With Jeffers and Wiltord up front, Parlour wide right and Edu central midfield the team showed a lot more steel than it had when we were rolled over in December.
'We won the League, in Manchester' 'Bring on the Champions' 'Hey Y*ddos - you Scum - I wanna know where your captains gone' was sung because the tune came over the tannoy and it was a natural Gooner reaction, the fact that many disapprove of the possible racist overtones won't stop it being sung just so long as the Scum refer to themselves as Y*ds. 'We love you Arsenal we do' 'Vieira - he comes from Senegal and plays for Arsenal' were just some of the pre-match chants that rang around our end before kick off.
There was a frenetic first ten minutes, mainly because the Mancs knew that the chances of one of their players being sent off at Old Trafford in the opening quarter of a game is about as likely as an opposition penalty. They were filthy. Scholes clattered the back of Vieira legs for what should have been a yellow. Van Diver shoved Sol. 'Have you ever, have you ever won the League at Highbury - have you feck' Sol and Van Diver steamed in. Scholes took out Vieira brutally for the first yellow. Van Diver went in all studs showing and hurt Keown, no easy feat, it should have been a red but there was not so much as an apology from the mad Dutchman who in my books could take over Sherringham's role as the most hated player. The fact that he's already there as most the despised cheating Manc suggests that the pensioner Teddy could be superseded quite soon.
Maybe there was a game of football going on early doors but I didn't notice it. Lauren was taken out by Van Diver right in front of a dumb and blind lino. Arsene was none too pleased and told him so while Vieira was incensed, and proved it by complaining his way into Jeff Winters notebook. This was a war zone George Bush would have approved of, maybe future war protesters should be sent to Old Trafford. Apart from Pat getting booked for complaining we were not suckered in to the filthy ways of the dirty Mancs and proved this when Vieira and Pires worked a fine break.
Manure's pettiness continued as Silvestre kicked the ball away, no card of course, this was Old Trafford after all. So far this may read like a report by a war correspondent but there was some football played, just not early on. Jeffers to Pires to Cole - corner. Martin stops a hoofed clearance. Ray fouled twice in the same run - not given. United's first move of note ended with Solskjaer hitting the outside of the post. Cole pressured well, Arsenal were working well, we were now into smooth passing mode and we'd not only weathered the storm but were now beginning to take some control. Not totally because this was fast end to end stuff. Cole played a clever ball through to Jeffers that almost worked. Lauren had a run but his low shot was saved easily by Barthez.
Edu through on a run but chopped - free kick, no card. Edu took it and his shot was deflected over for a corner. Another corner which Barthez palmed over for another corner, the next skimmed Beckham's head for another corner. We were on top but they broke for Keown to concede a free kick against Van Diver. At the other end Pires put Wiltord away but his shot was cleared. Parlour won a free kick wide right when he was held back. Brown fouled Vieira central midfield and fouls looked to be the only way they could stop us. Our free kick was played to Wiltord who's shot was saved.
A great Arsenal break was followed by a great Giggs run who'd beaten everyone including Seaman and Keown but a second later almost hysterical relief broke out at our end as he blasted over the empty goal. 'What the fecking hell was that?' A big Arsenal move followed soon after and as we played it around the edge of their box Pat was felled for a free kick. Edu and Rob were over the ball, Edu took it, Beckham jumped and it deflected off him past Barthez who was going the other way. 0-1 Arsenal and the Gooners erupt. '1-0 to the Arsenal' '1-0 to the Champions.' Jeffers on a run. 'We shall not we shall not be moved'
Scholes shot wide. We were pressing well, closing down fast, passing smoothly to take the sting out of the game, tracking back, covering in depth, breaking fast and looking good. Looking very good. This was big time football with Vieira in awesome mode. Keown and Campbell looked in total control. Keane looked a total has-been. Van Diver was just a niggly git. Beckham was trying hard, Naff Neville was in the refs face, Silvestre was trying his best but they had little else from United apart from Scholes - but his early booking reduced his effectiveness.
Whereas we had Parlour disputing every ball, Sylvain working his rocks off, Jeffers having a fine game and growing into the role, Cole having a classic battle with Beckham with no quarter given, Lauren laying a sensible but attacking game and Pires starting to pull the strings, Edu looking like he played every match and on top of all this we had the best midfield player in the World playing at his very best. He was majestic, he was unbeatable and the Mancs couldn't get close.
Campbell was striding out of defence with the ball and our passing was very nearly in piss-take mode. 'We love you Arsenal, we do' 'ArseneWenger's RedandWhiteArmy'. We looked good, we looked unconcerned that we were away at Old Trafford and we'd taken the initiative after Giggs had screwed up big time. It's something to remind him about in the future and it was as funny as McClair's penalty miss in front of the North Bank, it was the shot on which legends are based. I can't wait to watch the replays. Half time and we really had to remember not to blow the second half this time.
After this we were awesome, we controlled play with some fine football, hard running, slick passes and tremendous composure. 'We shall not we shall not be moved' 'Who the feck are Man United?' 'Are you Tottenham in disguise?' Henry, Henry on the bench, Henry on the bench' 'All you do is fecking moan, all you do is fecking moan' What else happened is not really important, I recall a Beckham dive, Saint Beckham injuring himself trying to foul Ashley. Van Diver surprise, surprise diving in our box. Keown being hurt by Van Diver. Campbell miss-kicking and slicing the ball the wrong way to concede a corner. Any number of great moves by Arsenal. Pires in exhibition mode.
I recall Arsenal fans totally out singing 50,000 muppets. Naff Neville making a pig's ear of a cross. Naff Neville throwing a wobbly. 'Gary Neville is a w*nker, is a w*nker' 'Just because you're losing' Scholes heading into our side netting and then laughing because the Mancs thought he'd scored. 'Sit down shut up' was the chant that followed that one.
Scholes broke and fired a low drive wide. 'Ryan Giggs' received an ovation from the Arsenal fans when he was replaced by Forlan. Henry came on for Jeffers. Wiltord went clear but was very well tackled. I also remember Vieira being brilliant. Vieira being awesome. Arsenal being awesome. Arsenal fans being brilliant. 'We'll be back again in May' Gio on for Pires. Forlan did Lauren who stayed down. 'We shall not, we shall not be moved' I certainly recall one tackle by Keown on Silvestre that was a peach, it was a gem , it was so old school Arsenal back four, it was the sort of tackle that could have taken out one of their Stands. The ground emptied where ever Mancs had sat, they couldn't take this humiliating footballing lesson.
A mere 3 minutes of Fergie time must have been a relief to their manager for once and a comment I heard on the radio summed up the day. 'Arsenal's victory over Manchester United was as comprehensive as their defeat of Farnborough'. We were streets ahead in class, quality and total football. On our day there is no one to touch us, not here in England, in Italy, in Germany nor Spain. We are The Arsenal and we ARE the best.