The way I see it - Manchester United v Arsenal

Last updated : 22 October 2004 By Jason Hogan

I'm not going to waste too much time looking back on the game itself. Suffice to say that it was yet another typical European night for Arsenal - a mixture of the good, the bad and certainly where Jens Lehmann is concerned, the downright ugly.

However, despite the fact that he is half Lehmann's age and the only uncapped full international in the team, I thought that young Fabregas was once again outstanding and if some of his more illustrious and more experienced colleagues showed the same level of composure on the night we might have come away with a fairly comfortable win.

I think that the Greeks deserve a lot of credit for their performance on Wednesday night. True, there were times when they were cynical in the extreme and how on earth two of them stayed on the pitch and failed to even get cautioned I will never know. But unlike us, the commitment of the Greeks was total right from the word go and I think that it would have been very harsh on them if either Reyes or Pires had converted the successive golden opportunities they had to win the game right at the death.

For the second time in a row, Arsene had to almost force himself to put a positive spin on the result after the game but having seen footage of him tossing a small object up in the air in exasperation whilst sitting in the dugout at one stage, I was in no doubt that what he was saying in the post match interview didn't quite reflect his true feelings. I, for one, knew exactly how he really felt.

Still, maybe I should take some of my own advice and lighten up a bit. This time last year we were all but dead and buried after three Champions League games where as this time around we have yet to be beaten and, despite everything, qualification to the knockout stages is in our own hands. Thankfully, our next trip on the European roller coaster is two weeks away and we can now focus on our little trip to Old Trafford to play ManUre.

Having resisted the temptation of talking about all the some of the pre match hype that has already surrounded the United game prior to our out trip to Athens, it is at this point where I will touch on the subject of Old Purple Nose. His outburst in last Sunday newspapers was not only moronic but utterly hilarious. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much on a Sunday morning. In fact, I was laughing so hard, my missus honestly thought that I was having a fit!

As the old saying goes "there's no fool like an old fool". I mean, it's really saying something when sections of the press were even roused into handing out a chiding to the doddery old duffer for his claims that Arsenal's behaviour in last year's game was the worst thing he had seen in football by pointing out that the past actions of Roy Keane and Eric Cantona were far more reprehensible than those of the Arsenal players.

And as for his claim that Arsenal haven't played anybody yet well, amongst the "nobodies" we've played so far this term are Everton, Middlesbrough and Manchester City. We were good enough to beat Everton at Goodison whilst ManUre couldn't even manage to score a GOAL against them let alone beat them - and United they played them at HOME.

Whilst we were good enough to see off Boro at Highbury, ManUre failed to beat the same opposition at Old Trafford even though Boro had SEVEN first team players missing. And whilst the Arsenal were good enough to beat Manchester City at Eastlands I distinctly remember watching them beat Chelsea there last Saturday. Not a bad set of results for a bunch of "nobodies" wouldn't you say?

One of the raging debates that remain ongoing in the run up to Sunday is which of the two teams will be under more pressure come kick-off. Well, I think that the answer is a pretty simple one - it's NOT the Arsenal.

There are some people peddling around the notion ManUre have nothing to lose. Well if they had beaten Birmingham last Saturday and come into the game nine points behind us those people may have a had a pertinent point. However given the fact that ManUre stand 11 points adrift of us going into this game, even the artful drug test dodger Rio Ferdinand and Old Purple Nose himself have both admitted that the game is a must win for his team so on that basis it's hard to then suggest that they will have lost nothing should they fail to beat us.

And what if we DO get beat at Old Trafford? Well, the chances are that the Old Trafford hype machine that, relatively speaking, has been rendered almost redundant by the press and the media in recent times will crank right back up into gear. They will probably not stop talking about it until well into the New Year, start a campaign for a national holiday to commemorate the moment and offer to sponsor street parties up and down the land for anyone who wants to organise one.

It won't be easy for me to take (hypothetically of course) but you know, even if that happens and I have to confront disappointment, there will still be one or two things that I can take comfort from. For a start, regardless of any ballyhoo that the press and the media whip up we will still have a sizeable advantage over them of course.

Moreover, the one fact that everyone connected with Arsenal knows is that we have a team that is capable of going on a 30, 40 or even 49-match unbeaten run in the league at any time. You know why? Because we currently have the only team in English football history that have done this sort of thing before and are therefore more capable than most of doing it again if necessary.

Don't misunderstand what I'm saying here because it will be a cold day in hell before this particular Gooner fears the prospect of playing ManUre at Old Trafford because I ALWAYS relish it. I'm just simply trying covering all the bases.

The Arsenal have nothing to prove on Sunday to anyone other than themselves though personally it's not all about seeing us avoid defeat and therefore securing the big five-0 that's important if you catch my drift.

I never see this game as a test but as an opportunity and what I want more than anything is to see us go to Old Trafford and do what we failed to do when we met this lot in the league just before Christmas two years ago - show the world exactly why we are the reigning champions in this country.

In all truthfulness we bottled it that day and passed up the chance to put down a real marker. We now have a second chance to put that right.

It's at this point where I must give a mention to a chap called Paul Stewart. This lad was a close friend of a friend of mine who recently passed away sadly at the tender age of 30. He was a native Dubliner and an ardent Gooner who was due to be at Old Trafford for Sunday having got tickets for the game. The loss of one of our own brethren is one too many and on behalf of all the Gooners around the world I offer his family my condolences.

It all goes to show that time is a precious thing and you have to make the most of it while you can and Arsenal, given the almost unprecedented ability we have currently at our disposal as a team will do well to think about that both on Sunday and beyond.

So, with Sunday's game in mind and for the sake of absent friends, my message to Wenger and his team is to make sure they do NOT back down no matter what. It's time that we proved beyond doubt that we are not the best in this country for nothing.