Arsenal 3 Man.Utd. 1: Youngsters look the part on the big stage

Last updated : 08 August 2004 By Brian Dawes
Francesc Fabregas - Mature performance
It was another fine sunny day, at least to start with, and we saw a decent game take place at the Millennium Stadium despite the numerous missing big name players mentioned above. Both squads had plenty of stars left to put on a display and by and large they did.

Arsenal started brightly getting on top early doors and playing some tidy football. Fortune had the first foul of the match on Pennant who did enough to show he's worth a place in this season's squad. United's first goal attempt was well off target. Our first good move involved Dennis playing it wide to Pennant whose cross in was just beyond Thierry. Henry is not quite fully fit yet and was only given the first half. A move from our left flank ended with a great reverse ball from Thierry to Dennis who chipped over with his left peg. Dennis then had a good low drive very well saved by Howard. Arsenal definitely bossed the opening ten minutes. The game warmed up as Arsenal continued to press but it was never looked like boiling over. Giggs got through on a run but Lehmann came to the edge of his box to claim the ball. A fast break soon followed where Arsenal caught Manure three on two but pennant played the wrong ball with Thierry and Reyes in attendance.

A cigarette-lighter was lobbed at Henry by a mindless prat from United's end, I won't use the word fan because gits that do such things just aren't. Henry handed it to the ref and was booed for his trouble. Fortune beat Lauren and crossed but Pascal, who was solid throughout with one exception, cut out the cross for a corner. Fortune was then caught offside, one of quite a few offsides for both teams throughout the match. A foul outside the box against Henry saw him claim seniority for the free kick, a good dipping one that was tipped over by Howard. With over twenty minutes on the clock Dennis, in superb form, Played a peachy ball to Jermaine whose cross was only just beyond Jose who'd made up loads of ground to get there. Another break where it seemed we had to score saw Dennis play a one two with Thierry to break through but he appeared to tread on the ball. Shame.

United were not without forward movement, but when they came forward there was usually someone there to break up the attack as when Cole stopped Alan Smith. Henry ran into the box from the left and was eased out by Silvestre, those were the commentary teams words, I thought a hand on the chest and a shove was worth a penalty. Just after the half-hour Scholes had United's first serious shot when he pulled out a good save from Jens. Lehmann caught a high one from a Giggs corner and at the other end we could have opened the scoring. Reyes playing on the left flank set up Thierry whose tidy control made space for a shot that was well saved but found it's way to Pennant. Either the ball came too quickly or it got a slight bobble, either way Pennant put his shot wide.

Jose on the scoresheet
There was a close call when United attacked but they hadn't created too much until Keane won a free kick but Giggs ball in was cleared. Smith blasted one over on thirty-nine minutes then soon after crossed from the left but Gary Neville headed fairly straight at Jens to tip over. Reyes broke well but play was allowed to play on after he was tugged and the chance was gone. Lauren broke into their box and crossed well, Reyes broke again but Scholes had another shot well saved at the other. United had come back before the break in a game that had seen us on top for most of the half. A good match though and no certain winner. Cesc Fabregas, still just seventeen had played alongside Gilberto in central midfield and looked exactly what he is: a star in the making. He's a two footed natural footballer who will become a megastar, maybe not this season but he's not far away from more regular first team football.

Half time saw Van Persie come on for Henry. Our latest Dutchmen went wide left while Jose moved up front. Six substitutes from seven named were permitted for this match by the way. Smith fouled Lauren and was then caught offside. Reyes set the stadium alight with a run that left four United players for dead but having skipped around Howard he hit the side netting with a right footed shot. Had he scored we would have been re-played to death with that one. Not long after this there was a crunching tackle by Pascal who won the ball in our left back slot. Cygan quickly found Cesc who played it forward for Dennis, he in turn found Reyes breaking right and Gilberto came storming forward with a run started in our own half to tap home the perfect pass. 1-0 Arsenal.

United started their substitutions early due to their up coming Champions League match. Fortune, Giggs and Fletcher were replaced by the very ugly Neville, Forlan and Fletcher. Forlan immediately failed to spot a good run by Scholes. Jens was required to take a catch before Dennis on the right put in a great cross that Robin headed just wide. United however struck back when an attempted chest pass by Pascal went astray and Smith hit a near post top corner shot that had Lehmann well beaten. The lino had raised his flag but the goal stood. Rightly judged by referee Mike Dean under the current law but it wouldn't have stood under previous interpretations. It was a fine shot whichever way the offside rule is interpreted. 1-1 with just under fifty-five minutes played.

After this goal United got back in the game and things started to heat up for just a brief instance. But once again Dennis, on our right, hit a great cross which Gilberto did very well to control and even better to stab pass to Reyes. Jose Antonio slammed it home for 2-1. He'd deserved a goal and his grin is going to delight many a Gooner in the coming season. I reckon he will take the Premiership by storm and many opposition defenders will feel the need for brown shorts when he runs at them.

Jeremie Aliadiere - Bad injury?
Aliadiere replaced Dennis our captain for the day. I failed to spot where the armband went for the remainder of the game. Phil Neville on Reyes for the first yellow card and a free kick from Robin on our right, he's left footed, won a corner. United broke but Lauren stopped it amounting to anything. Scholes dive on the edge of box was rightly ignored and Forlan showed just why the Mancs want to sell him. Aliadiere went on a run but fell to the ground with a knee injury. He was stretchered off and it didn't look good, but I couldn't quite figure how it happened. Clichy was our replacement with as Robin moved further forward. Forlan finally found Scholes, from a free kick, but the scuffed shot was wide.

Gael stormed forward as is his want and promptly won a free kick that upset Djemba-Djemba who took to grabbing hold of a throat. There was a bit of pushing and shoving as is the norm whenever we are beating United with the net result that Djemba and Cole went in the book. Cole's misdemeanour must have been off camera but was probably because he wasn't about to take any crap from a prat like Djemba. Djemba-Djemba only had Dejemba on his shirt, so maybe United are looking to economise on shirt-lettering this season. In which case they could also try '9 Cheat', that would certainly save letters, as would '2 Ugly'. '3 Pig Ugly' wouldn't be a saving, but certainly more accurate.

Pennant took the free kick which was headed clear before Cole blasted over. United youngsters Eagles and Richardson replaced Smith and Scholes. Forlan got through the centre but Jens was there to gather the ball on the edge of our area. Djemba had a kick at Cesc who was still the youngest player on the pitch, and it has to be said, one of the best on the pitch. Van Persie to pennant provided Neville with an o.g. opportunity but he failed to convert. Clichy did brilliantly again and found Cesc who turned on a Euro and fired just wide.

Man of the match - by a mile
Cole then dribbled through about three red shirts winning some lucky bounces on the way. His cross was deflected perfectly past Howard by Silvestre to make it 3-1, a scoreline that was about right on the day. Man-of-the-match Reyes was replaced by Hoyte so Lauren moved to right-side midfield and Pennant pushed further upfield. Pennant had a shot and then needed treatment after close attention from Djemba. Spector replaced O'Shea and Arsenal continued to boss the game, both sides with very young players in most positions by now. Eagles had a cross that Jens collected before Cesc was replaced by Svard with four minutes to go. Clichy had another fine run and Howard pulled out a fine save from Van Persie. It was pouring down as the three minutes added time saw Arsenal playing keep ball to good effect.

So our awful blue kit made a nice debut, Arsenal looked sharp, the team played well and everyone involved came out of it with credit. This was a promising start but we all know that however mush fun it is picking up a trophy that this match counts for nothing in the context of the coming season. We did look good though.