God I used to hate Arsenal. I’m sure it was real hatred. My feelings for Liverpool are something entirely different but I really did hate Arsenal. I hated Wenger. I hated Pires. I hated Henry. I hated Adams. I hated Keown. I hated Lee “bitter blue” Dixon. I hated Vieira. I hated Ljungberg. I hated Bergkamp. I hated Ashley Cole. They were a bunch of ‘orrible cunts and losing to them was painful.
I hated their fans. So smug and full of themselves.
I hated that they stopped us winning stuff. I hated that.
This was written in 2004 and it just about sums it up:
Choose overbearing arrogance. Choose systematic dirty play and calling it “competitiveness”. Choose the most staged, contrived, up-your-own-arses goal celebrations ever witnessed. Choose winning two championships in eleven seasons and acting like you’ve won seven in nine. Choose paying £9 million for Francis Jeffers. Choose Dennis Bergkamp and his carefully-timed elbows into the side of the head. Choose fancying yourselves as better than Real Madrid, then having Chelsea run rings around you at home. Choose turning the sports section of The Observer into a gunners fanzine. Choose getting away with light or delayed punishments at FA disciplinary hearings because you’ve had every possible string pulled by David Dein. Choose embarrassing yourselves in a Renault “va-va-voom” ad and then disgracing yourselves further at the World Cup finals. Choose David Seaman and his public mid-life crisis. Choose watching an opponent miss a last-minute penalty against you, then running after him and jeering him. Choose George Graham grinding his way to the dullest Championship win of all time. Choose picking Ray Parlour for over a decade. Choose having the quietest stadium in the world (“The Library”) as your home ground, and then having the cheek to slag off Old Trafford. Choose having Nick Hornby and Piers Morgan as the mouthpiece of your supporters. Choose pretending that five or six years of playing in a watchable fashion makes up for inflicting over a century of ultra-defensive dogshit on English football watchers. Choose Igor Stepanovs, Nelson Vivas, Kanu, Pascal Cygan, Davor Suker, Gilles Grimandi, David Grondin, Remi Garde, Kaba Diawara, Junichi Inamoto, Jeremie Aliadiere, Oleg Luzhny, Luis Boa Morte, Richard Wright, Stefan Malz, Christopher Wreh, and all the other turkeys that nobody ever mentions when creaming themselves about how great Wenger is in the transfer market. Choose 58 red cards in seven years. Choose bottling the Treble despite having all the luck in the world. Choose Arsenal.
The height of my hatred for them came after we ended their unbeaten run. Their fans threw their dummy out big time, their players were even worse. Throwing fucking pizza at Sir Alex Ferguson? It’s disgusting and I would be thoroughly ashamed if our players had behaved in the same way.
United went 1-0 up in that game thanks to a dodgy decision given by Mike Riley. A few minutes later, Ashley Cole brought down Cristiano Ronaldo in the penalty area, something even the BBC noted warranted a penalty, yet this was completely forgotten. The second goal we scored was also forgotten. The fact Arsenal had one shot on target in 90 minutes was also forgotten. The fact that Arsenal committed more fouls that day was also forgotten. It was all about the penalty.
Even looking at Chelsea and Liverpool now, there are fewer things that I hate. I think Rafael Benitez is a twat but he doesn’t evoke the anger Wenger did. I think Frank Lampard, John Terry, Steven Gerrard (and still Ashley Cole), Didier Drogba and Jaavier Mascherano are twats, but I still don’t feel anything near the hatred for them that I did that chimp Keown.
Like Sir Alex Ferguson mentioned today, Arsenal are the only team that have been around competing for a large chunk of the time United have been successful in the past couple of decades. Blackburn, Newcastle came and went, Chelsea came in to the picture, and now Liverpool. Whilst Arsenal haven’t been competing for the title every season in that time, they’ve been there or there abouts and have been the only team to deny us Premiership titles consistently.
Now that they aren’t threatening us for titles, it’s easier to see the positive elements of Arsenal. The feelings between the clubs and the managers seem to have mellowed. I can appreciate the style of football they play, always on the attack, like us. I can appreciate their desire to bring through youth players, giving them a chance before other clubs would, like us.
With the club dealing with their new position, fourth place, a positive effect has been had on the fans. There are still plenty of the typical arrogant gooners knocking about but generally they’ve calmed down. They’ve had to. They’ve been made to be more humble thanks to the lack of trophies Wenger has been bringing in.
But with a place in history up for grabs over the next few weeks, I can’t help but think these negative feelings will start creeping in again tonight. All it takes is for one debateable decision, like Palacios not getting sent off at the weekend, and we’ll be right back to where we started, pretty much!
So, here’s to a good game of football, without the anger and frustration United vs Arsenal games have so often inspired, but most importantly, ending with a United win!