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United Winning Mental Battle – Fergie Lands Taylor Blow To Wenger

Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are well famed for their mind games, both more than willing to make a cheeky remark or two to the press in the hopes of it unsettling their opponents.

Whilst United have managed to keep rather level headed over the past few weeks, despite falling five points behind title rivals at one stage, Arsenal seem to be showing signs of buckling under the pressure.

Firstly, United managed to embarrass Arsenal with a 4-0 victory at Old Trafford. Both teams played weakened sides, but United showed the strength of their squad when battering their opponents. Arsenal seemed to lose the plot, kicking out at our players and tackling hard, something Wenger has often accused his opposition of doing when they can’t beat his team by actually playing the game, but United cruised to victory regardless. After the match, Wenger defended his players for kicking Nani, claiming they were “rightly incensed.”

Then Arsenal travelled to Birmingham, where in the opening few minutes Martin Taylor came in tough on Arsenal striker Eduardo, with the result being a broken leg for the Croatian. It made horrible viewing and the looks on the players’ faces said it all. Since, we have learnt that Eduardo should be playing before the end of the year, and we wish him a speedy recovery.

It was the events after the game that again tilt in the mental battle in United’s favour, with meltdowns from both Arsene Wenger and William Gallas. When Gael Clichy gave away a penalty deep in to injury time, Arsenal captain, Gallas stomped up the field to the half way line. He had given up before the kick had even been taken. From United’s point of view, fortunately James McFadden slotted the penalty away, but imagine for one moment that he hadn’t. Imagine Almunia made the save and the player Gallas should have been marking slotted away the rebound. What kind of captain abandons his team at such a crucial moment?

Gallas attacked the advertising boards, having to be pulled away and back on to the pitch, as he broke down in to tears. He sat in the centre circle, sobbing, as if Arsenal had just lost the title. No doubting it was a tough day for Arsenal, seeing their team mate’s leg in bits and having to carry on playing. But if Gallas was so concerned for his team mate, why was he not running off the pitch at the final whistle to find out the latest news, rather than wallowing in self pity? Both manager and fans have defended his actions, saying he showed himself as someone who cared about the club. For me, the only thing Gallas showed himself caring about was himself, concerned with his feelings, not the feelings of the team, and concerned with his hurt, rather than the hurt of his team mate. If a United captain behaved in such a way, I’d want the armband ripped from him, never to return, and I imagine that is exactly what Fergie would do. You want a captain who leads you forward, grabs you by the scruff of your neck and drags you in to your next game, after giving you a good kicking on the training ground all week. Not a melodramatic prima donna who cries after drawing a league game, regardless of when or how the equalising goal was scored, showing no leadership or balls.

Whilst highly critical of Gallas’ behaviour, I see it only as something that gives United yet another advantage. With a few months left to go, I am made up the captain of our rivals is prone to a break down. If that is the way he carries on after an away draw at Birmingham, I cannot wait to see how the Arsenal captain would respond to a more crushing result.

Also, it was the behaviour of the manager post match that put us in a more favourable position. Clearly emotional because of his injured player, Wenger leaped in to a scathing attack on Taylor, claiming he should be banned from the game for life. Just a week after his players were thrashed 4-0 whilst kicking United intentionally all over the place, Wenger said the only way teams could stop Arsenal was to kick them. The hypocrisy of his attack was clearly lost on him. He later retracted his remarks over Taylor, but this didn’t stop the Arsenal fans sending death threats and setting up hate sites.

Another week passes and Wenger is showing further signs of losing the plot. He has ranted and raved about how his team are victimised. “The real basic problem in this league is that for the past three years we are the team which has committed fewer fouls than any other team,” he moaned. “We are the team who is fouled more than any other team and we are punished more than any other team. It’s not a suspicion, I just look at facts. Facts are facts. Every four fouls, Arsenal gets a yellow card and every nine fouls some other teams get yellow cards. The numbers are available for everybody to see.”

However, despite claiming he is talking about “facts” and these statistics being there for everyone to see, Wenger is actually talking a load of old rubbish. This season, United are in fact the team who are fouled more than any other team, (1,467), followed by Everton (1,465).

In terms of his talk about Arsenal being the most heavily punished team, this is again, rubbish. Where he pulled out the figures of one yellow card for every four fouls, I’m not too sure, but regardless, it is not factual. The Independent reports today, “there was no doubting the passion of Wenger on this subject but the statistics do not agree. Over the last three seasons, including this one, Arsenal have picked up a booking every 7.95 fouls. It is a much higher average than Chelsea (7.51) and Bolton Wanderers (7.81). Blackburn Rovers, perceived as a dirty team by some, have the same average of 7.95 fouls per booking. Over the same period Arsenal have averaged 2.33 red cards a season, a record that puts them tenth among Premier League clubs.”

Quoting inaccurate stats in an attempt to portray his team as the victims? It’s all getting a bit desperate now isn’t it.

The final mental blow dished out today was Ferguson’s remarks made about the Taylor. The man who Wenger claimed should be served a life ban has been defended by Fergie today. “I’ve known Martin since he was a kid at Blackburn and he’s just a nice footballer,” he said. “He’s never been an aggressive player. But he can take comfort from the fact that everyone appears to have acknowledged that, which I think will be his best help. I don’t see any problems for the boy.” Trust Ferguson to dig the knife in.

There’s still a few months to go and United have been playing some quality football more recently. However, football titles aren’t always won purely by event on the field, but events off it too. Three points behind, with Arsenal yet to come to Old Trafford, the mental advantage we currently have could be what we need to push us on to another successive title.

Will United continue to collapse under the pressure?

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. matthew b says:

    Obviously when wenger says the last three seasons he means this season and the last two seasons. Not in fact the last three seasons. Try averaging the last three seasons and suddenly wenger is correct. try getting your facts straight before accusing wenger of not getting his correct. TBH your comments on mental advantages show that you’re reaching for an advantage yourself, which really isn’t there.

  2. Danish Gooner says:

    Ferguson also defended Keane and Cantona.So that is like asking someone sentenced to death if he prefers to get shoot or receive a lethal injection.Taylor can bark on all day long how sorry he is it simply doesnt make Eduardo play again.And why on earth is Ferguson sticking his big fat Whisky nose in to it one week later.Could it be to cause a stir ?? Pathetic old man !!!!

  3. Scott the Red says:

    Matthew – are you having a laugh? This season plus the past two seasons averages out at a yellow card once every almost 8 fouls. Are you saying if we discounted this season, and put the one before in it’s place, that average would somehow drop down to a yellow card every four fouls? Lol seriously?

  4. Tom F says:

    Did you mean, Will Arsenal continue to crumble under pressure?

    They are the team who play arguably the nicest game of passing football in our league, however they are also the team who never show any grace when a situation isn’t going their way. I really think that they are not acting they way they do becuase they are disappointed proffesionals and are angry with themselves.

    They are like awful when under pressure. They have done really well in games when going a goal down and that can only be applauded, the thing in their minds up until now, have been brimming with confidence and only over the last few weeks have they shown doubt is creeping into their minds. Obviously a few wins will have them back to their bragging best. (see Gallas comment about United being Arrogant).

    The title race is not far from its end but we do have many twists on the road. Cup competitions will have a lot to say in this and Arsenal fans will be hoping AC Milan do them a favour and knock them out. All Arsenal need is more injuries or bad results and Gallas will be crying his eyes out again.

  5. denton davey says:

    The game is not yet over at The Mosque but the Arse seem to be suffering yet-another hangover. I can’t wait to hear the Whinger explain this llatest “conspriacy” against his “more fouled against than fouling” red-card maestros.

  6. Ole Gunner says:

    I am enjoying this season so much. I can’t count how many times since the season started that Arsenal have been written off. But we’re still top of the league. Much as that makes you sad, it’s all down to class.

  7. Taehr says:

    Yes they will/have cracked under pressure.Its all going wrong and 1 point is the gap?in a week?Talk about throwing away the title…poor wenger…

  8. Tom F says:

    I will put my neck on the line with this but…

    As I have pointed out before.. Arsenal have a very tough game against Wigan on 9th March and I hope I am right in thinking Wigans battling mentality paired with their awful pitch can only be bad for Arsenal.

    Ole Gunnar may be talking out of his arse when saying Arsenal have been written off, considering they are favourites to win the prem before this weekend I wouldnt say much is against them.

    United and Chelsea will overhaul Arsenal, bold as it may be but I have thought it since november and haven’t changed my mind.

  9. Kurt says:

    When did we start crumbling under pressure?

  10. UnitedRay says:

    Kurt, you know you’re crumbling under pressure when you can only ask a one-sentence question and could not provide any answers.

  11. UnitedRay says:

    Arses are going down surely because their skipper is a sulker…
    I loved it when I saw Gallas sulking on the pitch like a little kiddie being refused the purchase of a new toy. Arses fans kept rambling abt their team playing the nicest of nice football in england but surely thats just consolation to not winning anything again this season. And besides, united plays fantastic football and arguably better and more efficient than arses. The goal scored column will tell you that United play much better attacking football coz we scored more!!!

  12. jimmy Bob says:

    gallas showed the 1st signs of arsenal cracking this year, long may it continue

  13. Matmos says:

    Everyone had us down for mid-table this season. So here we are in March and we are top of the league. Whilst we are currently trying to make things a little more exciting, I still believe we will be champions. The prospect of losing out to a team that costs less than a Man Utd xmas party is clearly bugging you.

  14. Scott the Red says:

    Matmos – couldn’t care less how much your team cost, tbh. Our side cost less than Chelsea’s last season and we won the league, I didn’t get a bigger sense of pride from it because of that though.

    The best team will win the league and I believe that will be us. The only fans who talk about money are Arsenal fans, and as a wise poster said on here the other day, unfortunately for your lot, you don’t win anything for having the cheapest squad. You win because you have the best squad.

  15. austin reynolds says:

    kurt- good question! i noticed it a few weeks ago.i told everyone arse were flappinn it and so far since then theyve done exactly that in everygame! long may it last!

  16. Matmos says:

    Scott, current stats suggest Arsenal have the best (and cheapest) squad. We are, afterall, Top of the league.

  17. Scott the Red says:

    Matmos – Did nobody tell you that current stats in March win you nothing? You have to be top of the table in May to win anything. Feel free to come back here then :)


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