Arsenal for their part were stupid enough to go there with the intention of playing football. Le Boss does not appear to realise that this is a total non-starter. In recent games both Bolton and Villa have gone down the ‘if it moves kick it’ route. They do so because they know full well that refs are currently bending over backwards not to make an early booking. Consequently it doesn’t matter who you kick in the first twenty minutes the worst that will happen is a free kick against you and if they’re really lucky they’ll reduce the speed of the player they’re up against as a consequence of brutal assaults. It’s worked for United before so they tried it again.
The pre-match noise was loud in the Arsenal section and I heard little or nothing from the muppets until they were gifted a spot kick. ‘Care free’ ‘U S A’ ‘We won the League in Manchester’ ‘Ru Van shat himself’ ‘Arsenal’ and many more were trotted out prior to kick off and this for me was a standing only match, at least until half time when I sat down for a short breather. Reyes looked lively from the start, an early handball by Phil ‘absolutely repulsively ugly’ Neville was missed by referee Mike ‘when do I give you your penalty Sir Alex’ Riley. Edu looked the part and Scholes went in with his boot dangerously high. ‘Have you ever won the League at Highbury’ Rooney on Cole a bad foul. The show pony then hit the deck for the first of many falls. Rooney had a shot blocked and so too did Giggs before Heinze crossed far too deep.
Dennis won a header, it went nowhere of value but I thought I’d throw that in if only for its rarity value. Heinze shot over from range. Edu to Henry with a nearly ball. A poor Lehmann clearance fell to Van Diver but an offside flag was soon up in a wasted move. Lauren who had an inspired match worked well with Henry in a fine move. ‘One Malcolm Glazer’ ‘USA, USA’. Reyes was down injured as United played on, total gentlemen as ever. Edu who had a very solid game took out Van Diver. Heinze tripped Edu. Freddie broke clear and was charged into by Ferdinand, there was no attempt to play the ball, an obvious free kick just outside their box and a possible red card. But that was never going to happen and there was not so much as a free kick from Riley. Appalling! More good football from Reyes and Dennis and another decent Arsenal move which lacked penetration. Jens punched clear for a corner and caught the incoming high ball from Shrek cleanly. Ronaldo lobbed hopelessly over from an angle.
Reyes nutmegged Neville and was viciously assaulted from behind by England’s right back, it looked awful even by that ugly fecker’s low standards, but he got off unpunished. Three seasons ago, at anywhere other than Old Trafford, it would have been a red card, on this occasion not even a yellow. Brilliant play by Cole but Thierry failed to get the ball to Freddie who looked by far our biggest threat throughout. Manchester was by now doing what it does best, getting wet under pouring rain. Phil Neville took out Dennis but our free kick only found their wall. A great tackle by Pat on Rooney. More superb play by Lauren up against Giggs who had to trip him to prevent a counter attack.
Ronaldo fouled Vieira and the red shirted mob were all mouth directed at Riley. It was Rooney’s turn for a late tackle on Pat and he kept his place in their rota. It was a rip-roaring full-blooded game or just plain dirty depending on your viewpoint. Cole won a free kick against van Diver that should have been a red card, studs down the back of the leg is just evil and their Dutchman is up there with the scum of the earth. The lino was right there but impersonated Tommy the death, dumb and blind kid instead of an official charged with protecting players on the field of play. Van Diver then tripped Lauren before Cole tripped Rooney and picked up the first yellow of the game. How did I know that would happen? Disgraceful officiating by Riley, Cole deserved a yellow card but it was probably about the 14th most dangerous tackle of the match to date. Thirty-five minutes was time enough for United to give us a good kicking and probably a point beyond which even Riley felt he could let things go on.
Neville’s umpteenth assault on Reyes finally got a yellow before Rooney kicked Reyes. Neville’s sister was then seriously late on Reyes and he too got a yellow card. This was remember the great and glorious Manchester United kicking seven bells out of their opponents because they were scared to come out and play football. The bloke next to me screamed out ‘Neville you’re so ugly you make my arse look good’ and I took his word for it. Pretty well everyone else was chanting ‘You dirty Northern bar stewards’ Reyes was off the field receiving treatment. Jens and Sol conceded an iffy corner due to a lack of communication. Ronaldo then missed what looked to be a sitter from about 8 yards out.
Edu at the other end found Henry who’s shot was saved from what looked to be a good chance. Reyes hit our resulting corner too deep. Rio up for a corner got to do as much shoving as any of our £20,000’s worth last season and bad mouthed the ref, then again maybe he and Riley were just arranging a date to laugh at the match video later, who knows. Ronaldo shot and Lehmann held it and then Ronaldo fired over with another chance. Half time arrived just after a great run from Thierry who’d been AWOL for most of the half.
Are we concerned that Mike Riley might have shares? Certainly! I fully expect Ferguson’s first choice ref to be appointed for all of United’s major games in future.
United’s first chance after the break came when a corner was hit to Scholes outside the box but his volley was well wide. There was an uncharacteristic poor clearance by Kolo that went straight to that thing with the huge chin but it screwed up. A fine move by Arsenal was worked to Reyes on the left but his shot was blocked. Great cross from Lauren to Freddie but his header got an unlucky ricochet. Pat then did well in a move that saw Henry drag his shot wide. Another great ball from Lauren, this time to Henry. A brilliant cross by Freddie followed and we were well on top at this stage. Edu stopped a counter attack from Ronaldo and Dennis blocked Phil Neville for a free kick that Ronaldo headed wide from the Giggs ball in. Ferdinand stopped Freddie’s run down the middle with one of the best tackles of the game; then again he shouldn’t have been on the pitch at this point.
Reyes tripped Ronaldo and both Rooney and Phil Neville ganged up on Riley to complain about our evil Spaniard. Ferdinand used a blue-shirted player as a stepladder before Rooney lost his cool (again) after Pat fouled Heinze. Henry had a run down the left before Van Diver fouled Lehmann, I was told this was a nasty one but my view was from too far away. With twenty to go Rob replaced Jose who was still looking dangerous.
Shrek then dived against Sol in our box at the Stretford End so that Mike Riley, United’s pet ref, could award his 8th. penalty in eight games at OT.
Van Diver’s second celebration was to foul Dennis. Pat was then yellow carded for chopping Giggs. Henry had a shot blocked before Giggs took out Lauren. Lauren then had two decent shots in quick succession as Arsenal pressed forward in droves. Edu on Scholes for a yellow card. Silvestre then made a far worse tackle on Ljungberg from behind and didn’t get a card. Kolo was by now pressing forward as Ferdinand headed clear. Carroll was time wasting to a degree that was at total joke. Edu shot from miles out and was miles out with his shot. Cole and Pires combined well. Vieira crossed for a Cole header but it was too deep. With any semblance of caution thrown to the winds the game now had and inevitable 1-1 or 2-0 feel. Henry to Pires to Cole who shot just over.
Four minutes added time saw the inevitable United substitution and eventually the inevitable United goal on a break away when the diving fat Scouser scored from a cross by Smith. So 2-0 United and one-one might well have flattered them. Kolo tried diving in their box but Riley wasn’t about to fooled by a player diving at Old Trafford was he? They beat us in the only way they could, it didn’t involve much football but we didn’t match their inevitable game plan. We didn’t get the breaks but we didn’t test Carroll nearly enough to warrant a win and United only played after they were gifted the lead by Riley.
I am seriously proud of the lads, a forty-nine match unbeaten run is stupendous. I’m honoured to have seen the vast majority of it in person and was glad to be there at the end of the run despite the disappointment. Mr Wenger was amazingly diplomatic at the end of the game, or at least on the radio interview I heard. He didn’t say that Riley was pathetic, or that Rooney was a diving little feckwit, or that Van Diver is the scum of the earth, or that the Neville sisters are two bit thugs. So I will.
United have pissed us off yet again by cheating, but look what happened last time they did that. So here’s a toast to our next unbeaten run. This is just the beginning.