Arsenal 2 Manchester United 2: Honours even at Highbury

Last updated : 17 April 2003 By Brian Dawes

Van Nistelrooy tackles Super Rob
A perusal of Arsenal's squad showed that they had appeared without Seaman, Parlour or Jeffers but a fit again Pires and a heavily strapped Vieira did enter the fray. Manure were wearing their Wednesday night at Highbury outfit, all blue with white lettering, while Arsenal wore exactly the same shirts as the majority of the crowd.

Vieira, Campbell, Keown and Freddie were all greeted with their anthems pre-match and the noise rose even higher with a rendition of 'We love you Arsenal we do' as we approached kick off with Arsenal playing towards the Clock End. Cole was forward for our first attack as 'We won the League in Manchester' was belted out by the very noisy Library. Dennis showed he was up for it by putting early pressure on Ferdinand. Giggs appeared to be playing in the hole normally taken up by Scholes while Arsenal had Freddie right and Rob on the left. Keane on Lauren was the first big hit of the night after eight minutes, approximately seven minutes and fifty-five seconds behind Manure's normal schedule for an Arsenal match. A Butt dive soon followed.

Scholes headed wide with a good chance fed in by O'Shea. Freddie to Thierry on the right saw a low cross for Dennis but Manure were back in numbers to clear. Gilberto got himself involved early with a foul on Van Diver and a good block from Scholes. With Pat not quite looking himself Gilberto took it upon himself to cover every blade of grass, which I'd say he probably achieved well before half time. As Arsenal worked out of defence we saw the first piece of Vieira magic. There was a big handball appeal as Cole put in a cross. Ljungberg was furious with the ref as O'Shea went down the line, taking the ball out of play but it wasn't given.

Dennis and Thierry combined well but the flag was up against Pires. Butt shoved Pat; free kick. Silvestre into Dennis another free kick, this one was aimed at Martin by Henry and gained us a corner. We were bossing procession but openings had been as rare as rocking horse shit. Pires took the corner that was cleared then worked back to Pat but ultimately wasted. Thierry then showed his worth by winning another corner he had no right to win. The closest chance yet followed at the other end with Van diver flicking a Scholes pass onto the roof of the net. A Pires run down the left saw him flattened by Brown who just ran into him. When I got around to watching the TV replay I noticed that Clive Tyldesley described this very same incident as 'Pires eased to the ground' - if Tyldesley was any further up Fergusmoan's arse he would disappear, so here's hoping.

Another Arsenal free-kick saw Sol's header saved from Henry's kick. A full moon could be seen behind the Clock End, I've no idea why I noticed that but maybe it was as I looked towards the heavens after Manure scored the opening goal. Giggs and Van Diver combined on halfway and with Lauren AWOL, Sol steamed in but was easily beaten by their Dutchman who ran on at pace to flick the ball over Taylor with twenty-four minutes played. A well-taken goal. Time wasting celebrations followed. When play resumed Butt tripped Pires, a quite bookable offence but no yellow card was flashed by the spineless Mark Halsey.

Manure were backing off our centre backs and marking tight elsewhere, in fact their back four changed positions a number of times in order to combat our forwards. Van Diver did just that, dived, when faced with Cole - no yellow card. Baby Face used his elbow in a clash with Cole. Ashley down hurt. Freddie was giving his all and looking the part but he needed more support and it looked as if that was beyond Pat on this particular night. Dennis chipped over before Pat was replaced by Edu. The big man looked pissed off but that's life, he chucked the armband to Martin. Henry broke away but was well tackled. Pires was also giving it a go and tackled back well to stop Butt.

We were there or there abouts in midfield but moves were breaking down up front against the numerous Manure defenders. Henry nearly got Gilberto away before Brown did Rob yet again, but still no yellow card. Butt took his turn in doing Pires, so they obviously took him to be a major threat. O'Shea fouled Lauren not given, Lauren fouled O'Shea free kick given and Lauren was seriously pissed off. Baby Face hit the free kick straight out from a wide position. Dennis upended Keane, nice to see. Taylor took a high cross well but United were back in numbers very quickly. Pires broke into their box but it was cleared. A late flurry saw Barthez catch a Cole cross and then a very good move involving Pires, Ljungberg, Gilberto and on again to Pires who had his angled shot deflected for a corner. Wes Brown was down injured as the half time whistle went. Only five shots had been mustered by the two teams in a half that didn't see us at our best, but then again united weren't pulling up any trees either.

The second half greeting was not as raucous as that of the first but the boos for Manure's appearance were a fair appreciation of how we felt about them. Naff Neville on for O'Shea at half time, Naff Neville started at right back but switched to left back later on. We had early procession but it was very deep, United merely backed off and left our centre backs with the ball. After a decent Pires cross from the right Keane took out Freddie for the game's first yellow card but although it was worthy of a booking it was no worse than tackles seen in the first half, still it was good to see the noxious runt carded. From the free kick Henry stepped over it, Edu took it and would have found Henry who'd continued his run if Butt hadn't been alert. Giggs fouled Gilberto and Henry was looking to wind up Naff Neville with some verbals.

A three on three break for Manure ended with an offside flag against Baby Face. Ashley went on a run gave the ball to Pires and carried on, taking the return he forced his way into the box and hit a right foot shot that deflected off the back of Henry's calf to beat Barthez. 1-1 and pandemonium from the Gooners. A brave save at feet from Taylor followed as the match became end to end stuff for a while. THOF rocked, and then jeered as Ferdinand hoofed into touch. Cole and Pires combine again down the left but Rob chipped well over. Baby Face wellied one into the Clock End as Rob took on water, it was a warm night. Taylor was out to clear before Keane fires one high, wide and not so very handsome. Dennis had a shot deflected for a corner as Ashley played like an additional forward.

Henry took on too many and lost possession as Manure broke. Silvestre clattered into the advertising hording after a battle with Lauren and then limped back into action. Ferdinand hoofed into touch before Naff Neville cleared again. A long low ball from very deep by Gilberto found Henry who must have been offside, but he was clear and slipped it low past Barthez. 2-1 Arsenal, a quick celebration from the players and off we go again. I was still celebrating and trying not to laugh at a guy further down my row who'd lost some false teeth in the melee that followed Theirry's goal. But less than half a minute into the restart and a cross came in from the right where it was met by loads of red shirts, none of whom were marking Giggs, so he had an easy header to make it 2-2. Awful defending and piss poor concentration that Tony would not have allowed. We needed a captain to lead us and calm us down after our second goal, we didn't have one more's the pity.

Arsenal did net again through Pires but Henry had been pulled up for a foul in his aerial challenge that set up the shot for Rob. Neville switched positions with O'Shea. O'Shea hit a cross in but far too deep. Gilberto went on a charge. Some fabulous play by Henry down our left saw him fire over a chip from the left that went past Barthez but beyond the far post. Gilberto hung onto Scholes to concede a free kick. Dennis beat Keane to put Pires away but someone hoofed away. Cole broke down the left again to win another corner. At the other end Van Diver fouled Sol and was awarded with a corner for his trouble. O'Shea shoved over Henry as we countered before Wiltord replaced Dennis with fifteen minutes remaining. Tense, very tense. Gilberto fouled Keane again for another free kick taken by Giggs and they were all forward for it.

Butt chopped Pires once more and this time earned a yellow card. Kanu was ready to replace Pires before his knock but the timing was right because as well as Rob played he was just starting to tire. Henry managed to hit the East Stand with a shot from a free kick from an angle that needed to be hit hard and low. What followed next was farcical. Sol beat Solskjaer, hereinafter known as the cheating little ****. Sol put out an arm to fend him off which caught the cheating little **** high on his right shoulder/chest area. The cheating little **** went down clutching his face as if hit by a sniper. Mr Smarty-Pants the ssistant referee who preceded his report to Halsey with 'he seemed to.' obviously thought he'd seen something he hadn't. Halsey produced a red card that he had no right to if the assistant ref could only report the incident as 'he seemed to.' Seven minutes to go and we were down to ten men. Can anyone tell me if it was M Atkinson or N Miller who was brandishing the yellow flag it question, because I'd like everyone to appreciate what a egotistical Manc loving nonentity he is. The whole of the West Stand were screaming 'Cheat, cheat, cheat'. Quite rightly. No doubt once Manure have told the FA what to do, the F A will tell Halsey how to review the incident we'll hear more.

Van Diver dived to win a corner which the cheating little **** took, receiving incredible deserved abuse from the Clock End. No lighters were thrown though because Highbury is not like the Bates Motel. Two minutes of injury time remained, in which Henry's low shot was saved by the legs of the French keeper. If only.

So Vieira looks to be out for the season, Ray and Dave are obviously injured. Sol will probably be given a life sentence on top of a ban so the rest of the season should be a doddle. One question remains, which is why were there Mancs in the West Lower. How the feck did they get tickets and why were these two thick morons stupid enough to shout and applaud at the end of the match while watching the Manc's second goal go in on the big screen. And why were they surprised when they got a seriously good pasting?