Better than Fair's Cup night in ‘70? Better than White Hart Lane in '71? Better than Anfield in ‘89? Hard to say, but I think the atmosphere generated by the travelling Gooners in Manchester was perhaps the most amazing Arsenal crowd I've ever been privileged to part of. I bumped into more Gooners I knew on this amazing night than I ever had before, every single one of them was up for it big time, all about to give their all for the cause. The away fans have been superb all season but their repertoire just keeps on growing and the volume just keeps on rising.
The team news was that there was no Dennis (to start), no Tone and no Theirry for this the biggest of the many big ones – no problem we'll just keep on winning. ‘Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal' The noise inside Old Trafford was such that our being outnumbered by 64,580 to 3,000 (these were the official figures) meant that just prior to kick off the players could not hear their names being chanted and the noise in our ‘Champions elect section' was immense. ‘We'll win the League, we'll win the League, in Manchester, in Manchester. We'll win the League in Manchester. We'll win at Old Trafford, we'll win the League, in Manchester'. (Repeat on and off all night). Don't know about anyone else but the only time I sat down all night was at half-time.
Manchester United kick off and attack ‘our end' the first of many fouls on the night is by Neville on Freddie. Sol sees off Solskjaer and not for the last time on. A Parlour cross met by Sylv on the turn is deflected for a corner. Cole stops Giggs, it was the first of many fine defending tackles in a night that will erase the failure of his previous visit. ‘We'll win the League, in Manchester.' Kanu fouls Blanc ‘Arsene Wenger's magic he wears a magic hat' Lame shot from Kanu but it's early doors. I can't breathe because of the tension. ‘Feck all, feck all, feck all United will win feck all, while the Cockney Red's are going out of their heads Man United will win feck all' (repeat on and off all night) Solskjaer first dive having obviously taken lessons from van Nistelrooy. Scholes shot deflected for a corner. They came close from the corner.
Vieira appears to be signalling that he's wearing the wrong boots and someone dashes off to the dressing room. ‘Hello, hello we are the Arsenal boys' Another United corner. Loads of pushing in the box as Seaman punches. Pat juggles, Ashley clears ‘And it's Arsenal, Arsenal FC they're by far the greatest team the world has ever seen' Chip from Silvestre. ‘60,000 Muppets – which I thought was a bit insulting to Miss Piggy and her furry friends. Lauren tackles Giggs. Giggs tried hard with good solo runs all night but how was the Welsh wizard ever going to dribble through a brick wall?
United had been on top early on and when they played football they looked like they could give us a game but round about the quarter hour mark we started to play. A move that ran Sylv to Freddie to Ashley to Ray to Freddie to Sylv to Ray to Ralph to Kanu to Edu to Sylv ended with a cross. A Freddie chip forward to Sylv. Pat wins well. Ray on a break is held back by Veron and wins the free kick. Brown uses Kanu as a stepladder. Vieira finds his rhythm and cranks it up. Offside against Manure and the heavy tackles are going in now, pretty well all from United who seem rattled. This could be a two falls, submission or a head butt contest soon.
The stewards are trying to seat the Gooners who respond with ‘Stand up if you hate Tottenham' just when our seated area starts to look like one. '60,000 Muppets' Seaman saves a corner from a bad Lauren pass back; it was one of only a few unforced Arsenal errors all night. A red card tackle by Scholes, right through Edu with two feet, is awarded with only a yellow by referee Durkin. Durkin you will recall was the prat who gave Gio a second yellow for ‘diving' at Anfield. Amazingly Fergusmoan is off down the line ranting. Maybe he wasn't throwing a wobbly, maybe he was merely advising the lino that Scholes was trying to kill Edu but he's allowed to do that here because it's Old Trafford.
The Mancs chant ‘Same old Arsenal' to which we respond with ‘We are top of the League, say we are top of the League' Forlan fouls Keown and the Manc fans go apeshit because we are awarded a free kick. Giggs loses it under pressure from Ray ‘here there and everywhere' Parlour, what a massive game Ray had, he was immense. Cole is flattened by Scholes (?) and before the free kick is given Phillip Neville (the unbelievably ugly one) scythes down Wiltord. Red mist has descended on the ill-mannered Mancs and if we needed to keep our heads – we did so admirably under extreme provocation. Our team are so cool, calm and collected that they could be Le Boss himself. Remember McLintock and Simpson? Remember Adams and Bould? Well tonight it was Campbell and Keown making history happen.
Their pitch is still crap unless it's specially designed so players are not able to stand. Keane on Vieira with his foot chest high misses the body but judicious use of the elbow catches our hero in the face. Well goodness gracious ref another yellow, how brave of you. ‘Feck all, feck all, feck United will win feck all.' Cole lets Barthez know he's there. Scholes fouls Vieira. Edu and Kanu combine to find Ray whose cross is blocked. Kanu wins a corner. Forlan appears to kick Lauren in the face but I don't believe that one was deliberate, most nasty stuff had been though. Martin and Keane are both spoken to. Giggs dives – free kick. Veron takes but it's easy for Spunky ‘clean sheets' Seaman. Cole puts a great tackle in on Keane.
Parlour caught offside from Freddie's break. Sol wins a race with Solskjaer Good turning shot from Keane but it's straight down Dave's throat. Freddie takes on three down the flank and wins the throw, our pressure builds just before half time, we win a corner but can't make it pay. Ole Gunner fouls Patrick Gunner as 2 minutes are added for injuries administered by Manc thugs. Pat wins a ball on the right but Sylv can't play the killer ball to Kanu. ‘Good old Arsenal we're proud to say that name' Sol cuts it out, Ashley breaks down the left but there is no one there to meet his cross. Half time and if it stays nil-nil that'll do it.
At half time there was a penalty competition in the Stretford Road End and Arsenal were represented by a young man called Harry Crawford. Harry promptly sent the keeper the wrong way twice after a long and elaborate run up putting the ball perfectly in exactly the same corner both times. The Manc missed twice. What caught our attention though was the way he celebrated by giving it large to the Mancs behind the goal. Having already seen their man attempt to hit the back row of the stands his third was sweet and true as well but in the opposite corner. ‘There's only one Harry Crawford' … and he heard us. Nice one Harry – we loved it. The next 55 minutes (don't forget Fergietime) could have been the longest in our football supporting lives.
‘We shall not we shall not be moved.' as Kanu kicks off towards the Gooners end. Sylv wins our first corner of the half. ‘While we sing this song we'll win the game.' Seaman takes cleanly following a Manure raid down their right. Freddie almost finds Edu on a run. An Edu cross follows great play by Ray, Sylv and Freddie. Naff header by Forlan wins a corner. A naff Neville cross, actually that suits him – Naff Neville, except he's not quite that good. A long range powered shot from Kanu wakes up Barthez and probably stung his hands. ‘Arsene Wenger's Red and White Army.' Cole goes off on another run. Sol clears. Veron blasts it into the stand but I've no idea if it was supposed to be a shot or a cross. ‘Arsene Wenger's Red and White Army.'
A great chance as the hapless Barthez screws up a clearance but Wiltord fails to capitalise, a chance gone. Ray chopped down not given, Edu chops and it's given. Dave takes a cross come shot from Forlan. ‘Arsene Wenger's Red and White Army.'
Wiltord scores and the world explodes all around us. It's 0-1 following some naff play by Silvestre that sees man of the match Parlour steal the ball, he finds Sylv who in turn slips it to Freddie on a bit of a run. Blanc is nowhere as Freddie shoots before Brown gets to him. Barthez saves low but Sylv is there to hit it crisp and low into the net with his left foot. It's not a classic goal, but no one I know gave a monkey's about that. Our scoring in ever game run continues, our away run continues, far better yet we're winning the League at Old Trafford. Yes.
‘We Shall not, we shall not be moved.' Veron off to chants of ‘What a waste of money' Ruud the Van Diver on. Lauren wins a free kick ‘United will win feck all' as the cheating Dutchman is at it straight away. Sol and Martin went berserk at him. Ferguson has a team of bad losers, and doesn't it show. Giggs trips Kanu. Vieira clears. Parlour swats Forlan. Martin and Solskjaer are at it. An evil tackle on Freddie by Blanc gets a yellow card. 'Arsene Wenger's Magic' Another great tackle by Ray, passes to Kanu who finds Wiltord but Barthez takes the cross. United's sportsmanship came into play as Lauren on our left wing, don't ask, kicks the ball out because Solskjaer is down and the Manc crowd are baying. Blanc throws it to his keeper and they play on. What utter scum they are.
Parlour in again. Forlan off and Fortune on as the Gooners sing ‘Hand it over, hand it over, hand it over Ferguson.' ‘1-0 to the Champions.' Lauren joins the attack. ‘Super, super Rob.' An appalling pass by Scholes. ‘One Tony Adams.' ‘Oh Rocky, Rocky.' 19 minutes to go. Great ball from Parlour to Wiltord. Vieira power play and a chip from Martin, yes Martin, as Kanu closes down Naff Neville. Keown clears a Giggs cross. A nine man Arsenal move is followed by ‘We love you Freddie' Ljungberg breaks to Wiltord to Kanu who shoots wide with 15 minutes to go. ‘We are top of the League, say we are top of the League.' Fortune fires over. ‘We shall not be moved.' Seaman kicks straight out of play. A Giggs solo comes to nothing. Ashley has a solo as Freddie goes down in their box.
Vieira stops a break. 12 to go. ‘We'll win the League in Manchester' 11 to go. Vieira breaks and finds Parlour wide right. ‘United will win feck all.' 10 to go. ‘Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio' to the departing prawn sandwich munching losers. 9 to go. ‘We can see you sneaking out.' All back only Kanu up front but we break in numbers. 8 to go. ‘Always look on the bright side of life.' 7 to go.
‘Champions, Champions.' Martin heads clear. Scholes blasts wide to much derision. 46.22 played. A new song gets its first ever airing ‘We WON the League in Manchester.' Seaman takes 47.07 played. Wiltord breaks, Parlour shoots and Lee closes down the frustrated keeper. 47.57 played. Wiltord collapses face down on the turf as the final whistle goes.
Sol kisses the shirt, Pat kisses the shirt, Edu shows us a bit of solo dancing and the party begins. Mobiles working overtime. The ground clears and we see just how many Gooners are in the home seats. Loads. Party on dudes and bring your own Champagne again on Saturday. A big white flag was produced that read ‘Old Trafford – Champions Section'. Brilliant. What an amazing five days.
31 years ago to the day I stood behind the goal where Charlie clinched our first double back in 1971 – I never thought it could get any better than that, but I was wrong. ‘We won the League in Manchester, we won the League in Manchester, we won the League at Old Trafford, we won the League in Manchester.'
One life, one game, one team – three doubles!