil Jagielka is a decent holding midfielder come defender who surely will reside permanently in the Premiership if not with United then someone else, Nick Montgomery is a young underrated box to box midfielder and Rob Hulse is the kind of lad that tends to sum up what United tend to be about in that he always gives it 100%.

The same could be said of their captain, Chris Morgan. He is true grit personified and the type of centre half that is guaranteed to put his head where others will not even put their boots.

With Michael Tonge (who I rate very much) being doubtful as far as I'm aware, the one chap that we will need to keep an eye on is Danny Webber. Webber is a really lively forward who can operate upfront or down the left hand side.

I was surprised that the former Manchester United trainee was released by Watford but he has obviously made it to the Premiership in spite of that anyway. Webber has plenty of pace, is very direct, finishes well and is definitely capable of keeping our back four on their toes.

I think that this game is an intriguing one for the Arsenal. Whilst it is important for us to build on what we achieved at OT last week and make sure that we do not undo all of that good work by dropping points here, the fact is that The Blades will not come to The Grove and roll over for us. From what I have seen of them, that sort of thing is simply not in the nature.

The reason we won at OT was because we made things happen for ourselves. If we want three points on Saturday, we must be prepared to do the same thing here.