On recent form tonight the Mancs should have kicked our arse, something they’ve been quite good at in recent years give or take the odd penalty shoot out. Kicking arse, kicking ankles, shins, the back of the legs, forearm smashes, elbows, stamping on feet, diving and clutching a face which hasn’t been touched is just part of their rich pattern of perfect behaviour.
Tonight the recently not so mighty Arsenal were without Van Persie, Ljungberg, Cole and Clichy but Gilberto was back. The strange thing about Gilberto is that many think we miss him when he’s not around but many more fail to appreciate his worth when he is around. Tonight I thought he had one of his more effective games.
Untied kicked off towards the North Bank in yet another hideous variation of away strip, this one is blue with red trim and almost as revolting as Van Nistelrooy who was roundly booed for the opening few minutes. Chants of ‘Keown’ were also quite regular on the night. Both teams were rather cagey and defending as a priority but neither was steaming in with ankle breaking tackles. Arsenal’s was a fluid formation as was Manure’s. Tackles were being made high up the pitch and Graham Poll was Poll, he missed some and he punished some. He failed to give a penalty, he failed to spot a few things and this included two possible sendings off.
There was not too much goal mouth killer action because United didn’t commit men forward often enough and when Arsenal got to advanced positions they wanted another 15 passes rather than the required shot. The fans mentioned this often but they clearly didn’t listen. ‘Champions League you’re having a laugh’ was favoured ditty of the night and Reyes was the favoured player, mainly for his give it a go action and his willingness to work really hard. Rooney had a similar attitude but also wanted to ref the match for the Tring Trigger – Tring wanker is probably more appropriate, he’s much improved to what he was but that’s not saying much really is it.
Another massive passing move all around their box offered no shot before Lauren took out Ronaldo for a yellow card. Cynical and most enjoyable I have to say. Van Diver had a great shot brilliantly saved by Jens but Ronaldo blasted high and hopelessly wide with a relatively easy follow up chance. Nil-nil at half time and quite appropriate given that it was the ‘Famous Back Four Day’, we maybe edged the half.
After the break Reyes won a corner from a good move and Henry had a shot blocked, the main man was very quiet again, he seems unfit to me – either that or he’s started saving himself for the World Cup exceedingly early in the season. Rooney headed wide with a drifting rather than powered header. There was a peach of a pass from Hleb that Titi didn’t seem to read. A good cross-field ball from Ronaldo to the one with a doormat on his chest was whacked into the boxes.
The Mancs had a good break but we recovered well before Gilberto had a shot blocked. The horse then shot wide as Kolo, a rare mistake, played him onside. Rooney on Reyes for a yellow card - and a very popular decision it was too. A rare run from Brown was quite effective but his cross was headed clear by Lauren who took a whack, you can guess whom from. Another United break saw Cygan take his turn to scythe down Ronaldo for a yellow card – Bouldie would have been proud. A stunning move from Arsenal involving Reyes, Hleb, Henry and Pires to miss the chance. This preceded a rather obvious and snide handball from the chubby little lippy granny shagger, which Poll studiously ignored. The Gooners were not amused.
Brown shoved Dennis in the back, Poll missed it completely but the lino spotted it – given how obvious it was, how could he fail to? Reyes failed with the free kick and at the other end Ronaldo failed with a much longer free kick. Reyes however deservedly got a standing ovation as Eboue replaced him. Rooney fired over in the added three minutes as United pressed with a series of corners at the death.
A goalless draw then, but an altogether more positive and effective display than our more recent bore draw at Villa. For us many older fans goal less draws at Highbury are quite nostalgic affairs and it’s quite nice to share such nostalgia with the younger generations every now and again, especially in our final season.