Having waited for Sir Alex Ferguson to retire first, Arsene Wenger has claimed that our former manager influenced the referees to give us favourable decisions. It would be ridiculous to argue that United don’t get the rub of the green at times but that is a luxury all clubs at the top tend to enjoy. There are countless incidents that fans of all clubs can point to in order to suggest they are hard done by whilst their rivals are lucky, but it isn’t surprising when any top four club gets a decision and you could maybe argue smaller clubs don’t enjoy the same treatment from the referee.
However, I genuinely cannot think of a team who has had more incorrect favourable decisions at Old Trafford over recent years than Arsenal. Nothing is really made of these decisions though because, more often than not, United tend to go on to win the game anyway, so don’t regularly harp on about them for years to follow.
When we ended Arsenal’s unbeaten run, their fans, players and manager were beside themselves. Rio Ferdinand could have been sent off for a shove on Freddie Ljungberg and United won a second half penalty after Wayne Rooney dived. Despite almost ten years having gone by, whenever a game is played between the two teams, the comments section on this blog alone, clogged with bitter Arsenal fans bleating on about that game, is testament to just how badly this game got to them. Their so-called “Invincibles”, who actually lost six games during this time period, including in the FA Cup against us, were so used to winning and drawing (they drew 1/3 of all their league games in 2003-2004) that it was all a bit much for them when they lost to us. The fact that they couldn’t score a goal against us whilst we scored two against them, one without the dodgy call of a referee, seemed to pass them by.
October 24th 2004: United 2-0 Arsenal
You hear lots of people talking about the penalty Rooney won in this game under a challenge from Sol Campbell, but nobody ever talks about the penalty we weren’t awarded when Ashley Cole clearly brought Cristiano Ronaldo down in the penalty area. We were awarded a penalty we shouldn’t have been given but then weren’t awarded one we should have had. Of course, reminding people of this doesn’t suit the ‘Arsenal were robbed’ agenda.
April 9th 2006: United 2-0 Arsenal
Rooney had taken the ball past the keeper and was ready to score. All that stood in his way was Kolo Toure. When the Arsenal defender saved Rooney’s attempt with both hands on the ball, somehow, the referee managed not to see it. What should have been a straight red card for Toure and a penalty for United resulted in nothing. United didn’t let a dodgy decision get in the way of winning a game though, with Park and Rooney both finding the back of the net.
April 13th 2008: United 2-1 Arsenal
With United challenging for both the Premier League and European Cup, Arsenal were presented with an opportunity to stop us from winning the double. After a goalless first half, Emmanuel Adebayor put the North London side 1-0 up a few minutes after the restart.
The problem was he had scored with his arm, although the official didn’t spot this and the goal stood.
Thankfully, United went on to score two goals, meaning that yet another injustice did not cost us.
I’m not trying to argue that United don’t get favourable decisions and I’m not trying to suggest that the fact Arsenal got away with cheating means United never have done. But I would be amazed if Arsene Wenger, or any Arsenal fan, could recall as many occasions United have been wrongly awarded potentially match defining decisions at the Emirates over recent years as they have been given at Old Trafford.
Pot, kettle, Mr Wenger?