Last season I walked out of the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff absolutely gutted. For 90 minutes, we’d battered the shit out of Arsenal, and we came away with nothing. After all the bragging rites from the two fixtures in the league, beating them 6-2 overall, the pain of losing to them in the Cup final was almost too much to take.
But we took it, got on with it, and moved on. The season starts, we’re playing like crap, but then, so are Arsenal, so not all is lost. Now, we’re flying high, with whispers of us pipping Chelsea to the post, and Arsenal are looking to book themselves a spot in the UEFA Cup next season, although are coming to Old Trafford after getting a place in the first European Cup semi final in their history, and winning 5 of their last 7 games.
Today starts. West Ham go a goal up against Chelsea, then Chelsea get a man sent off, all within 20 minutes. That’s it, we’re well on our way. Then, somehow, Chelsea manage to win 4-1. I try not to take it as a bad omen for the day. I put on my shirt and scarf, and I’m ready to leave for Old Trafford. Flick on Sky Sports to see how the Liverpool Bolton are getting on before jumping in my car, just in time to see Robbie Fowler score on his birthday to make it 1-0 to the scum. Again, please dont let this be a bad omen. Please.
Get in the car, turn on the radio. Henry on the bench. Finally things are looking up. I’m in my seat a good 25 minutes before kick off, and it’s hailing the shit out of the players on the pitch, and the Arsenal fans are singing about Vieira, whilst the rest of Old Trafford starts to fill up.
Kick off. Nervous to start, but soon start to calm down when I see we just have more quality on the field than Arsenal, more confidence. Christ, even Silvestre is playing well. Rooney breaks in to the box, takes the ball past Lehmann, surely a goal for United… no, cheating bastard Arsenal shite gets two hands on the ball to knock it against the post and out. Ok fine, penalty for United and Arsenal down to 10 men. No? No. 0-0 at half time, and a frustrated Old Trafford, singing “Same old Arsenal, always cheating” over…and over…and over again.
Memories of a penalty decission awarded in United’s favour at this fixture last season are in everyone’s mind, mainly because any Arsenal fan we know hasnt shut up talking about it since. Arsene went around saying we kicked them off the park (doesn’t mention that Arsenal committed more fouls and received more yellow cards that day) and everyone believe him. Arsene says the only reason we won is because Rooney dived to get a penalty (doesn’t mention that we scored another goal and Arsenal only had one shot on target in 90 minutes) and again, everyone believed him. I can already see the headlines, about Arsenal’s defender playing goalkeeper to “even the score”.
Second half, we’re all over them, the atmosphere is great, the Arsenal fans are quiet, and we’re just waiting for the ball to hit the back of the goal at Stretford End’s net. Magic. Beautiful ball from Silvestre, perfect first touch by Rooney, and fires an unstoppable shot. I haven’t heard Old Trafford erupt like that since Fletcher’s header dipped over John Terry’s head. Saha gets a well deserved appearance with 1/2 hour to go, soon to be joined by Henry. O’Shea gives away a soft foul outside the area and here lines up Henry. Again, tomorrow’s headlines flash in to my head, about wonder player Henry being the hero at Old Trafford. No, he fires it substantially wide, bringing on chants of “What the fuckin ell was that?” and “Who are you, who are you?” resounding around Old Trafford.
More magic by Rooney, shrugging off too much contact in the area by Senderos, to gift Park a goal, in a similar fashion to this same fixture last year, when Alan Smith selflessly got in to a good position and set up Rooney’s goal. Park’s first Premiership goal, which he enjoyed thoroughly, and the rest of his team mates and Old Trafford helped him celebrate.
Final whistle, 3 points well earnt, after 5-10 minutes of United knocking it around the pitch, just waiting for the whistle to blow. The away section is half empty. Gary Neville, who becomes more popular with the Old Trafford faithful with every passing week, walks over to the East stand and celebrates, feeling the same incredible gut feeling we did. “We did it, we fuckin beat the Gunners, and we did it easily.” Today, we sealed the deal on Arsenal losing more than 1/3 of the Premiership games they’ve played this season, and couldn’t be much happier.
Will we win the title? Ha ha, well it’s all in Chelsea’s hands now, and we just have to keep on winning. We can narrow the gap to 4 points on Friday and let’s see what happens. But for now, I’m more than happy to take 3 points from Arsenal, and hopefully deprive them of a CL place next season.